Arnab’s hold over his fans was formidable enough to get away with his obnoxious style of functioning.
by Shobhaa De
Never thought a day would come when the nation would pity Arnab Goswami, and actually feel sorry for the man! But thanks to Rajdeep Sardesai and his tweets calling out a former colleague for fabricating a dramatic narrative going back to the Gujarat riots in 2002, it has become official — Arnab, the self-styled emperor of prime-time, has no clothes. What a fall there was, my countrymen! Just look at where Arnab stands today! Once he was exposed as a complete liar by Sardesai and others, the dam broke. And it is worth analysing why there was such open and enthusiastic jubilation over this single expose! It established incontrovertibly what a despised man Arnab had become over time. And how, perhaps for the first time in the history of our media, one of their own was gleefully trampled over, his carefully cultivated reputation mangled, and his well-crafted image successfully shredded. Dog definitely and enthusiastically ate dog in this round.
If one examines the myriad jokes and memes that were created within hours of the truth tumbling out, it pointed to a rather sordid development — it does not pay to ride the moral high horse as Arnab had, and emerge a blatant liar. Media games are ruthless and played by cold-blooded professionals. Even going by that yardstick, Arnab’s annihilation has been epic and swift! Suddenly, this pompous man has been reduced to a pretty puny nobody. All the people he once insulted and humiliated on his shows have risen as one to chorus: “Serves him right!”
This may appear a childish way to deal with an old foe. But the story is far bigger. And, as it now turns out, Arnab’s biggest enemy was Arnab! I recall a conversation I had in Kathmandu last year, with a loud, crude mediaman. I suspect he had invested in Arnab’s soon-to-be-launched channel, since his entire keynote address to a visibly baffled Nepali media was about the dynamism and greatness of a man called Arnab Goswami. I was pretty puzzled and wondered what that was all about. Later, the same evening, this guy continued to sing Arnab’s praises, much to the irritation of an advertising agency biggie. I was getting bugged as well. So, I asked the loudmouth on what basis was he proclaiming the assured success of the new channel? Wasn’t he making far too many assumptions? He looked at me and asked where Arnab could possibly go wrong. “He is the biggest media star in Asia. His brand value is unbeatable. There is no one else in his league.”
Technically, he wasn’t off the mark. And yet, I was highly sceptical and said so, going as far as to say, “I am willing to bet a hundred bucks Arnab will flop.” The man scoffed and said: “Impossible! Do you know who is backing him?” I said that was a no-brainer. But, despite that backing, I was still on with the wager. He shook his head like men do when they actually want to say: “No point arguing with women. And particularly, this woman.” Suddenly, the adwalla tycoon spoke up. “If she is betting 100 bucks, put my bet down to 10,000.” Mr Loudmouth started to freak out. I thought I saw foam coming out of his mouth. “Both of you are totally wrong! Mark my words, Arnab’s channel will wipe out the rest.”
I would love to meet Mr Loudmouth now and ask him to pay up. In all his calibrations and calculations he had missed out on one important factor: truth. The same “truth” Arnab claimed to stand for. The truth he pretended he and he alone was the custodian of. The truth he successfully peddled to the nation, as he dominated the pulpit and bellowed out his sermons, night after night. Even the mightiest bully is eventually defeated by an unlikely slip.
Arnab could never have imagined that his arrogant lie would be caught and exposed in this manner. All his huffing and puffing has been reduced to a pretty pathetic joke, almost overnight. How could he have thought he’d get away with such a monumental untruth, such a concocted story? This is exactly how and where bullies often trip up. Cocooned by their cowering minions into believing they are untouchable, people like Arnab count on brute force to silence anybody who questions them.
Arnab’s hold over his fans was formidable enough to get away with his obnoxious style of functioning. The reason for his popularity is simple enough to understand: the people who formed his constituency were equally obnoxious!
He said on air what they thought in private. The hatred and contempt for those who didn’t agree with his skewered views he so proudly paraded night after night, were echoed by those people who spewed venom on “libtards” and called the rest “presstitutes”. Arnab’s abrupt political about-turn surprised nobody when it happened. Those who knew his antecedents wondered what had taken him so long to reveal his true avatar.
Well, Arnab’s downfall carries in it an invaluable lesson for all mediawallas. Arnab had antagonised far too many people and tried to destroy innumerable lives. It’s called attracting bad karma. Journalists generally get away with far more than is good for them. But even within this insecure, competitive, aggressive fraternity, there is always space for ideological differences. What there is zero tolerance for is just one thing: lying and appropriating someone else’s story. It’s called theft. And thieves have no business projecting themselves as saints and saviours. The nation is disgusted by the man who claimed to speak on its behalf.