When Priyanka Chopra decided to do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, she thought she was in for some free, easy publicity. However, the moment the questions got tough, Chopra vanished, shutting down the AMA and cementing her legacy as a running joke on Reddit.
Today, Arnab Goswami decided to try an AMA too, and the results weren't much different. While he didn't shut the AMA down prematurely, Arnab proved that he's learnt a lot from his years spent watching people dodge questions.
When the AMA was announced, this sort of outcome seemed like an inevitability. However, Arnab's repeated insistence that he is transparent, honest, and unafraid of tough questions made one hope that he would indeed adhere to all those values.
That was far from the case. Placed in an environment where questions are unfiltered and free-flowing, Arnab showed that he can dish it out, but never take it.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I had also hoped to use the AMA to ask Arnab questions about the glaring right-wing bias his new channel, Republic TV, has displayed.
However, a few questions later, I found myself disallowed from posting, and relegated to being a passive observer. A rather poetic outcome, given that it is also how panelists on Arnab's shows are treated.
Luckily for me, fellow Redditors stepped up. Unfortunately, Arnab did not.
Questions on his channel's political stance were met with non-answers, while questions on Republic TV's main investor's (Rajeev Chandrasekhar) political ties and editorial control were also side-stepped.:
His perceived bias towards Narendra Modi was also questioned, his answer though, was less than convincing. Certainly not one he'd accept on his shows.
]In some cases, he would even answer multiple easy questions in a single post, while avoiding the important ones. In other responses, he seemed as articulate as Rahul Gandhi was in his ill-fated interview with Arnab, and answered questions about as effectively too:
However, when it came to simple, unimportant, lighthearted, or complimentary questions, Arnab responded quicker than he kicks a panelist out of his show.
Silence speaks loudest
Arnab has built a career on being the loudest person in the room. However, in this instance, his silence spoke volumes.
By not answering simple, clearly worded questions about Republic TV's ownership, Arnab has made it very clear that the channel will be anything but independent.
It is well known that Rajeev Chandrasekhar ensures his news outlets espouse his political stance (he's part of the BJP-led NDA in Kerala). If Republic TV was indeed going to be free of his editorial intervention, redditors gave Arnab more than a few opportunities to say so.
It is well known that Rajeev Chandrasekhar ensures his news outlets espouse his political stance.
Arnab chose not to, despite this being one of the first, not to mention most asked, questions on the AMA.
What he has said about Chandrasekhar however, is that “Rajeev is a nationalist and we share a great rapport.” Since it is now known that Chandrasekhar expects ideological loyalty from his editors, there's little doubt that this “great rapport” is based on a shared, right-wing, ideological view.
In fact, Arnab admitted as much when he said this: “All Indians should be pro military and pro India. If that makes us right wing, then so be it.”
This use of rhetoric, to answer serious questions on bias, censorship, and political leanings, is the sort we've come to expect from subjects on Arnab's circus. Rather than clearly disclose his political leanings, he deflects heavily, choosing instead to maintain a fig leaf of objectivity.
This objectivity is short lived though, as Arnab uses the AMA to go after the nameless Delhi elite he holds responsible for everything. Meanwhile, repeated questions on gau rakshaks, anti-romeo squads, etc. This isn't the response of someone whose opinions are issue-based, but someone who is blindly right-wing.
Hilariously, for a journalist who demands his voice be heard, Arnab also repeatedly avoided questions on press freedom, probably due to the fact that Chandrasekhar has used court censorship to bury articles on him and Republic in The Wire.
Interestingly, when asked about this censorship, Arnab's response was to attack The Wire's editor, Siddarth Vardarajan, bringing his American citizenship into a debate about freedom of press. A clear ad hominem argument.
Arnab gets trolled
Somewhere out there, the person who gave Arnab the idea to do an AMA is probably receiving an earful for the trainwreck that just unfolded. On Reddit though, the AMA thread has been populated with joke after joke, mocking Arnab for his woeful show:
Kids, this is what a PR disaster looks like.— Meghnad (@Memeghnad) April 27, 2017
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