Oh come on, say sorry Arnab

Updated: 05 August, 2020 07:30 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Monologues aimed at perception control, so Indians hate other Indians, night after night, can't be worth personal fame.

Arnab is basically a JAM master, from a college festival. Passing off examples and opinions as indisputable truth/fact
Arnab is basically a JAM master, from a college festival. Passing off examples and opinions as indisputable truth/fact

Mayank ShekharUnlike everyone I know, have always liked Arnab Goswami. Why? There's probably an explanation. Haven't dug into it. Known him since 2005, when he was starting a news channel in Bombay, while some of us were launching a newspaper under the same group. He liked using the word 'Chief' in his messages, I remember — a very Lutyens' Delhi-media thing to do then.

Of course, this isn't to establish peerage. Can't. Can only look up in shock and awe at someone who's established a R1,200 crore plus empire, from essentially a podcast, a radio show on TV! From a skill that, to the best of my knowledge, is ad-libbing — stringing together grammatically flawless sentences, for an impromptu monologue, without slur, stammer, hesitation, deviation, repetition.

He's basically a JAM master, from a college festival. Passing off examples and opinions as indisputable truth/fact. Which then, even a moron will tell you, becomes malleable enough to fit into any narrative you like.

Why have I been on several of his shows, which aren't debates — because, by definition, debate implies proposition and opposition getting equal time? Think it's essential to slip in even a minute of counter-point when an audience is being brainwashed to believe anything as gospel truth for over an hour. Better than preaching to the choir.

Also, Arnab has quite often been on my side of the argument — yes, that's the word. I primarily comment on mass-culture, and in matters of morality/censorship, he takes a self-confessed "socially liberal" position; in line with my own. Okay, maybe that's why I like him.

Besides, he lives in a sovereign republic, free to air whatever he likes. What goes your daddy's, when you have the choice to ignore? True. If it wasn't for the male/female mini-me/#metoo Arnabs, plus cow, minus Kunal Kumra, on every news channel. Like the late Amar Singh, Arnab in a further Alt-phase, as a result, stands for both an idea, and an individual. Which is?

You know the drill: Judge, panellist plus moderator, TV actor (whose performances we've got used to; so good/bad, doesn't matter), social-media sucker for retweets/viral clips, ex-journalist, wannabe media-baron, court-jester, and crime-master Gogo — all rolled into one private eye, in a parallel TV interrogation, behaving like a public official, with no admissibility in any court of law. Of course, it's an act. He gets normal soon as the camera switches off.

He's effectively? A troll. They demand accountability from people, who owe them nothing. They publicly shame them, in turn — this name-calling being the punishment they mete out. Arnab is now, have begun to notice, the most mainstream face of the Internet troll. Have never seen a full episode of his show. Except the ones I've been on, where you can't hear anything.

Here's what's become loud and clear though. What follows the show: faceless online armies he's empowered as a result, and a never-ending barrage of "maardi, phaad-di (killed it, tore it off)", aimed at creative geographies of human genitalia.

Which is what I hear him yell at me, "Your shirt's off… Nervous… Shaking!" Eh? Strange, because he's going after people in Bollywood, insinuating they were potential killers and a "suicide gang". Highly irresponsible. You are charging up a mob. It's my limited point.

As an occupational hazard of being a journalist and film critic, have managed to upset every top, mainstream Bombay star, producer, director there is. Unsure if that's the case between Arnab and, currently, the true wielders of power in politics/government/business he claims to report on. Or if he'll even be allowed to attempt any such thing.

Can tell it's impossible to get off the tiger he's riding (audiences enjoy this rabid dog image). Or maybe he is the tiger himself, having tasted blood, and then forced to turn vegetarian. Poor guy, calling himself nationalist; yet, night after night, having to serve from his dark distillery, a Molotov/monologue cocktail of hate for Indians, against Indians, who've done nothing to each other.

Have witnessed the genteel writer Rahul Singh in tears next to me once in an Indo-Pak artiste-debate. Poor Om Puri passed away, but not before being mentally harassed/thrashed by Arnab on national TV for his views on the same debate.

Recent shock began with him, for no verifiable reason, coaxing Mumbai to hate its own police. Which will actually be by its citizens' side, if/when a tragedy occurs. Anchor of a TV news channel, who hasn't stepped out of his studio to report a single word, won't.

Other thing I like about Arnab is he got me back in touch with the hilarious Ram Gopal Varma, who called after one of his shows to make a simple point, "I know Bollywood. I know he's blatantly making up stuff. Now, how do I trust him on all the other issues he talks about?" Also his show, Varma tells me, reminds him of Bruce Lee's films, with Lee's punches loud, and his opponents' completely muted!

If cutting off mid-sentence and shouting down was not enough, cowards on news TV have been fading the sound/audio of panellists. So only the anchor remains heard. Being the loudest, especially when spluttering innuendoes, he starts sounding like he's telling the truth. That is the truth. You know this. So much hate, just for fame? Not worth it; apologise now, Arnab.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14 Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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First Published: 05 August, 2020 06:52 IST

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