Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, is a household name in that his news channel has the maximum number of English TV viewers in India. This Oxford University graduate is notorious for functioning as one of the prime propaganda machines of the ruling party and is known to actively muzzle dissent. He “acts as a kind of public scourge for opponents of Modi’s initiatives,” writes Dexter Filkins, an American journalist. He was elected as the President of the News Broadcasters Federation’s governing board. However, he staunchly shirks accountability and peddles disinformation. He’s brazen about his bigotry. He undisputedly takes the cake for having the most overbearing presence on national television. Researching to write this article meant that I had to repeatedly bear witness to him hurling abuses at his panelists, as the latter struggled to get a word in edgewise.
Is his usage of rhetoric and abuse merely tied to his sensationalist agenda or does it have patriarchal undertones?
Could his relentless loudness be a manifestation of his toxic masculinity?
First, let’s define ‘toxic masculinity’ for ourselves; it is a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health. As per this model of masculinity, brutality is a yardstick by which cis-het men are measured. Putting two and two together reveals that Arnab Goswami fits right into the archetypal image of what it means to be ‘masculine’ – the cis-het dominant version of it. More often than not, he is condescending and abusive. He raises his voice to subdue that of others and thus, exerts his perceived dominance. Simply put, he is the poster boy for machismo (strong or aggressive masculine pride) in the public sphere.
There is a certain paradox that governs ‘modern’ cis-het masculinity — ‘modern’ cis-het men tend to masquerade as advocates of gender equality and yet remain sexist, or even actively misogynistic in their ways. Arnab Goswami gives life to this paradox. In one of his prime time episodes, he gave an impassioned speech about, “The mindsets that encourage and patronise male chauvinism.” He moved his audience to fight against sexism, which prompted twitterati to trend #StandUpToSexism.
Let us now fast-forward to four years later. In another one of his prime time episodes, he aggressively maligned Sonia Gandhi in order to attach a baseless communal angle to the Palghar lynching case. He received multiple FIRs for his derogatory remarks which amounted to hate speech. This time, ignoring the implicit misogyny (and Islamophobia) underlying his statements, twitterati outrightly trended dehumanising hashtags targeted at the Congress party president.
He’s also known to have gaslighted women guests and panelists, although his actions tend to escape the purview of the word ‘gaslighting’ in its limited sense. Here’s an instance — K.K Shailaja, the current Health Minister of Kerala, was invited to his show only to be constantly spoken over. Further, when she tried to make her point, Arnab Goswami talked her down in a patronising manner and accused her of threatening him. Needless to say, it was clearly the other way around.
Patriarchy is deeply entrenched in our society. Additionally, he has a considerable amount of influence on the masses due to his status as a prominent media-person. Hence, his deceptive misogynistic tactics become all the more dangerous. His model of masculinity is a double-edged sword that cuts right through the Indian psyche. His sexist vocabulary emboldens an army of mostly upper-caste, upper-class incels. They acquire legitimation for their own toxic behaviour — oscillating between blatant misogyny and performative activism as per convenience.
Resistance From Women
Arnab’s misogyny and mansplaining tendencies have not remained unchecked. From time to time, women have called him out on his own show, The Newshour. After repeatedly being gaslighted and spoken over, a determined Mahua Moitra gestured at him with her raised middle finger, following which she continued to demand to voice her opinions.
In another instance, actor Kasturi Shankar had her meal while she was live on Arnab’s show. She claimed that he was not going to let her talk anyway. Later, however, she clarified that it was an inadvertent occurrence owing to the fact that she had forgot to sign out of Skype. Regardless, the Twitter fraternity was all praise for her. These subtle acts of resistance might seem inconsequential, but they sure do account for something.
An Islamophobe And A Bigot
Arnab Goswami has positioned himself as a hardcore nationalist post 2014 and is an open supporter of the rise of Hindutva (re: Brahminism). He has aided the state in unduly antagonising Muslims, Dalit-Bhaujans, Adivasis and other marginalised communities under the garb of nationalism. A key feature of toxic masculinity is the flawed belief that ‘real men’ are directly responsible for sustaining the social order. This gives rise to another flawed belief — that it is the duty of ‘real men’ to conserve the subjugation of subaltern groups within the social order. Arnab persistently advances these violent tropes of masculinity.
His stark Islamophobia arguably demonstrated itself the best amid the anti-CAA protests. He villainised protesters, especially the Muslim women protesters of Shaheen Bagh who spearheaded the resistance. He vehemently demanded that they be imprisoned and spat out verbal abuses at them. A few years earlier, he also staunchly defended the draconian Triple Talaq Bill under the pretext of it being ‘emancipatory’ for Muslim Women. Muslim women — the group that the act seeks to protect — have themselves clarified that the Bill is nothing if not Islamophobic and anti-women. But their standpoint was not highlighted by the mainstream media.
Glorification Of War
Arnab Goswami presents himself and his channel as the sole champion of the Indian Army. This is especially true in the context of India’s border conflicts with Pakistan and China. He aggressively promotes war and demonises indigeneous populations from war-affected areas. He blatantly defends the settler colonialism of Kashmir. This is very detrimental, to say the least. The military is a prime source of the symbolic image system of violent masculinity. The act of glorification of the army thus sells the idea that aggression and violence are integral components of manhood to unsuspecting men.
Unfortunately, this is not the only ramification of an extreme pro-war stance. Since time immemorial, war has inflicted unimaginable physical and psychological damage on entire communities. It sows the seeds for intergenerational trauma apart from bearing testimony to massive human rights violations. War is also used as a tool of sexual harassment and rape targeted at women and other marginalised genders. Thus, to glorify war without considering its gendered consequences is problematic. It is a classic instance of the manifestation of toxic masculinity.
Rampant Misuse Of Social Privilege
Hailing from a family of lawyers and legislators from Assam, Arnab Goswami has been bestowed with a sizable amount of social capital. He is an English-educated, upper-caste, upper-class, able-bodied, cis-het man. As a journalist, he has had ample opportunities to unlearn systemic prejudices — misogyny, casteism and Islamophobia to name a few. Yet, he chose to remain complicit in systems that were designed to structurally discriminate against their minorities. Complicity is not his only crime; he is an active enabler of these systems.
Media is one of the four pillars of democracy and journalists have the social responsibility to call out human rights abuses. Regardless of what their personal stances are, the last thing we require of journalists is for them to reproduce systems of injustice. We deserve non-partisan journalists who will reflect on their privileges and will propagate democratic values for the sake of a concerned citizenry. We deserve better than to have a zealous enabler of Brahminical patriarchy as the face of our mainstream media.
But Why Do We Still Watch Him?
It is interesting to note that Arnab Goswami has a pretty diverse viewership. People with opposing political leanings and different socio-economic backgrounds consume and circulate his content. A lot of us complain about him distorting actual events and yet continue to watch him — why? This is because sensationalist journalism is designed to appeal to our lowest instincts. It sells for its mere shock value.
“The Newshour may be dubious as a media exercise, but is superlative as the opium of the viewers. The anchor has his finger on the pulse of the audience and, additionally, an uncanny knack for keeping the idling human engine hyper-revved for ridiculously long spells,” writes Valson Thampu, the former principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi.
Journalistic ethics are faltering in our country. Therefore, as news consumers, we must work towards disrupting these problematic patterns in the media by limiting our engagement with an irresponsible breaking news cycle. This is the first step to countering Arnab and other disseminators of propaganda.