Do you get the feeling that the debates in the Indian English Media are becoming fish market fights? Arnab Goswamy’s recent debate on the Rajiv Convicts Topic sure will convince you that its worse than a fish market fight. An achor’s fundamental responsibility is to maintain a sense of neutrality so as to bring out the feelings and views of the participants. The Anchor should maintain the guardian status with all the members of the panel and also ensure that every one gets to express their views no matter how mainstream or downstream their views are and how expressive or amiable they are personally. Thiru Murugan Gandhi – the leader of “May 17″ organization and activist from Chennai reacts to Arnab’s modus operandi and explains why he has to make Arnab shout. While at the outset it may appear that it is Thiru who lost his temper in this show, deeper analysis will reveal that his outburst is a culmination of irresponsible media ethics practiced widely in Indian English Media. Thiru explains everything in his blog:
I have an explanation to make in the wake of the television debate on Times Now on 20 February 2014 which has raised a lot of heat in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. To friends who have been advising me and telling me that I should have controlled my emotions on Times Now there are a few things that I need to explain.
Let me start by recalling what happened.
After CNN IBN show on Wednesday in which I participated and resisted Rajdeep Sardesai’s views on prime time debate defending the release of seven Tamils over a much disputed Rajiv assassination case conclusion, I received a call from Times Now the next day, early in the morning. This is the first time a Delhiwala from prime time news had sought me out to join the national debate, though it is the second show after CNN-IBN, also a national channel, (which I would prefer to call as a Hinglish channel rather than English). Also given that they prefer to ignore us as non-mainstream (even if we are the mainstream) and prefer to call Subramanian Swamy as the mainstream. It is not as if I do not know how to debate and I also been on debates in Tamil News channels where the discussions have always remained cordial even with those who differ from my points of view. But about that later. So, naturally I did wonder why I was being called by Times Now! Knowing how other activists in North India had gotten treated by Arnab, I had to be prepared.
Given Arnab’s debating track record, my reasons were simple. I also did suspect that Arnab may have wanted to snub the guy whom Rajdeep couldn’t. I had to be prepared for that too, even if I wished to keep an open mind towards debate in a national television. Given the sensitive nature of the subject we were to deal with and the brazen ignorance of the North Indians to the issues of Tamil Nadu, I had to work at his game plan for the debate. With the Television screen coming alive on the debate with words to the effect of “assassins,” “terrorist sympathizers” and the lot, I was sure it was not going to be a honest debate, again given Arnab’s track record on fixing the point of view ahead of the debate and sticking to it.
Now, something on the previous night with Rajdeep; – at the debate, I had informed the nation that “calling those (declared to be released) as terrorists is a contempt of the court (The SC did not call the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi as a terrorist act and was explicit in its interpretation) and sought to debate as to where the evidence was on gaining politically by freeing those lodged in prison for over two decades.” Rajdeep did not have an answer. In fact, he ignored me after that question and went on with his previously decided conclusions which also went to the nation as scrolls under the television screen again crying “politics over terror.”
Arnab, had already named his debate topic as “Saving Terrorists for Political Gains”. It was already running on the screens for the nation to see. I understood that the sole idea was to snub our point of view. I did my little homework to face his challenge. Checked out his methods of debating where there is a clear pattern in which he subdues his rivals (or whom he thinks as rivals).
He is used to charging at his panelists with some ridiculous or rubbish questions. While the panelist understands the trap and starts answering that question, Arnab will interrupt within few seconds (mostly after 8-10 seconds). By the time you are pronouncing your third or fourth sentence (or sometimes the second) you will be loaded with couple of other atrocious question / charges that will provoke you. You will find yourself cornered for a wrong question or a comment that shows you in a bad light to the viewers. You will get confused. And you don’t know which question should you answer first to stop the torrent of slur.
And most importantly, he will portray the fundamental values of the panelist’s political / social stand in a very depraved light, if he so chooses. You would be made to be seen as anti-judicial, anti-government, anti-law, and unethical person / activist and so on. Even as you prepare yourself to answer, he will switch on to another guest to justify his (Arnab’s) own stand (Mostly he will go to the guy who supports his stand, like Subramanian Swamy in the case of Tamils issue. And Swamy is arrogantly anti-People so is anti-Tamil). It is noticeable that he always keeps a person who strongly advocates his point of view and gives him uninterrupted time to explain his stand. He never embarrasses ‘them’. Not only that, he will make sure that nobody with a point of view clashing with his (Arnab’s) own cross examine these people beyond a point. And he will consolidate his point of view as the winning opinion. Then he endorses that ‘opinion’ as a public feeling and call it as ‘the democratic view of the nation’.
