After SC Order, Arnab Must Reinvent; Public Support Is Not An Endorsement Of His Methods 

After SC Order, Arnab Must Reinvent; Public Support Is Not An Endorsement Of His Methods 

by Swarajya Staff - Friday, November 13, 2020 01:37 PM IST
After SC Order, Arnab Must Reinvent; Public Support Is Not An Endorsement Of His Methods Arnab Goswami, owner and chief anchor of Republic TV.
  • One hopes that Goswami will not mistake this support as a vote of confidence in how he runs his primetime show.

    The support is more about public anger against a rogue state’s actions than full-throated backing for his narcissistic anchoring.

Arnab Goswami is back in his studio at Republic TV, after spending over a week in jail, thanks to a commendable defence put forth by eminent lawyer Harish Salve and a principled decision taken by the Supreme Court bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee.

Justice Chandrachud’s observations while hearing the matter have warmed the cockles of hearts of everyone who cherishes liberty and can’t stand the nanny state silencing its own subjects using brute power.

“If we don't interfere in this case today, we will walk on the path of destruction. If left to me I won't watch the channel….you may differ in ideology but Constitutional courts will have to protect such freedoms (sic),” he commented, adding further that “If we as a Constitutional Court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?”

From admonishing the Bombay High Court for failing to protect the constitutional rights of a private citizen to standing up for Goswami’s media freedom despite not being a fan of the channel personally to taking a well-argued stance on defining the limits of ‘abetment of suicide’, Justice Chandrachud has covered himself in glory.

One was hoping that certain rules will be derived from these observations which can then apply to anyone who is being troubled by the state in a similar fashion but isn’t as resourceful and popular as Goswami.

Nonetheless, this refreshing position of the apex court is in stark contrast to the disappointing decision taken by former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who, while hearing the matter of the imprisonment of defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra by the Odisha government, had said that jail was the safest place for him.

While one can continue to oppose Justice Chandrachud’s worldview of seeing India’s Constitution as a tool to transform society, including in the religious sphere (he says ‘nothing in the religious sphere is private’), his stance on free speech (If you don’t like a channel, don’t watch it) deserves kudos and must be appreciated by all.

On the religious side, it is one thing to separate the religious from the secular but when the secular wants to swallow the religious wholesale, one must object. It is an intrusion into private space.

Goswami received an unexpected welcome after coming out of jail where hundreds of people greeted him in utter glee. While this certainly points to unprecedented popularity for a TV anchor, the chief reason for this public support is outrage over the vendetta politics of the thin-skinned Uddhav Thackeray and his government in Maharashtra.

Indians may like strong leaders in general but they have little patience for bullies and autocrats. And when an underdog takes on the bully, Indians make him a hero. Maybe centuries of being governed by oppressive alien rulers have helped hardwire this into social attitudes.

So, one hopes that Goswami will not mistake this support as a vote of confidence in how he runs his primetime show. The support is more about public anger against a rogue state’s actions than full-throated backing for his narcissistic anchoring.

If Goswami has read the tea leaves right, he should now return the favour to the public and introspect hard on his brand of journalism. Many viewers who tuned in to Republic TV to show support after Goswami’s release were not sure of the spectacle that the whole thing turned into.

The previous day, the channel’s coverage of vote counting in Bihar was abysmal, to say the least. The lead pollster of the channel was unable to control his glee when the NDA appeared to be losing the state in early trends because that is what the TV had been projecting in its exit polls.

The Republic TV debate format is less a debate and more a harangue by the anchor, with 10-12 other guests trying to get their points in edgewise, at high decibel levels.

This toxicity, which Goswami actively encourages as a moderator (if “moderator” is the word for it), has driven sane voices away from his platform. No one is going to waste two hours trying to get two words in, and that too only if those words are in sync with what the anchor himself believes in.

The whole output of Republic TV in the past three-and-a-half years is less about journalism and more about the anchor. The content is weak and its journalists haven’t done any path-breaking stories that would highlight the myriad problems afflicting the country.

There have been no stories showing the real India that would go a long way in countering the lies of Left-wing globalists which tarnish India relentlessly.

The channel hasn’t taken up issues of ideological importance in a Dharmic society so as to present a counter-narrative to the one woven by a faux Left-liberal consensus.

Goswami may be a nationalist to the core but he is no warrior fighting on the Indic and civilisational side, which forms his core viewership. This became acutely clear during the Sabarimala temple movement.

Goswami should’ve aimed to make Republic TV an institution bigger than himself but the channel has become a carbon copy of his own personality.

India needs a genuine media behemoth that can take on the global left, anti-nationals, Naxals and assorted ‘breaking India’ forces in a true sense — churning out quality content, giving a voice to the silent majority and showing narratives of Bharat rather than the fake picture painted by the left.

But what Arnab Goswami has delivered is a platform bordering on narcissism and megalomania, doing great disservice to the right-wing.

If there were any doubts, the Sushant Singh Rajput case cleared them. It was the final straw.

Many on the ‘right’ are ruing the fact that Goswami is not doing justice to his talent and the once-in a lifetime opportunity he has got to change things for good.

“I will never criticise him in public. I have written articles to support him. But it hurts me because he had the opportunity. And he is capable of it. If Arnab wasn’t capable of sensible journalism I wouldn’t even care. He just won’t do it because that doesn’t get TRPs. At Times Now, he would do tamasha for three days but for a couple of days he would have sensible debates with Partha, Maroof Raza, etc, on national security. Now, he does not even do that. He does no stories at all. And I am saying this because I care. I rooted for him. I wanted him to succeed. I wanted him to be a successful conservative voice. That is why this hurts. But it is a choice he has made. It’s too late to course correct, I suppose,” says a founder of a right-wing online media portal on the condition of anonymity.

“We have all been disturbed by his harassment and the State repression he is facing. He should’ve never been jailed. Having said that, his ‘journalism’ is cringeworthy and cannot be defended. And it is not as simple as saying that 'if you don’t like it, don’t watch it'. It’s easier if someone who hates Arnab says it. But I am a well-wisher. And I can’t watch him on screen for even a couple of minutes. Those of us who have for years struggled to create serious, sensible right-wing content, this hurts because it is being done in the name of right-wing news when there is nothing ‘right’ about his content. Honestly, I admire and respect Arnab for his business skills but he is not living up to expectations,” says another veteran right-wing journalist. He also didn’t wish to be named.

Maybe Goswami has figured out that the Indian public doesn’t care two hoots about real news or journalism and all they need is ‘entertainment, entertainment, entertainment’. And maybe he is right (the TRPs certainly point to that) but then he shouldn’t delude himself into thinking he is helping the cause of nationalism or contributing to setting new narratives and changing minds.

Some may see this article as another hit-job on Goswami. It is anything but. One hopes that readers and maybe Goswami himself will see this as words put together with great pain and out of a sheer sense of disappointment with his efforts.

One hopes, fervently, that he puts his talent, skills and popularity to patriotic and dharmic use. He has the means to do it. But does he have the intent?

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