Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Arnab Goswami Got Beaten Like a Drum

It is impossible to evaluate Arnab Goswami's interview of Rahul Gandhi on Times Now just as a journalistic event.

It was more like an encounter in the boxing ring. Specifically, the first Cassius Clay – Sonny Liston fight.

All the prefight publicity was about how Liston, the pug ugly ex-con bruiser would make mincemeat of the young Muhammed Ali; but once the fight began, the older man got beaten like a drum.

Goswami with his bully boy approach to interviewing is a good fit for the Liston role. If rudeness were a crime he would certainly be doing time.

But this time around he seemed on edge, nervous, almost panicked. From beginning to end, he addressed the Congress Party Vice President as “Mr. Rahul Gandhi,” each time followed with “My question to you is.” He must have said it at least a hundred times. At one point, RG referred to himself as “Mr. Rahul Gandhi” in a mocking echo of the interviewer’s obsessive repetition. Goswami seemed not to notice.

The questions themselves were relentlessly inconsequential. At one point he asked “Mr. Rahul Gandhi” if he would apologize for the 1984 attacks on Sikhs in New Delhi. Mr. Rahul Gandhi was then a kid in short pants.

The interviewee didn’t float like a butterfly and sting like a bee but he did land a few solid punches. “That’s ridiculous” he said about Goswami’s theory that he had built up the Aam Admi Party to split the anti-Congress vote. “You haven’t asked me a single question” about India and the Congress Party’s work, he noted as the silly questioning went past the hour mark.

Goswami’s smirking response, that if he wanted to know about that he could “listen to a Rajiv Gandhi speech … this is an interview,” made painfully obvious that he lacks the most basic instinct of a journalist: he does not know what the story is.

Not once did he ask a follow-up question to the important points RG was making about the nature of power in India and his attempt to change the system. Not once in over an hour did Goswami express the least interest in anything substantive.

The producers of the show seem to have had a premonition that their man would bomb, for their visuals were the equivalent of hysterics.

The screen never stopped moving. Two diagonal lines slid continually across it in the background, footer text scrambled and jumped, the screen filled often with the title of the show, Frankly Speaking, and whenever Goswami changed the topic, file footage appeared between the two men: shots of Kalmadi and Sheila Dixit, of Subramaniam Swami and various others.

What will they try next to spice up Goswami's dullness? Brief cutaways to Rakhi Sawant item numbers?

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