I speak for many people when I say that Arnab Goswami is a one of a kind anchor (not so much of a journalist) in Indian Media today. His fiery tone, oozing anger and relentless pursuit to nail a panelist if he/she has said something wrong sets him apart from others. I give it to him that he, more than other anchors, does not get sidetracked by rhetoric and mindless answers.
But he is setting a bad precedence for Indian Media. His aggressiveness, many a times, comes in the way of freedom of expression. He per-determines his mind on what stance he would take in the ensuing debate and goes all guns blazing on anyone who disagrees with his viewpoint or stand. Now it is one thing to get aggressive on Congress spokespersons while exposing a scam but it is an altogether different case when you start badgering a panelist who supports criminalization of Homosexuality or defends a party/client in an alleged case.
The media trial that Arnab runs on his show is needlessly aggressive and full of emotionally charged up but baseless commentary. And I now notice that many panelists also resort to such an aggressive tone. Say you are exposing the Augusta Wesland deal or Adarsh scam then you come with facts, papers and evidence that can really put the concerned party’s spokesperson in a tight spot. And when you have cornered him/her with irrefutable arguments you have exposed that person on TV, now that is the power of Media. But you can’t just raise your voice and speak over the spokesperson and let other panelists also throw muck on him and embarrass him with little substance in the debate. Many a times that is what goes on in the show.
Unless the case has been proven in the court you can’t presume the party to be guilty of anything and them call them on TV to defend themselves from constant badgering from other panelists and the host himself, the debate must be conducted so that the defendant gets a chance to put his/her point in his/her defense. If the defense or arguments are weak then people will get that, you don’t have to guide people to dislike the person or organization.
But we all love to hate our politicians and we love to see them get embarrassed even on baseless grounds and when that happens it strikes an emotive chord with us. Now that is what Arnab does so well , he shouts and yells and speaks over the allegedly guilty and makes him/her look weak and defenseless, which the people like to see. He plays with the emotive value more than good arguments.
Secondly, when you deal with a sensitive case like rape or homosexuality you can’t just take a side and start attacking people with another viewpoint. You can’t be the spokesperson for one constituency of people and attack others who think otherwise. One of he most brazen debates I have seen is on homosexuality. Arnab makes up a mind that homosexuality must be decriminalized and anyone speaking against it is just wrong, medieval etc etc. Nobody is here to decide what is right or wrong, you just fight on arguments to change the discourse, you can’t attack someone for just taking the stance that you “feel” is wrong. Imagine if Arnab had a view that homosexuality should be criminalized and if he came so strongly against those who believe in decriminalizing it. He uses phrases like “you should be ashamed”, “it is because of people like you that…” which are simply stupid arguments to counter one’s point of view. If you feel a person is regressive in his thought then try to bring to light how he/she is regressive, and first of all please explain what is regressive. What is exactly regressive and what is progressive? A thought may be unpopular or may not go down well with some or many people but you can’t label it as good/bad or progressive/regressive. Labeling any thought as regressive itself makes that thought unpopular and wrong and then you don’t need another argument.
The freedom to express one’s point of view is snatched on a show like News Hour. We have seen many panelists walk away from that show and in many cases I don’t blame them. If Arnab has made up his mind that the person is to be attacked today he will not even give him/her a chance to speak. Anyone would get irritated and walk away. And the funny part is that many panelists who sometimes enjoy the good side of Arnab have also walked away from the show on other occasions when they are similarly mistreated.
Not long ago he exposed a junket of Karnataka MLAs going on a holiday to Amazon and Australia. In all fairness if the MLAs have opted for a Study tour and taken their entire families on a vacation then it is wrong. But that does not mean that you call the the accused MLAs on the show just to insult them mindlessly. Let them at least keep their point, if they have done wrong they will come with stupid arguments and reasons and they will stand exposed but it does not mean that you start barking on them in anger and not let them speak a word. Embarrass the MLAs with good augments, backed proofs not with aggressive and loud tones and by continuously cutting their sentences.
