Ranjona Banerji: All Hail Arnab Goswami, the Dragon Slayer!

28 Dec,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


The media behaves like a doggie when it gets a subject that it can really get its little teeth into. You know (or perhaps you don’t) the routine: dog finds scrap of paper, a sock, your homework, the dining table and decides it belongs to him or her. It then throws it about, growls at it, drools all over it, picks it up again, rips it a bit and then hides it in a secret place. Sometimes, if the object is a bone, the doggie will gnaw at for days and woebetide anyone who tries to take it away.


That is how the media behaved with Abhijit Mukherjee, Congress MP and son of the President of India Pranab Mukherjee for his astonishingly sexist remarks about the female protestors that gathered in Delhi after that terrible gang rape of December 16. Once the clip of Mukherjee’s “highly dented and painted” phrase went viral on Youtube and social media on Thursday morning, could the TV channels be far behind? Here it is, in Bengali however: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmw0XBvTW78


Mukherjee initially put up some resistance but that only made it worse and it was quite funny listening to him trying to answer Arnab Goswami’s question about whether beautiful women should not be allowed to protest or students should not wear make-up.


By the evening however, Headlines Today told us that Mukherjee had got a rap on the knuckles from daddy and his sister was breathing fire at her brother’s foolishness anyway. So now Mukherjee was all contrite and woebegone as all he would say is that he was very sorry and he withdrew his remarks. Nidhi Razdan’s face as she tried to figure out what “dented and painted” meant was a scream. For the record, it is an expression commonly used by car workshops to advertise their services: They repair dents in cars and paint them. I have never, I confess, used it to describe women before.


But it was on the Newshour that male chauvinism got its finest vanquisher. I have seen Goswami on women’s rights before and he is intractable and brooks no opposition. A finer champion of women’s rights I have rarely seen and I am not being snarky here. That strange man who is so popular on TV channels for some reason, Rahul Eshwar, stuck his foot in his mouth soon after the programme started. Goswami promptly stopped his chauvinistic regressive rubbish, told him he didn’t know what he was talking about and ignored him after that. He once more castigated Mukherjee for his denigration of women who by this time wouldn’t even look at the camera and soon ran away.


Rahul Navrekar and he got into a side-splitting spat in which Goswami was at his sarcastic best. He made short shrift of Vani Tripathi of the BJP who would not answer his question about Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s sexist comments made four years ago about lipsticked and powdered women protesting on the streets after the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. The only people who got a sympathetic hearing from Goswami were Brinda Grover (who demolished all male superiority and political arguments with refreshingly old-style feminism), Umang Sabharwal (who started the Slutwalk which so upset Eshwar’s male sensibilities) and Roshan Abbas who said all the right things about gender equality.


The Abhijit Mukherjee episode once again demonstrates to our politicians and other worthies that the technological revolution means that little is secret or hidden any more. You can’t run, you can’t hide and you have to be clear that sooner or later, that doggie is going to get you!


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