There are no facts. Only interpretations. – Nietzsche
I ain’t smokin’ any more. But I ain’t smokin’ any less either. – Snoop Dogg (possibly in response)
Veteran journalist and editor of newspaper Pakistan Today, Arif Nizami, was recently caught in the cross fire of the raging war zone that Pakistan’s night time talk show circuit has developed and grown into. The latest confrontation in this chaotic mess has been the battle of Ayesha Gulalai, which has managed to somehow overshadow the many skirmishes that would have otherwise dominated the attention of the ‘analysts’ including the election of a new Prime Minister.
In the hate induced, nonsensical, irrational and loud atmosphere that is the ‘analysis’ wing of the electronic media, one would expect even the most seasoned and serious of journalists to end up in some sort of trouble or have a gaffe or two. It is completely understandable. They are only human after all.
But the case in point this week, and I say so because there surely will be something new next week, is not one where the person in question had made a mistake or been misinterpreted. In fact, the footage of Mr. Arif Nizami from a private television channel interview has not only been taken out of context, it has been with full intent and purpose maliciously tampered with.
Moreover while the source may have been the cesspool that can be talk shows, the main method of propagation was social media; an avenue so unchecked and unfiltered that anyone can say anything, no questions asked, and anyone can respond in turn – a concept simultaneously beautiful and horrifying.
The video in question, which social media warriors belonging to the PTI have so happily circulated in support of their chairman, appears to show Mr Nizami claiming that the PML-N has been offering “Rs 50 crore” to PTI’s women member’s to “create drama” and defame Imran Khan.
What the clip manages to omit is Mr. Nizami quite clearly attributing the claim to the PTI politician “Andaleeb Abbas”. It also misses the humor Mr. Nizami expresses at the ridiculous idea of an amount of 50 crores being offered, which in all fairness is a tad too much.
It was a simple enough procedure. One that can be done on the most basic of smart phones using the lightest of apps found free even on the windows phone app-market. The clip of the statement in question was 36 seconds long, all that need be done was cut out the first and the last 10 seconds and what remains is a small 16 second video which implies all sort of things that Mr. Nizami never could’ve imagined, let alone say.
Hell, it’s so easy one can do it using Whatsapp. You just cut 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after to get what you want when you’re sending it someone and poof, next thing you know its viral and you’re scrambling to let people know that no, that is not what you just said.
What is truly scary about the entire situation, however, is not that there are those out there that may possibly be able to mould things one says to their benefit, it is the ease with which this can be achieved. Moreover what’s really freaky is the thought that if the given scenario can be achieved through an app as accessible as Whatsapp and have these consequences, what on earth is the more high-end software be able to do?
Software like “Adobe Voco” can, with some ease and a little base information, copy, synchronize and dub audios to the extent that the person being dubbed would find it hard to claim it was not them saying this stuff. Even more worrying is the fact that this is a simple adobe program as easily available as a torrented movie or e-book.
Professional software, this would mean, has reached the stage of being able to perfectly simulate and even create situation and footage that has never happened. It is scary enough to consider these things as theoretical possibilities, but to see them as a reality is nothing short of daunting.
Even with Imran Khan and Ayesha Gulalai, messages can be fabricated. Who is to say what’s real and what is not? Is it up in the clouds then, or up to God?