There’s a new ism in town, and it’s Arnab-ism

5 November 2009

The Indian government’s “Operation Green Hunt” to track down Maoists—described by prime minister Manmohan Singh as the “gravest internal threat facing India”—is the flavour of the season in newspapers, magazines, and on TV stations.

In reporting from the ground; publishing long essays; interviewing key players in studios; debating the whys and the wherefores of various aspects of the promised assault; throwing light on the situation in the tribal belt, the media, it would appear, is doing its job.

Is it, or is it just “manufacturing consent for war”?

From the website Radical Notes:

“It has been assumed that the Maoist movement is not a mass movement; it’s only a bunch of ‘outsiders’ imposing themselves upon hapless tribes. The absurdity of the ‘outsider’ clause becomes obvious if one spares a moment’s thought to the way in which they function. The nature and width of their activities could not have been made possible without mass support. This is not the place to substantiate this assertion. What one needs to recognize at the primary level is that this is an open question and needs to be treated as such.

“If it is an open question with many opinions, the least the media can do is give space to these opinions, and accept the complex nature of the issue.  It might be pointed out that the debate shows on news-channels do bring in people of different opinions. However, a closer look at the dynamics of these shows will demonstrate how easily the biases of the mainstream hijack the entire debate.

“The newer, uncommon opinion cannot be expressed in the 10 seconds given to the participants, unlike the hegemonic narrative that we are all so familiar with. This inability to say everything in the imposed time limit is read as the lack of substance in these new voices, and a consensus on the issue is ‘created’.”

Arnab Goswami [of Times Now] is a good example. He seems to have found answers to all questions posed by him on his show. Furthermore, his show is an exercise in forcing his moment of epiphany upon others. ‘Mr Varavara Rao, is Kobad Gandhy an ideologue or a terrorist, ideologue or terrorist, yes or no?’ We need to move beyond these multiple choice questions – reality is more layered than the media’s projection of it. We can all do with some thinking, including our editor-in-chief. Arnabism is actually symbolic of the lack of depth, and the fear of depths that haunts the journalism of big news houses.

“Maoist violence is highlighted again and again, often with cheap melodrama (showing the lack of humanity implicit in this form of reporting) as if it exists in a vacuum. Such portrayal denudes an act of its nature as an utterance, which responds to a situation (possibly another violent act on the state’s part) and is informed by necessities of a spatio-temporal/socio-political position.

“In the same way the struggles for self-determination are defined only in terms of their separatist or fundamentalist tendencies’, (one could go out on a limb and suggest that the refusal to understand or explain Islamic violence, as something more than madness or blood-thirstiness is a sign of the same problem). Just touching the surface, there too a very small section of the surface, the mainstream media presents it to its consumers (for that is what passive reception is) as the entire reality, the sole and complete truth.

“It needs to be understood, and this cannot be stated any other way, that the media is responsible for manufacturing consent for war. It has taken the State’s call for war forward by eliminating dissenting voices within. In addition to several other things, the majoritarian nature of the media poses serious questions about any semblance of internal democracy. We have to make a choice between pushing for greater democracy within and allowing ourselves to get subsumed in the state’s narrative. If we choose the latter then we need to question the idea of journalism being ‘free and fair’ and see it as an instrument in the hands of a few who hold power and seek to keep it in their hands.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Read the full article: The media question

Link via Shobha Sarada Viswanathan and Nishant R.

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4 Responses to “There’s a new ism in town, and it’s Arnab-ism”

  1. mysore peshva Says:

    beautiful, spot-on argument. why is its author incognito?

    news anchors in general — not to pick on arnab goswami — are out of depth. frequently there is no analysis, only quick-fire opinions being bandied as analysis. most of them come across as pompous idiots.

    india badly needs a C-SPAN.

    • Correspondence Says:

      The editors of Radical Notes and Correspondence are joint authors. Thank you for your appreciation.

    • Indu Ramesh Says:

      I agree with you fully. News anchors shout out their questions, intimidate their guests on the show, and just as someone wants to answer a fully loaded question with reason and sensibility, break for commercials. After the break, the question is hanging, as the guest is bombarded with some other question. They are pompous idiots, no doubt about it.

  2. Palahalli Says:

    let me understand this –

    Violence and slaughter should be understood and empathized with. If not, the media is hegemonistic?

    So how come the very same media is glorified when the Hindu Right is not given space and “hegemoned” upon? Wait. That’s because the Hindu Right is Statist(?) Convenient.

    How do the authors look upon the recent media corrective that took place in Mumbai? Of course that violence must be understood. I wonder how much space Shri Goswami will afford the MNS folks.


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