How deep is Arnab's love for Modi: Nation wants to know

His rule for journalism in the last two-and-a-half years has been: wear the government’s appreciation as a badge of honour.

 |  5-minute read |   05-11-2016
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The nation didn’t sleep after learning about Arnab Goswami’s resignation from Times Now.

His fans and followers suffered climax-anxiety. His baiters, mostly of liberal and left disposition, celebrated with spasms of orgasmic pleasure.

Night after night, India’s own Bill O’Reilly has been leading the middle class, especially overly nationalistic young men and women, to an Orwellian world.

Arnab herds his zillion of viewers to George Orwell’s 1984’s two-minute hate during The Newshour. On his show, the two-minute hate stretches to more than an hour and a half.

But the viewers and the guests go through an almost similar cathartic experience. They go through the motion of collective outbursts of hate; shouting, shrieking and throwing darts at their symbols of hate, indignation and anger.

The two-minute hate has two broad purposes: One is to channelise the rage against supposed enemies of the party (read communist party). It’s to ensure that people’s dissatisfaction with their lives, their perpetual state of frustration doesn’t turn against rulers. It’s a mechanism to release pent-up emotions. The second purpose is to deify the “Big Brother” — the supreme leader. The daily ritual is a reminder that “Big Brother” is benevolent and in turn it reinforces the orchestrated belief that the enemy must be loudly hated and demonised.

Arnab recreates 1984’s surreal scene night after night. Enemies and hate figures are identified with care, and with a shrewd process of political selection. One night the enemy is Rahul Gandhi and his Congress party. The other night it’s Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP, Akhilesh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party or even Nitish Kumar and the Janata Dal (U).

That’s fine. Millions of people wait for politicians to be publicly guillotined in TV studios. Politicians, big corporates, the police and members of the executive who escape unscathed even after being accused of serious crimes, deservedly have to face Arnab — playing investigator, prosecutor and jury.

The Newshour identifies the issues, the personalities, the symbols of authority, greed and cronyism we wish to rebel against but can’t because we find ourselves powerless. Arnab choreographs people’s rage against them with his tirades, harangues and tongue-lashing.

However, in this truly Orwellian world of 1984, our “Big Brother”- the Prime Minister Narendra Modi - escapes unscathed night after night. He is beyond Arnab Goswami’s reproach. One doesn’t recall when was the last The Newshour host uttered Modi’s name, criticised him, let alone censured him.

He doesn’t even openly complement Modi. Why is Arnab shy of taking Modi’s name? Why does he behave like shy Indian brides of the bygone era, who were taught not to utter their husband’s name in public, not ever to speak a word of ill of him?

Does he find the government’s performance in the government so extraordinary that he has never ever criticised him?

Is he pursuing a policy as many media houses do? That is: leave the most powerful, prime minister for instance, aside, treat him and few others on the top such as BJP president Amit Shah as holy cows, and make easy meat of the rest?

Arnab fails on this simple test as well. He hasn’t taken on any senior front-ranking Cabinet ministers in the Modi government. Opposition parties’ spokespersons on his show have often accused him of pro-BJP bias. Arnab has often responded with a sheepish grin or grim silence.

One doesn’t recall any prime minister who has courted so many controversies in such a short time. Who evokes so much adulation from his followers — who invites so much anger, disappointment and even hatred from his detractors and political opponents?

But Arnab doesn’t question Modi or his actions. That makes the The Newshour anchor an establishment apologist. As an influential journalist, he is unique in mastering the art of channelising people’s anger away from the government. He has changed the rules of the game.

hqdefault_110416101940.jpg Does he find the government’s performance in the government so extraordinary that he has never ever criticised him? Credit: Times Now/YouTube

The rule of the game in journalism is: wear the government’s criticism as a badge of honour, as the Indian Express chief editor Raj Kamal Jha said in the PM's presence at the Ramnath Goenka Awards on November 2.

Arnab’s rule for journalism in the last two-and-a-half years has been: wear the government’s appreciation as a badge of honour.

His resignation speech at the Times Now office, where he says independent journalism will not die, is a lie.

The question is: can he continue for long with his current eyeball- grabbing strategy? That’s being an apologist for the government and demonising those out of power?

What Arnab didn’t tell his staff but he knows well is that a fatigue has set in in his approach, the fatigue over his choice of issues. The repeated Congress, SP, JD(U) and Left bashing has become boring. His routine Pakistan bashing too has become tiresome.

Even more boring is The Newshour’s guest list. The news show has been losing gravitas in terms of the quality of panellists.

With Congress and AAP virtually boycotting The Newshour, Arnab’s choice of panellists has become seriously limited. He is forced to debate with second and third-rung politicians from the non-BJP stable.

Respectable names in academia, civil society groups as well as journalists have turned away from his show. It’s inconceivable for a channel or news anchor of national repute to retain gravitas with declining acceptability among peer groups, leading members of the academia and almost all but one political party.

Arnab as well as Times Now have been in a bind. He had started looking out to get out of the untenable situation he has created for himself.

Arnab will have to reinvent himself wherever he goes. He can’t restart a credible news show by treating the prime minister and the government as holy cows. That’s done in autocracy, not democracy.


Ashok K Singh Ashok K Singh @kashoksingh

He is a journalist, writer and commentator.

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