Shorts In The Dark
What I really feel about Arnab Goswami's Republic TV
The channel has made clear that it wouldn’t be giving any space to dissenting voices.
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I still haven’t made up my mind about Arnab Goswami’s mile-long sideburns and longish hair. I suppose the idea is look hipster, but sideburns are tricky at the best of times. Some news anchors are known to wear shorts beneath their suits; Goswami probably wears bell bottoms.
At the moment, Goswami looks more like a half-hearted rebel who still brings his tiffin box and an apple to college. And every day, someone steals his tiffin box, making him fume and froth.
What does Arnab’s return to television feel like? I’m thinking of the silence that envelopes the house when the power goes. The thrum of gadgets switches off and a pleasant calm prevails within the four walls. One can hear birdsong outside. That’s what it felt like when Arnab was gone.
Goswami has made a name for himself as the nation’s self-styled voice. As a news professional, he has altered his style and political slant over the years.
Goswami looks more like a half-hearted rebel who still brings his tiffin box and an apple to college.
With anchors like Goswami, unlike the even-keeled Rajdeep Sardesai, it is often difficult to tell how much is acting and performance and how much conviction. From having liberal progressive voices on his show, he has gone on a hate campaign against "Lutyen’s Delhi".
There is an element of personal animosity here. Like Trump, Goswami was never been accepted by "those-who-matter". Like Trump, he has turned this feeling of rejection into national agenda.
His misplaced nationalism can verge on the comical. Once he got after a Caucasian doctor because a super-bug had been named New Delhi. This , Goswami argued with irate logic, was racist. The doctor explained that it was medical precedent to name a bug after the place where it originated — that there was no agenda.
Goswami kept shouting at him until the man got up and left. At these moments, one feels that there is a genuine loss of control that Goswami is susceptible to while on air. He is tricked by his own act, over and over again.
It’s a bit like when those who generate fake news start believing in it themselves. It might not be as cold-blooded as it sounds. In a famous gaffe, Trump picked up a false news item from Fox News about an attack in Sweden, mentioning it in a rally in Florida. The Swedish establishment was flabbergasted. No such attack had taken place. The NYT headline said it all: "From An Anchor’s Lips to Trump’s Ears to Sweden’s Disbelief".
Two months later when an attack finally did take place on Swedish soil, Trump’s supporters said his statement had been prophetic. When truth becomes a fact you choose to accept or reject at your convenience, the debate is no longer about incontrovertibility but the vulgar relativism of multiple fictions, a corrupted version of Jainism’s syadavada.
An ad campaign based solely on negatives.
The first look at Goswami’s channel, Republic TV, reminded me of Russia Today, the Kremlin-backed state propaganda channel that pretends not to be one.
In fact, it’s worse. RT doesn’t have Russian flags waving in every frame. The ads on Republic did. One begins to wonder about the ethics of using the national flag to push what is ultimately a big business venture, streaming live on Hotstar to millions of subscribers.
This is about money and profits, not the nation. Republic harnesses a national symbol, which belongs to everyone, and yokes it to its personal end of profitability.
In the commercials for Republic, the viewer is talked down to. There’s nothing about how the news delivery will be different, only a set of exhortations to the citizen.
It’s an ad campaign based solely on negatives: "No Paki movie stars"; "No appeasement"; "No anti-nationals"; "No cricket diplomacy"; "No compromise"; "Stand up for the national anthem"; "Don’t question Army’s powers"; "No seditious slogans".
This is not news. It’s a set of dos and don’ts, laid down by a man who calls himself: "the voice of a new India."
Goswami’s grouse with some high-profile liberals is imposed on the hapless viewer; the highly-strung ad campaign gets disproportionately obsessed with something as inconsequential as litfests.
Litfests, it seems, are the nation’s Enemy No 1: "No litfest peacniks" booms one slogan. The second one is grammatically clumsy and clunkier: "Tired of the fatigued litfest circuit that allows pseudos to question nationalism?" This is a campaign that saps the viewer.
There are dangerous incitements to violence and hatred. "Give it back to the anti-nationals." "Avenge our soldiers." How? By watching Republic that is 80 per cent advertising and 20 per cent propaganda.
Republic is fine as a private channel that puts forth the government’s points of view on various issues. But it has made clear that it wouldn’t be giving any space to dissenting voices. This makes it unwatchable because with propaganda one always knows what the end take is going to be on any matter. Your mind is being made up for you. That’s not news, it’s brainwashing.
As happens with fake news, there’s an element of tragedy, even autoeroticism: the brainwasher brainwashes herself and is turned on by it.