Credibility of Indian media is always under question, it conceals more than it reveals. The last thing it needs is drama shows with hollow debates and poor discourse.
Rahul Gandhi is the son, grand son and great grand son of Prime Ministers. He is born in one of the most powerful families in India. He is a prince yet to be crowned. Not that he is the first of such leaders in India. There are many 2nd and 3rd generation politicians who are born in rich, wealthy families with influence. And many such leaders have done good work and earned the respect of their people. E.g. Nehru was the most charismatic leaders of his time. Indira Gandhi had a difficult time even opening her mouth in the Parliament (from where “Gungi Gudiya” came). But despite all that she rose to power by herself (obviously with help of colleagues) and earned the love and respect of Indian voters (before Emergency). She single handedly defeated the Syndicate , Swatantrata Party and Jan Sangh to win comprehensively in the Lok Sabha.
So what is so uncharismatic about Rahul Gandhi. Why does he not earn the respect and trust of the voters (even Congressmen) as her mother did in late 90s/early 2000s. Why can’t the youth connect to him. I find the major flaw in the story he builds around himself. One of the most important concepts of marketing is that you never sell facts or figures, you always sell stories. A story that is built around your personality (for an individual) or a product or a service (for a company). Now, Modi has built an excellent, sell-able story. A no nonsense man who has a vision for India and believes in development. He has complimented this story with Vibrant Gujarat, large industries, great infrastructure etc and aggressive marketing for all of the above. You believe in the story of Modi. You believe that this man will deliver what he is talking about because he has built a personality around these points. Some of the figures and facts in that development model may be wrong, bogus and plain lies but now people have bought that story and they either still defend Modi or ignore those facts completely. Now he is trying to link that story with another one – of being from very humble background. And these two are not complimenting but not conflicting either. So he has these two niche marked for himself, he has an identity around that.
Even Kejriwal has a story of an honest, simple man who believes in restoring power in the hands of Aam Aadmi. He dresses very simple, always with a chappal, travels in a Wagon R etc. I don’t say he does it to make a point, he must truly believe in it, but you can’t deny that it adds to that Aam Aadmi image of his. So he has also told a great sell-able story.
Now what does Rahul Gandhi do. He is a prince, born with a silver spoon and he can never shed that unless he leaves 10 Janpath and lives on his own. He claims to be an outsider (even MSM idiots try to project him as one) when he is the most insider person in the system. But he always tries to project himself as being an ordinary folk. He will work as a labor (NREGA) for camera, eat at a dalit’s house, but people will always see all this as gimmicks. He really does not belong there. And he can’t change that perception . He must not even try all this. When he travels in a local in Mumbai you can’t actually relate to it. Has he ever done those things again. Will he ever do it again, unless elections are round the corner and he has learnt nothing from the past. You never see Raj Thackeray or Sachin Pulot or Jyoti Scindia ever do it. You don’t have to do it. You talk about other things that do not contradict your image.
He talks about ending dynasty politics while he is the biggest beneficiary of dynasty. And can he really wish to topple dynasty politics which will harm him the most one day. People will never believe these lies. He talks about ending corruption while UPA II has been the most corrupt government ever. I don’t suggest that he start endorsing corruption but he should not talk about ending corruption now when his party’s government is mired with scandals. Just like Modi will never talk about communal harmony and secularism because people will never believe him on that subject.
Rahul Gandhi must realize that Congress is in its worst shape since independence and there is nothing Congress can do to revive its image before 2014 elections. Unless BJP or Modi make a folly and that benefits Congress there is little Congress can do that people will believe. According to the perception matrix, you can never change a mild negative reaction to mild positive but you can change a mild positive reaction to strong positive very easily. Rahul Gandhi must target the next elections and enter with a new marketing strategy. No more trying to be a common man, no more trying to be an outsider, no more telling incoherent stories. He has to play by his strengths (first he must find those) and then market those strengths aggressively.
Inputs (perception matrix) from Amit Kumar.