Arnab Goswami's transformation from 'presstitute' to Pokémon Go-Swami

In the virtual version of Pokémon, monsters roam the earth. Your job is to find, capture and train them to battle against other players.

Somebody in the BJP appears to have done just that with Arnab 'Go-Swami'.

From being called a 'Presstitute' by General (retd) VK Singh to becoming the poster boy of the right-wing, a self-proclaimed cheerleader of the Indian Army and a veritable His Master's Voice, Go-Swami has undergone an interesting metamorphosis.

 Arnab Goswamis transformation from presstitute to Pokémon Go-Swami

Arnab Goswami. Image courtesy CNN-News18

The story goes that while the pre-Pokémon version of Goswami and his team was predicting dates of Vasundhara Raje's and Sushma Swaraj's resignations — read my lips, he would promise, only to disappoint — in the aftermath of #Lalitgate, the anchor was summoned by his bosses and advised to make a pilgrimage to the BJP headquarters.

That day, one portmanteau (presstitute) died and another (pocket plus monster) was born.

Since June 2015, Goswami has been a parody of himself. From the rebel without a pause he once was, he has turned into a propagandist for the government and the ideology the ruling dispensation represents, a Don Quixotic figure who flashes his blunt sword at every idea and person his imagination finds inimical to them, a bully who tries to shout down others from his silly pulpit.

Gone are his anti-establishment credentials that once earned him that appellation to be proud of from Singh. Dead are the exposés that made him and his channel a flag bearer of investigative journalism.

The anti-establishment monster now appears to have been caught and trained only to battle against other players.

On Tuesday, Go-Swami launched into one of his familiar rants: a mix of envy, rage and pseudo-nationalism to question media ethics and — way to go Pokémon — support restrictions on media's coverage of Kashmir violence. To rephrase LK Advani, when asked to bend, our Pokémon began to growl.

The occasion was Kargil Diwas, anniversary of the Indian army's triumph of Pakistani invaders who had sneaked into Indian territory. While most media houses remembered our martyrs and celebrated the war heroes who defeated enemies from across the border, Go-Swami, like a petulant child, used the occasion to rail at his ideological and professional rivals and distribute his own PVCs — Pokémon Vir Chakras — if you will.

In his Newshour sermon, Go-Swami questioned the right of "pseudo liberals” — whatever that means — to "comment, speak or write one word on the Kargil bravehearts." He claimed a section of media is "vilifying” and “abusing” the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir.

Go-Swami, ironically, is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Zakir Naik whom he derides and demonises daily on his show. Like the Salafist preacher, Go-Swami also finds faults with the dharma of others and brands them as media's equivalents of kaafirs. Like the Naiks of this world, he also claims that his version is the most loyal to Allah, which in his case is the government and some distorted version of nationalism.

His rant got the right rejoinder from Barkha Dutt, perhaps the only journalist to have had the guts and courage to have covered the Kargil War from the ground. To talk about and interact with our Vikram Batras while the rest of India was obsessing about the fortunes of the Indian team in the 1999 ICC World Cup.

Dutt wrote, "Times Now calls for gagging of media & for journalists to be tried &punished. This man is journalist? I am ashamed to be from same industry as him. What's striking is his brazen and cowardly hypocrisy. So he drones on and on about Pro Pakistan Doves without one word on the JK alliance agreement that commits the BJP and PDP to talks with Pakistan and Hurriyat and is silent on Modi's own Pakistan outreach — neither of which I object to — but since Arnab Goswami measures patriotism by such views why is he so silent on the government? Chamchagiri?..."

(Note to Barkha: Why ask a question whose answer you know?)

Nobody knows if Goswami really believes in all this chest-thumping, flag-waving and 'Jai Hind' brand of journalism. May be, like his Pokémon version, this is also a game in the TRP market. Maybe, he wants to position Times Now as the Fox TV of India. Perhaps, nationalism, army, Kashmir and Tricolour are just convenient tools for him to attract viewers. Maybe he is just acting like a madaari to gather a big crowd to applaud his antics and then bankroll his supper.

Or, maybe he seriously believes in his brand of media Salafism and, like Baghdadi, the right to declare jihad on others in a bid to either silence or convert them.

But in his zeal to occupy the right-wing space in media and give company to the likes of Sudhir Chaudhary, Go-Swami has made the mistake of starting the process of polarisation of the media. His rants, raves and personal attacks will force everyone to take their position in this ugly, internecine war for media's independence, sanity and integrity.

Game on, Pokémon.

Updated Date: Jul 27, 2016 18:53:23 IST

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