Felled by a sound bite

So what were his exact words? Were they quoted out of context? Were they "blown out of proportion" as Shoma Chaudhury said on CNN-IBN? And should he or should he not be made to apologise for his controversial comments?

We are, of course, speaking of "I am a Khan". On Tuesday evening, TV news channels like Zee News broadcast live Shah Rukh's spirited defence of himself after an article he wrote had elicited unsolicited advice from Pakistan's interior minister on his safety in India. Khan read out his statement like it was the autobiography of a well-known Indian (sorry Nirad C. Chaudhuri): he was proud to be an Indian, blah, blah, blah, his views in the article had been misquoted, misconstrued. He implored the TV news channels to broadcast his speech to set the record state.

Oh, the hazards of being misquoted, misinterpreted, quoted out of context, especially on TV which lives by or falls by a sound bite.

Take Ashis Nandy: his remark that "most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and scheduled castes" at the Jaipur Lit Fest was broadcast repeatedly by all news channels soon after he uttered them on Saturday and ever since. Truth be told, when you hear this statement in isolation, it does sound as though he is saying that "most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and scheduled castes" because that is precisely what he did say. But that is not what he meant. Aye, there's the rub. The result? Many intrepid commentators found themselves twisting their tongues in verbal calisthenics during TV debates, trying to explain, "what he actually said,'' as Harsh Sethi put it (CNN-IBN). Across channels, Nandy interpreters like Sethi and Yogendra Yadav, tried to explain what Nandy had said and yet, did not say. But such is the nature of TV news that their complex arguments will be forgotten while the snippet from Nandy will live on for ever.

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