30/07/2015 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Of Media Sources And Their Reported Reliability

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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 Katrina and Ranbir had fun 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 The Phantom Source - The Ghost Who 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.

"[W]ith great power comes zero responsibility."

Like Spiderman, the source can easily spurt malicious gooey liquid that can allow media men to swing between two political buildings and climb political staircases. 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.

Born out of vengeance, the source becomes deadly because when challenged, vengeance doesn't want to be questioned. A source that seeks revenge is likely to mix forty percent reality with sixty percent illusion. It professes fairness, but finds reasons to justify actions. And in the times of ephemeral news, unapologetic media and short public memory, who cares even if the source goofed up? Moreover, it is easy to plant a doubt by placing a quaint little question mark towards the end, isn't 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 a Nobel Peace Prize 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 the anything sounds farfetched, simply add a question mark at the end.

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