At the end of the debate, you will find yourself humiliated for not answering the hard questions or the slur. But the worst part is that, you couldn’t put forward the views you prepared yourself for / you came for / you are fighting for. End of the day if you go back and check the Youtube record, you would see that you were given hardly few seconds or minutes to talk about your view. But overall, for a common viewer, Arnab won the case despite you putting up a strong fight. And he ends up thrusting some senseless point of view / chauvinist view to the viewers. You are villain, he is always the hero no matter what the debating point is. Story ends happily.
Arnab’s arithmetic is simple. Let’s give it a close look.
1. Name the debate in a completely biased manner that would trigger a chauvinist view point to emerge.
2. Call some activist and make him an ‘opponent’ to the debate’s point of view.
3. Raise some ridiculous point as the ‘celebrated’ democratic view.
4. Ask some absurd / out-of-context question to the ‘opponent’.
5. While he / she was trying to answer him, interrupt him with one more question.
6. Don’t allow him to answer the first one.
7. Load with some more questions to divert him / upset him / ridicule him.
8. Don’t allow him to answer all those hard bizarre points in the questions.
9. Call other panelist who supports his (Arnab’s) view and strengthen by offering him uninterrupted time to talk.
10. Announce to the viewers that the ‘opponent’ point is not acceptable as there is no rationale.
11. He will then move on to another (absurd) question.
12. He will make sure that you don’t answer the previous unanswered questions.
13. Move on to an entirely new subject with other guest.
14. Make sure the camera will not come to you for next 10-15 minutes.
15. While you were thinking about the previous unanswered questions, he will ask you some more ridiculous questions. And behave like hysteric with his badgering.
16. He will make sure that you will be lost in the noise raised by Mr. Anchor.
17. He will make sure you lose your cool.
18. His chauvinist view wins and you will be branded as a lost soul filled with chauvinist ideals.
19. Repeat the above according to different situation.
This is what I could see as his method to conduct the show and hunt people.
As expected, he made me to wait for nearly 40 odd minutes from the time debate started. Not even one minute was spent on us. It’s the same old trick that our School headmaster uses on students. They call you for some inquiry and make you to wait for inordinate time so that you lose your confidence and confuse yourself. The same kind of strategy was applied to me too. The discussion was to tame my point of view but I was not called to explain. The camera came to us, me and Elangovan, only after we raised hands and sought to intervene.
And the show will be over on the 55th minute or 60th minute depending upon Arnabs’ battles. So I clearly understood his game that he will not give me enough time to explain our position or the ‘new’ views that the nation ‘should know’. He will interrupt me while I was talking after 8th or 10th second and he will quickly move on to next guy. And it will go to the next 4 or 5 guests. And he will articulate his point of view in the process and he ends the show without allowing me to either answer the ‘topic’ of the debate nor to raise ‘new’ views.
Arnab then closes the show with the note “Terrorists should be punished and that’s what India wants now! Will the rulers listen to the voice of the nation? Will responsible people listen to the voice of the nation? Will they protect the security of the leaders and the nation? Will they show zero tolerance towards these kinds of heinous crimes? Will they punish the terrorists immediately without delay? Will justice be delivered to the people who were killed along with Rajiv …? Nation! nation! nation! nation! , Rajiv ! Rajiv! Rajiv! Rajiv ! That is all there is to the debate!
I did not want this twisting of the truth to happen to our point of view. I knew he will hardly give me 10 seconds. (You cannot file a case in the court that he didn’t give you enough time, after all!). So I didn’t want to lose my case. I can’t afford to lose a crucial fight for justice to a man who runs a profitable media.
So I had to raise three new points to the viewers of North India. They are,
1. There is something called Jain Commission that investigated Rajiv Murder case, which concluded that more investigation is needed to identify the real brain / real conspirators. This commission has accused Subramanian Swamy and points out that he needs to be further investigated.
2. This is a high profile assassination; so an international angle is needed to understand who benefited out of it. It’s not a simple murder of revenge. The justice Varma Commission report which investigated security lapses is still missing.
3. Arnab and his media are preventing the common people to see and discuss these real issues / perspective. And Arnab promotes the very person (Subramanian Swamy) who stands accused in the Rajiv killing. I accuse Arnab of giving enough and comfortable time to Subramanian Swamy to divert the nation. So, I accuse that there is a clever understanding between the two to divert the attention of the nation from these question.
