It is Not Just About Arnab Goswami: The Media Rant And a False Debate
NEW DELHI: A ranting, fuming, going crazy television news anchor hitting out at all, real and imagined shadows of his mind. A rejoinder by other news anchors taking his rant personally, insisting they will continue as they always did ---?---and that he can hurl abuse and names but they will stand for what they stood for. And of course the rest of the media, looking for sensation and drama, going a little hysterical with excitement and headlining how the so and so of the media world takes on so and so.
In the personalised counters, the real danger inherent in the rant of a television news channel has been lost. As it has been turned into a personality clash, which is actually the least of all the issues of concern. It is not about one anchor versus one or two or three others. It is not a story of stars and celebrities---of I am angry now that you have attacked the media as well---it is far more than that although one wishes it was as simple as some are making it out to be.
The questions that need to be looked at by the entire media in the business now are Why is the television rant that everyone is now reacting to, so very dangerous for democracy? And even more importantly what can be done when the media turns rogue? The answers to the second need introspection, brainstorming, and a united approach by all stakeholders to ensure that the violation of journalism is publicly branded as “Not Journalism.”
First, it is important to remember that the said news anchor (although there are many more than the one but will use the singular in this copy instead of the plural) in question is not on his own. He is the face who appears every night on prime time ‘reality’ shows but he is backed by one of the most powerful media groups in this country who pay him his salary. In other words, who control him and like what he is bringing to their door. In simple words: more viewership, more advertising, and more money. And since the rant follows that of the trolls so active these days on the social media---and for whom he is a hero of sorts---it also earns that media house with its business interests star points with the ruling dispensation of the day. And that as all of us with long years in the media know, is a major plus for the corporate companies running news these days.
Two, this loud, screaming, rant is seductive in its nastiness. It gets the eyeballs, as people look on in stupified wonder at the anchor devouring anyone who does not fit his agenda for the day, and passing this off as news. So unlike the man who sneaks peeks at a reality dance show lest it eat into his ‘macho’ image, all in the family can stare for hours at this news channel and the anchor hurling abuse and fuming at the mouth in a theatrical that actually surpasses television entertainment fare, and does so under the guise of selling news. It is as almost all are made to participate by the virtue of sheer decibels and obnoxious interpretations---even the critics who later vent their anger on the social media.
Three, the twist and the turn given to facts by harsh and loud commentary places the world outside the ruling establishment and its supporters on the ‘other’ side. And the ‘other’ is being spelt out clearly as the presstitutes, the sickulars, the pseudo-seculars, the anti-nationals, the terrorist citizens. And a mainstream news channel, backed by the huge corporate media house, then goes on to paint a narrative where he screams for war; where he denounces innocent students of India as anti-nationals; where he gives the calculated impression that all Kashmiris are terrorists; where he passes strong, unrestrained opinion off as news, and silences those on his panels who disagree with almost abusive insults. He hurls adjectives, questions their motives, and shouts them down if they do not agree to his narrative of divisiveness and war.
Four, news is used to polarise the country between the ‘nationalists’ as identified by the anchor, a small journalist with no experience on the ground (though even if he was the most experienced he was certainly not qualified to pass a verdict on any citizen) with all the other being anti nationals. Words traitor, pro-Pakistan, anti-national are used freely to brand those holding a different point of view on as the anchor constantly declares ‘national television’, as war and conflict is advocated, peace ridiculed.
But it is not the anchor who is setting the agenda, or who is creating this narrative. He is following what the nexus of the money bags and the politician is telling him to do, knowing that his job security lies in following the instructions with passion. What he does not know is, or chooses to forget, is that tomorrow if there is another government in power he might well be out of a job as his owners will then bring in another face to appease the new establishment if so required. And he will eat the dust. T
Thus, the danger does not come from the individual. It comes from the system that is controlling journalism, and using it to further propaganda and an agenda that might crack democracy in the process. The ten points why this television is so dangerous for India:
- It creates ‘enemies’, and then pushes war and conflict as the offered solution; and brings in militarism as the accepted doctrine;
- It pushes pluralism into hegemonic unilateralism, and creates categories of nationalists and anti-nationalists of Indian citizens based on a created and false narrative; it thereby sows discord and generates hate and alienation;
- It polarises democratic society, and creates groups of ‘enemies’ within the democratic order;
- It attacks the opposition, an integral part of democracy, mercilessly and does not hesitate to hurl stones at the institutions of democracy ---judiciary, media---with impunity;
- It generates fear, and creates alienation amongst people, acting as the jury and the hangman at once without reporting the sensitivities and the aspirations of the people;
- It does not hesitate to distort news, and does not hold itself accountable or responsible, it creates illusions through propagated opinion;
- It finds its power in becoming the voice of governments and not of the people, thereby doing away with the most important yardstick of honest, independent journalism;
- It is conformist and money driven;
- It is anti-democratic, respecting little and no one except those in power;
- It weakens the tenets of democracy.
In short it is not journalism. But dangerous, very dangerous, as it masquerades as the fourth pillar of democracy while actually eroding it from within.