Today, the topic I wish to write about, it truly a nation-al one. In my house, there were two ‘camps’ – the pro-Arnab Goswami and anti-Arnab camp. My dad, like so many others, loves him and waits for the Newshour and follows the ‘30 minutes to Newshour’ strapline on the ticker. I loathed him with an intensity reserved for few people – like those who think the world loves their face so much that they upload a selfie every alternate day on facebook – and trust me, I would walk off the moment I heard that irritating newshour music. Notice how I was using the past tense? No, no its not that I love the show now but yes, I do sit through some of his debates and do not walk off as soon as dad puts on channel no 366.
The other day I happened to read his interview on scroll and Arnab’s answer to the question of ‘all the shouting and finger-pointing on times now’ kind of got me thinking:
He said ‘After eight years of news leadership, if the only charge that sticks against Times Now is that we make our point too directly then it’s a good thing. I would be more worried if people would accuse us of corruption or impropriety, (as some channels have been). Being clear and unambiguous is a charge that I am comfortable with.’
Yes, formally or even otherwise, I have not heard anything about him being corrupt or of the channel having any clear political leanings, as some other channels have been accused of. He has always been as aggressive, be it any government in power; he is as much a boogeyman to Nalin Kohli of the BJP, as he was to Sanjay Jha of the Congress. And it is the time of low standards set by some media outlets, where the proximity between them and those in power crossed levels of fariplay, that being non-partisan can be seen as the biggest virtue. What would be the point of a nuanced debate if there is an obvious bias, right?
Ofcourse, there are a lot of things to not like about Arnab’s show. He invites half the country as guests on the news debate and then pigeonholes them in boxes, where some of them are conveniently forgotten till the end of the show. And as an ad by a rival channel would show, there is an unhealthy amount of jingoism when it comes to shows relating to Pakistan. Then there is the then oversimplification of issues, the tendency to search for a daily villain, there is so much that one could dislike about the show and the man. My main complain with watching Arnab’s show was that by the end of the debate, I would not end up learning more about the issue from various perspectives, inspite of his overcrowded guesthouse.
But the other day after watching the entire debate of Gajendra ‘ junge love’ Chauhan – the person appointed as chairman of the FTII and the controversy around it – I was all the more convinced about what worked for Arnab, apart from being seen as non-partisan. I think, we as a people are tired of the entire ‘corrupt system’ ‘corrupt politicians’ cycle that keeps playing ad nauseam. The trial in courts – if indeed it goes to trial – we know will take ages, and it is here that ‘Justice Arnab’ appeals to our baser instincts: the hope to see these scamsters, these politicians punished for what they are doing in any way possible. A ‘media trial’ is an unhealthy trend ofcourse but when I saw a clown like Chauhan being absolutely stripped to smithereens – his own stupidity here playing a major part – on the show, I felt this sense of vindication. Oh yes, eventually because of blatant political reasons, you may end up being the FTII chief, but ‘in the court of Arnab’ you were shown who you are. In the 45-minute long debate – it was after a long while that I could sit through the debate – a baser part of me felt good.
And that is what I realized works for Arnab, for the better or worse. The news and developments of the day sometimes become a byproduct to the main show in which is Arnab going after these people whom we hope to see punished but are not sure they will not be, at least in our lifetimes. It is for that hour long vindication, when Arnab shouts at Fadnavis saying how dare you stop a plane for an hour and see his spokesperson struggle for words, that for sometime, people feel that politicians are not high flying netas, but public servants, and thereby accountable to the people, a class that Arnab claims to represent every night at 9.