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  • Writer's pictureAnilesh Kumar

Arnab Goswami And The Myth Of Nationalism

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Arnab Goswami is the editor-in-chief of Republic Media Network

Several loose critiques of Arnab Goswami’s journalism either begin or end with a cliché – love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. Trust me – you can.

Arnab And The Missing Nation

The premise of my first argument is an assumption that you are aware of the difference between nationalism and patriotism. In case otherwise, here is an indicator. You are proud of your country is patriotism but if you are proud of your country and hate others, that is nationalism. I sincerely apologise to the academic world for this oversimplification. In my defence, as a student of communication, vernacularisation is my end goal and sometimes its pursuit might defy the set standards.

It is hardly arguable that Goswami has (mis)used the word nationalism more than any television presenter till date in India. The ‘nation’ that he has been referring to has been a protean notion that keeps changing, appearing, reappearing and disappearing every night on his show. While Greenfield, Jafferlot, Smith, Coakley, Anderson, Elliot, Waisbord are some of the best writers on nationalism, their conceptualisation varies. However, the underlying theme of their argument is the prevalence and abundance of negative emotions attached with nationalism. A closer look at Goswami’ debates show that he has synonymised patriotism with nationalism. This convenience of interchangeability is also backed by the presence of political support and absence of reasoning.

Let us assume that nationalism for him is being concerned about one’s own country, then the obvious next step would be to examine his claim. India is one of the worst hit countries by Covid-19 on the planet. The social and psychological loss has been much more devastating than the fiscal fissure. At a time when the same ‘nation’ needed its saviour, he was busy discrediting the efforts of the developed world and attempting to establish the superiority of his imagined nation based on misinformation, disinformation and hyperbole. Sadly the virus could not be fought with verbal diarrhoea. A surge in cases and dwindling opportunities resulted in mass exodus from various metro cities. A crowd at a bus stand near Delhi-UP border left conscientious journalists stunned. Rather than looking for a solution to one of the worst crises in recent times, this 'nationalist' was searching for a conspiracy. His team was busy rummaging through videos on social media to spin it against the Delhi government. There was no nationalist worrying about its nation but a conspiracy theorist looking to swoop on an opportunity to malign those who were not in bed with his opinion. The nation wants to know where the nation was?

Nation First And People Last?

The punchline of Republic TV is – Nation first, no compromise. Admirable that the nation has been put first but what about its people? If the consequence of putting nation first is placing people last, then applaud for Arnab as he himself has established what researchers have been saying for long i.e. nationalism is about preserving imagined culture and boundaries not real human beings. A girl from Uttar Pradesh who was raped, succumbed to her injuries. There was a dying declaration, a restriction on journalists to meet the victim’s family and a clear case of police’ heavy handedness. Instead of saving the nation by speaking for the family and speaking truth to power, the nationalist was busy searching for conspiracy. Rather than questioning the callousness of the police who surreptitiously burnt the victim's body and turned any possibility of ever finding the truth into ashes, this saviour of the nation was occupied questioning opposition leaders. Therefore, while the nation may be first for him in the punchline, no one knows where the people are.

Frankly Speaking

The above examples are just two of the myriad other instances where he put everything before the people. Journalists showing allegiance to a political party/ideology is as old a phenomena as journalism but claiming the existence of every atom that one does not agree with as a threat is the foundation of destructing a nation (however imaginary) rather than building one. Running malicious campaigns against poor people who gathered in Mumbai as a result of genuine crisis is not nationalism but an attempt to create a chasm in society that will push the marginalised further away. The fact is there is no nation or people in his nationalism. It is a hollow space filled with divisive diatribes. At best it is a myth to use your emotions and worst it is communalism. Those who come up with easy explanations like – love him or hate him but can’t ignore him are as misleading as his debates. Frankly speaking, you can ignore him but whether you should, I leave it to you.

To be continued...

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