Who really killed Rajiv? and why he was killed? was never addressed by these electronic Hinglish media was the fundamental idea behind my argument.
If I could have been able to put this within the 10 seconds or so spared in the programme, then I would have considered myself as done. So, I had to drive my points full throttle. I realized while I was talking, my audio was getting reduced. I know that there is a panel of people working behind, in his studio, watching and controlling the debate’s direction and control the technical aspect. They started lowering my voice output and controlled the audio level to the lowest.
So I had to raise my voice. When you raise the voice, you will be seen as shouting and become emotional. Whenever I raised my voice, they either muted the audio or plugged out my mike.
Most importantly, I had to control Arnab not to divert the points I have raised or escape from the questions I had raised. He did try both. So I had to figuratively speaking, hold his collar by engaging with him verbally for some time. He also needed time for his team to find the international angle.
It is obvious, that his team worked very hard to find the international angle. I know that neither him nor his team read the Jain Commission Report, Verma Commission Report and gathered knowledge about Multi- Disciplinary Monitoring agency that was to investigate the international angle in the Rajiv Murder case. There is no way that he / his team could have come across warnings from Palestine leader Yasser Arafat about the danger to Rajiv’s life months before assassination. They never researched about the international geo-political perspective of the murder. They simply started the debate with shallow information and disruptive behavior towards experts. He never goes through relevant documents or has relevant knowledge on subjects that he anchors. He has never been sincere to journalism. So his team came up with an irrelevant comical story about JFK and read the same without knowing what he was talking.
I applied his methods to keep him inside the purview of the points I raised, by ‘buzz’ing him so that he will not get out of my clutch. As I expected he was clueless about Jain commission and became restless. He tried to protect Subramanian Swamy but he doesn’t want it to be so obvious. So I kept hitting the same point. Though I raised my voice to match the audio challenge, I never lost my cool. He was confused at the end and he became silent. I posted my questions repeatedly to make him restless, to lose control over his show, typically how he does to others and in the process he couldn’t divert the points I raised. That strategy worked. He ended the show by stating that this was his most disappointing show.
Be it NEWS X or Headlines Today I chose to explain things and kept the debate in our perspective and I never lost my control or shouted at them. For the information of North Indian anchors, debates do happen in Tamil media to where I have also participated. Here they always chose to listen to what the ‘other’ side talks. They give enough time to activists to explain and respect their views. They don’t try to bully them or humiliate them. But this never happens with Times Now, and on the two days and with issues pertaining to Tamils and Tamil Nadu, CNN IBN, NDTV, and every other Hinglish news channel were one and the same. They are arrogant, unruly and misled the nation. They never question the establishment. Pro-Establishment agenda is their agenda. Never attempt to expose big scams; high profile incidents; warcrimes / genocide / human rights violations. These anchors, some of them quite well known and celebrated, never commission an investigation into the details of important issues that trouble the nation or the interests of the people. They don’t get into policy issues and challenge the wrong policies with appropriate knowledge, research or information. Their arguments are often irritating, offending, misleading, narrow, and hollow and give back nothing to the nation. They prepare the viewers for pseudo- nationalist jingoism. They are very careful that their debate should not enter into the fundamentals of the problems / issues. It’s a mirror form of the parliament where there is hardly a knowledgeable debate happening to protect the interests of the people.
Arnab’s and Rajdeep’s debates are meant to divert the middle class to non-issues and mislead them. As one of my media friends told me, these programs are “item songs” and Arnab is the No.1 ‘Item Boy’ of the media. That’s what the ‘nation wants to know now’.
Links to the Debate video :
With Mr. Arnab Goswami https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5Nr0nduA2k
With Mr.Rajdeep Sardesai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEdjm4ZKW_c
Information that may interest you : Excerpts from the Judgement on Rajiv Gandhi Assassination.
Justice Thomas found it difficult to “conclude that the conspirators intended, at any time, to overawe the Government of India as by law established. Nor can we hold that the conspirators ever entertained an intention to strike terror in people or any section thereof.”
Justice Wadhwa said: “There is nothing on record to show that the intention to kill Rajiv Gandhi was to overawe the Government.”
Justice Quadri declined to maintain the conviction by the Designated Court for offences under TADA.
Was Rajiv Gandhi a Prime Minister at the time of Killing?
But unfortunately Rajiv Gandhi was not then “a person bound by oath under the Constitution to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India”. Even the Lok Sabha stood dissolved months prior to this incident and hence it cannot be found that he was under an oath as a Member of Parliament.”
Thiru Murugan Gandhi