The 'commander-in-chief' of Indian journalism, Arnab Goswami, is making his vocal cords work harder nowadays. Thanks to the ongoing controversy over protest against the 2013 hanging of Afzal Guru in the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the anchor of Newshour has made it a point that any attempt to violate the "limits of nationalism" would be dealt with severely.
Arnab Goswami at his combative best
For the last two days, the anchor was at his combative best by lashing out at whoever represented the university in his noisy show. On Thursday night, Goswami perhaps raised his voice to the highest level ever recorded while lashing out at a student panelist, asking him not to dare speak over him. On this, our question: Why invite people if you really don't like to talk to them?
The anchor's 'anger' is well thought-out
But on a more serious note, Goswami is perhaps loving to be angry and shouting at people. He knows this is the best opportunity for him to milk the readymade market that the public grievance offers to the media and he puts on his angry mask to feed that grievance more. It's a business that is mutually profitable. The public regains more faith on the channel as an medium of instant rebellion against a disappointing system and the Goswamis extend the duration of their popularity that much more.
Arnab Goswami sensed the moment when nationalistic sentiments were passionate and just jumped on to it
Goswami was wise to see a number of factors coming together to create a golden opportunity to fuel the nationalist imagine. The rescue of Lane Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad from under 35 feet snow in the Siachen Glacier where he, along with nine colleagues, was hit by an avalanche; the revelations by David Headley that Ishrat Jahan was an LeT member and the protest in favour of Afzal Guru shaped up a national mind that was sad, angry and feeling justified against the national enemy. Goswami sensed his chance and put his biggest weapon---his voice---to the best effect.
Nationalism is the safest bet for any public speaker in a post-colonial society
Not many were complaining about this combination because nationalism is an addictive passion. It is the safest investment for public speakers, be politicians or media personalities, particularly today when the nation is facing terrorist challenges from across the border.
Goswami knew the more he shouts, the more will his middle-class, ambitious-yet-disappointed and right-leaning audience will feel consoled and that would knock out his soft-spoken professional rivals in no time. It was precisely a commercial utilisation of nationalism at the expense of JNU students. The effect would be specially great with the NRIs.
Arnab Goswami landed on the same side of the political class, which he often targets
But in targetting the student representatives who he knew were helpless to retaliate, Goswami ended up in the same side of the politicians who he often criticise on his show in the harshest of terms. The man showed that how the inability to resist the temptation of a business profit made a journalist look like an empty vessel that made more sound.
Goswami should remember that students are known for possessing radical and romantic ideas. That is the norm across the world and at all times. Their viewpoints can not be just politicised to make selfish gains. If India takes pride in calling itself a vibrant democracy, it can't just act like the Chinese war machines as it was seen in Tiananmen Square in the late 1980s.
The students could have been alerted about the potential impact their sloganeering but the State and the media stretched it too far and gave it a negative shape in the public domain, something which is bound to influence academic freedom in days to come.
Those slogans were not being given by some terrorist outfits or supporters of a communal leader in the capital but by some students who would eventually be sucked into the mainstream one day. Why then create so much noise on the issue when there are more serious issues to take up?
Journalism goes to new low
The media in this country today loves to fuel public anger instead of doing what journalists actually need to do, which is act as a vehicle to reach the facts to the end users. One suspects the commodification of news has taken the journalistic procedure to such a low that the noisy anchors projecting themselves as pseudo-patriots end up with flying colours.
"Anti-national"? What about live telecasting anti-terror ops during Mumbai attacks in 2008?
This same channel of Goswami was criticised for telecasting the anti-terror operations in Mumbai when the dreadful attack took place im November 2008. Last year, after India's loss to Australia in the semifinal of the World Cup after winning seven consecutive matches, Goswami was seen describing it as a national humiliation. For these anchors, the idea of constructing a nation is based on the idea of deconstructing the society and its people, their intellectual capacity.
As long as that keeps on happening, people like Goswamis will see their businesses flourishing while we will continue to be fooled by the fact that the entire universe begins and ends during the duration of that negative-energy-generating programme called Newshour.