I'm being quoted for things I didn't say

Posted by Jabeen Akhtar on 10 October 2011

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Hey everyone!

I know I've been slow to do this, but I'll have pics and stories from the India tour up very soon.  No real reason why I haven't done this yet other than I can't get my lazy ass off the couch ever since returning to the U.S.

I do want to discuss something that's causing me a mild amount of distress. I noticed that often the press is summarizing what I say in their own words, putting quotes around it, and attributing those quotes to me.  Some of these quotes don't sound like anything I'd ever say, like "people should do things that make them happy!" or "I thought people in Pakistan would be cool," or "I believe in culture" (wtf? no, I don't).  I thought this wasn't allowed--that a quote was a word-for-word account of what was said.  No summarizing, no redacting, no replacement of my words with the preferred words of the editor--just the facts. Most of the time, the press has gotten the gist of what I said correct, so it's no biggie. But sometimes it's been way off.  

I just want to go on record here to correct a few of these instances.  First off, I never, ever said I'd never go back to Pakistan. During that interview (in all my interviews, actually) I tried to make the case that while diaspora novels would have you believe that all second-generation kids are taking these long, dramatic odysseys back to their motherland to find themselves, etc., the unglamorous reality is that it's technically difficult to go back. You get two weeks vacation time and airline tickets to India/Pakistan are expensive.  Given the choice, personally, to use my vacation to go to Italy or Costa Rica, I would mostly likely choose them over Pakistan, which takes four days to travel to and from alone. That's it. That's all I said. There's no dislike of Pakistan or unwillingness to go back that the story (and its headline) implies. This is hurtful because I have family in Pakistan, and there's so much of the country that I'd still love to see. Give me a free airline ticket and a few extra weeks of annual leave and I'm there.

I also don't regret for a nanosecond my 2006 PETA protest against those bastard animal abusers, Ringling Brothers Circus (click here to find out the truth about how they beat and electrify those elephants to make them perform). My only regret is that I couldn't personally bitch-slap the "pro-America" hypocrites who harassed me for exercising my First Amendment rights.

The Indian press has been so good to me. I met so many reporters during my tour and I can tell you that they are the most respectable and friendly journalists I've ever met. Ultimately, this has to be my fault. I need to better articulate what I say and try not to ramble like I'm sure I did, and much of this could be avoided. 

I am a little alarmed about the direct quote issue, but I've figured out a way around that too. A litmus test for knowing if I really said something or not: If the quote makes me sound like a happy, well-adjusted person, you know I didn't say it.