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“Talibanism” of Times Now

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.