Journalism or Calibrated Outrage?

26 Jul,2019


By Ranjona Banerji


A supposed meltdown on Republic TV by famous TV anchor Arnab Goswami is doing the social media rounds. In the clip, Goswami is on a massive rant against film director Aparna Sen for being a signatory to an open letter asking the prime minister to do something to stop mob lynchings and religious violence in India.

Goswami accuses Sen of trying to destroy India among other such claims, does not allow her to speak and carries on with what appears to be a mega-tantrum.

However, suppose it is not a meltdown? Suppose this is the television that Goswami has found suits his audience the best? It is after all a style that he honed while on Times Now. And now he has perfected it. The tough guy journalist who will save his country from secular, compassionate, liberal intellectuals, that anti-national constituency that wants to rip India apart by not kowtowing to the majority religion and the government in power.

It is therefore more than likely that this is manufactured and carefully calibrated outrage. It serves two purposes: it tells the BJP that Goswami remains one of theirs no matter what, and that there is no extent of illogicality and non-journalism that he will not go to support them. And it tells his audience that he remains what he is: a mighty show pony who will provide great entertainment every night regardless of the consequences and/or credibility.

The journalism, remember, stopped while Goswami was at Times Now and therefore could not shift to Republic TV.

The experiment that he started at his last job has taken fruit. At Times Now, his protégé Navika Kumar and his successor Rahul Shivshankar, carry on with Goswami’s toxic agenda, at times trying to outdo him. For all the great “fight” that Bennett Coleman had with Goswami when he quit, it is telling how they carried on with the form of non-journalism that he began. They replaced him with a wannabe clone which is I suppose a sort of compliment.

Shivshankar on Thursday night (July 25) was in good “defend my masters” mode while he questioned panellists about why everyone wanted to save India’s religious minorities, but no one wanted to save Hindus. Trying to save Hindus is some Times Now hashtag on social media. The subject of the debate was the Triple Talaq Bill and the criminalisation of those Muslim men who use instant divorce as a way to abandon their wives. I made a huge mistake here and genuinely thought Shivshankar was going to ask why no one wanted to save women. I realised within second of course that I was on the wrong track.

Shivshankar put me right and if one extrapolates from his sycophantic and illogical stance, then no one in the government is interested in the women. Of course, if they were, criminalisation would play no part in this bill but that’s another story.

The capitulation of the media to the ruling BJP and its agenda is also clear, even without the melodramatics of Goswami or the poor seconds of Shivshankar. The very fact that the Right to Information Act was amended so easily is testament to our cowardice. Journalists – real ones, I mean, not these television snake oil salespeople – are those who will suffer the most as an authoritarian government exercises its muscle power in Parliament to protect itself.

Do we care?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal


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