Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Phantom Source - The Ghost Who Talks



Back in the eighties, there used be something called the ‘Foreign Hand’. On the political terra firma, every second riot or disturbance was attributed to this invisible ‘Foreign Hand’. Today, social media and phone cameras have ensured greater transparency. However, there is another entity that remains as elusive, as mysterious and as intangible as the ‘Foreign Hand’. In media parlance, it is called the ‘Source’. In Hindi language, we know it as the ‘Sutra’. Not the erotic Kama variety, but the esoteric media archetype. Such is the power of the source that we instinctively believe whatever comes, ‘Sutron Ke Hawale Se’

There are many ways to quote a source. ‘According to sources’ is one of them. ‘Reportedly’ is equally effective. As is ‘Sutron Ki Maane To’. Likewise, there are different kinds of sources. The source behind Bollywood grapevine is rather innocuous. It tells us how Ranbir Kapoor went down on his knees as Katrina Kaif rang in her 32nd birthday. How Anushka and Virat enjoyed at the ‘Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge’, a safari destination in South Africa. Or how Kat-Bir were spotted in the picturesque city of Prague, even though mama Neetu disapproved. Only a source can read mama Neetu’s mind. This gossip peddling variety ranges from celebrity drivers, fellow air travelers, avid fans, hotel staff and jealous contemporaries.

The political strain of the source is far more lethal. This is because for Phantom Source - The Ghost Who Walks, err Talks, with great power comes zero responsibility. Since the power invested in this source is invisible, he delivers a solid punch leaving a permanent ‘skull mark’ on those perceived as evil doers. Moreover, with no accountability, when a chain of pen wielding sources get linked to a mighty source called the politician, it can be deadly. Biased tongues, they say, can be worse than wicked hands.

Like Spiderman, the source can easily spurt malicious gooey liquid that allows media men to swing between two political buildings, climb political staircases and demolish reputations. With more and more media houses being owned by politicians, no points for guessing how unbiased the sources are. Because the purr in the ear often comes from a self-serving club of mutual back scratchers. 

Given that desperate times call for desperate sources, engineering students can also act as a Source. Whatever and whenever the nation wants to know - the source obliges. That Shashi Tharoor was pulled up by his boss for breaching party discipline was revealed by a source. That Mr. Tharoor was asked to stand outside the classroom with a finger on his lips, well, wasn’t exposed. And only the source knows if it was Arun Jaitley who revealed discomforting information about Sushma Swaraj?

Moreover, in the times of ephemeral news, unapologetic media and short public memory, who cares even if the source goofed up?
Not difficult to plant a doubt by placing a quaint little question mark towards the end, is it? Was Advani’s Emergency barb aimed at Modi? Did Amitabh demand crores to endorse a social campaign? The accused can cry hoarse by issuing endless clarifications, but the mission is accomplished. Bade araam se.

Finally, according to totally unreliable alcoholic sources, Mulayam is likely to be nominated for Nobel Peace for his well meaning ‘sudhar jao’ advice. Reportedly, ‘Selfie le le’, song from Bajrangi Bhaijaan is likely to win an Oscar in the music category. And Twinkle Khanna’s latest book is likely to fetch a Booker this year, sources say.
If anything sounds farfetched, simply add 'reportedly' in the beginning, or a question mark towards the end. Sab hazam ho zayega. 


Image Courtesy: www.comicvine.com

24 comments:

  1. Candid post. sutroan se pata chala hai...... but has anyone questioned the sutroan. Its high time we did it and hold the sutroan accountable.

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    1. We can never find them but thanks to social media, oftentimes we know when they indulge in hanky panky.
      Thank you for reading Kalpana.

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  2. Just one word at the beginning makes it a news ... I wonder how much crap we are fed in the name of Samachar, It's funny how the question mark ones are always read like a sentence rather than a probability, Well written Alka

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  3. Sources have taken on the role of Manthara, feeding on people's insecurities and voyeuristic pleasures.

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  4. Thanks to social media, we no longer take what's published in newspapers as the cardinal truth. Gone are the days when we could be manipulated. These days we question and draw our own conclusions.

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    1. Social media as a watch dog is a blessing.

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  5. Wonderful insights Alka - the Sutras.

    And there is a pattern for these sutras to emerge... it's often used by the media to demean people who are either in power or who don't give them enough fodder for creating controversies...

    I agree with Purba's point, but still wonder why many people choose to outrage on social media over what the mainstream media said despite knowing that it is untrue. Why do we forget that there are 2 sides to every story?

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    1. Good to see you here Vishal. Politics is a lot about perception. Hit and run policy by sections of media helps create one. Twist a truth on the front page and then issue a clarification in the smallest font the next day. Regardless, thanks to social media people are able to see through this charade. Like the Sushma case of impropriety is being made to look like a big scam, thanks to 24/7 shouting. And they don't want to talk about the IPS officer who has been threatened and accused of rape even though he was the one who recorded the dying statement of a journo who was burnt alive. Misplaced priorities.

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  6. Who cares if the source was sozzled or puzzled,we are now allegedly seasoned enough to draw our own conclusions;for which,your posts are a great help.Long live Alka :)

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    1. Thank you Indu, such a sweet thing to say.

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  7. While I do agree that outrageous stories are woven around mysterious sources, source protection is an important tenet of journalism. Sometimes, in ethical journalism (which is by and large almost dead), sources need to be protected in order to do exposes and get important news.

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    1. The need for protection shall always be there. But this guise of anonymity shouldn't be used for political agendas is my point.

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  8. Well Alka, your post indeed has become a 'source' for me to learn of things I had no idea about - like how Ranbir proposed (or that he had actually proposed!), new songs like Selfie le le...really, is it a song???? O well, I am really quite behind times! Thanks for this 'resourceful' post :D

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    1. Beloo,I didn't know either. But Google baba obliged with lots of trivia.

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  9. Hi Alka, I agree with you that the most outrageous news is carried with a prefix, "sources say". I always wonder who are these sources and how do they have access to such private and far fetched information?

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  10. So many wild assumptions playing with the 'Reportedly' tag ! Nice post !

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  11. Loved your analogy to Phantom :) Lovely post Alka !

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