In Defence of Arnab Goswami
I stopped watching TV for news years ago. Exceptions have been on the days of election results and really some major developments. I do watch occasionally some foreign news channels, and find “Russia Today” very educative. I am firmly convinced that TV channels have ruined the credibility of media the most. In fact, it is a global phenomenon. Trends in the United States and Great Britain are not qualitatively different. But, in India, the news channels are most pathetic. For me, it is horrendous to see the faces of the same anchors every day year after year. It is like an editor in a news paper writing his edit-page column every day. However, the quality of the Indian TVs is so degenerated that even the so-called participants are almost the same year after year, let alone the anchors. In fact, we have such sorry spectacles that some participants or so-called experts go to four different channels the same day to say the same things. Such is the narrow base that the Indian news channels do operate from!
And yet, my column this time is going to talk about Arnab Goswami, the prime anchor and owner of the Republic TV. And I am writing in his support for a principle. That principle happens to be the sanctity of the freedom of a journalist to what he or she says and writes. You may agree or disagree with his or her views. You may like or hate her. But you must respect his or her right to what he or she says as long as that is logical. In fact, this is what all our so-called liberals, who extol the virtues of dissent in a democracy, emphasise day after day. But such is their doublespeak that all of them, dominating otherwise our mainstream media, are conspicuous by their silence on what a vindictive government in Maharashtra is doing to Arnab these days through one of the most controversial IPS officers who happens to be the Commissioner of Police in Mumbai.
As I have said, I am not exactly a fan of Arnab or, for that matter any news anchor in India. For me, they all are the same, participating in the rat race for having the maximum TRP. In the heart of their hearts they must be realising that what they are indulging in is not the journalism in the real sense. They know that on the ‘idiot box’, they have to be “actors” and go by the scripts as idiots and sometime as jokers as that is the best way to catch the attention of the Indian viewers. If in this art Arnab Goswami sells ‘chest-thumping patriotism’, there is one Ravish Kumar who sells “rudaali songs of self-pity. If Arnab liberally uses the term, ‘Lutyen’s Media’, Ravish chants the term ‘Godi Media’. If Arnab talks of ‘anti-nationals’, Ravish has the phobia of ‘fascists’. Of course, in between we have the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai, each having his or her distinct style of “acting”. All these anchors are trained or employed not to educate you but to entertain you. If the TV news business has to be successful and sustainable, then entertainment has to be the end-product of sensationalism, nothing else. At least, that is the Indian theory.
My philosophy is this – if you are uncomfortable with these “actors” then please pick up the remote, change the channel and watch a movie or a sport. To keep yourself abreast with the news, check periodically the websites run by these very unwatchable news channels. But what is happening ( and it is only one way) is that those who hate Arnab – because he talks too much about nationalism, he praises Modi government’s actions in Kashmir, exposes double standards in our discourse on secularism, reports on misdeeds of non-BJP governments- want to punish him and his channel. Governments in states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have lodged various criminal cases either directly through their own Police or indirectly through their supporters against Arnab and his Republic channel. We know how easy it is to lodge FIRs against a person through a compliant Police in this country on some pretext or the other.
I do not want to go into the merits or otherwise of the cases against Arnab by the Mumbai Police. But it is absurd when the Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh ( reputed to have a tough image for his hyperactivity against the “Hindu Terror” during the UPA government and his allegedly personal torturing of BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur when she was in jail in the Malegaon blast case) demands that Arnab has to allow his team access to Republic’s newsroom, provide details of all his reporters, and summons his reporters from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to be present before him and his colleagues. I do not think things like this happened even during the emergency in between 1975 and 1977, hitherto the darkest years for the press freedom in the country.
I call the above “the one-way treatment”, because all these are happening in the non-BJP ruled states against all those who are perceived to be soft on the BJP or the Modi government. On the other hand, highly critical channels and anchors of the Modi government and BJP (for that matter newspapers and news portals) in the BJP-ruled states and national capital of Delhi are becoming more and more vocals each passing day without any problem whatsoever. In fact, most of these Modi critics have prospered in their careers during the last six years of the Modi regime. And that is how it should be. And that is the best indication that our democratic strength is such that habitual dissenters of Modi in the Indian media are not only safe but also prosperous. Arnab Goswami in Mumbai may be suffering but Ravish Kumar in Delhi is excelling.
Of course, it is to be noted that Ravish Kumar’s employer Pronoy Roy was once raided by the CBI. But that was because his alleged shady deals (now before the Court) through shell companies abroad and these have nothing to do with his media enterprise. Roy’s home was raided, but the CBI did not touch a single NDTV employee; it did not even go near gate of the NDTV main office and studio. Ravish Kumar was not stopped form vomiting his daily quota of poison against Modi. But the whole media in Delhi dominated by the fake liberals roared then against “the death of media freedom” under Modi. For them, there was no distinction between the proprietor and his business activities on one hand and the news organisation on the other. In this case, the proprietor (Roy) was clearly using the journalists working for him to protect his other interests, which was a dangerous game. Because, according to a 2012 report by Business Standard, more than a third of news channels in India are owned by politicians or political affiliates, particularly in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab. Similarly, some powerful print establishments are also owned by politicians. In the name of press freedom, they, if this dangerous logic is adopted, can perpetrate every wrong or unlawful method to enrich themselves.
My second problem with these fake liberals is their selectivity and lack of consistency. They will go to any extent of supporting Roy but not opening their mouth for Arnab. To them, an attack on a proprietor like Roy is a threat to freedom of the press. But they prefer silence if any journalist like Arnab in any non-BJP rules state is harassed or killed. In West Bengal sharing a morphed image or a cartoon of Mamata Bannerjee will put you in jail but you will be lauded for sharing a morphed image or cartoon of Modi. In Maharashtra, a cartoon against Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray’s son (also a minister) invited recently one person few days in Police custody. Last year, a critically claimed movie “Bhobishyoter Bhoot” was removed from the multiplexes and single theatres in Bengal. The producer of the film said, “Despite release orders issued to the exhibitors with advances paid for exhibition of the film from 15th Feb to 21st Feb 2019, yet without any prior notice or information, they suddenly withdrew the film on the afternoon of 16th Feb.”
However, not a single word was uttered by our fake liberals against all the above cases, at least in Delhi. This is why I always rate the fake liberals in Delhi as among the most dishonest. They talk of dissent; but in practice they are the biggest fascists. They talk of secularism; but they are among the worst communally minded people.
Let me, then, conclude by quoting George Orwell from his masterpiece, 1984 : “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself — that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.”
By Prakash Nanda