Schadenfreude: It’s a word borrowed from the German language that expresses a complex emotion. It’s defined as “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”
Until last week, I’d have thought for a moment to give you an example of Schadenfreude. Now it’s very easy. “Watching Arnab Goswami getting arrested!”
Do you feel that way as well? Or are you angry that I felt that way?
I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why many of us felt schadenfreude when news broke that the 47-year-old founder of Republic TV was arrested for abetting a suicide.
I could tell you that I was grinning with joy because Anvay Naik was finally getting justice. But that would be a lie. It was only after a minute of laughing at a meme of a cat (Indian public) bobbing its head as a man (Maharastra police) banged on a drum (Goswami) repeatedly, that I even heard of the name of the interior designer who’d committed suicide in 2018.
Most people who tell you they’re happy Goswami is facing justice for abetting a suicide, I believe, are flat out lying. Perhaps because the alternative is uncomfortable.
That these progressives who believe in freedom of expression and a fair and balanced justice system are actually happy that Maharashtra police slapped what looks like a politically motivated case against the journalist.
Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Or is something wrong, even if it’s done against a wrong-doer?
There’s plenty of reasons why many of us were delighted that Goswami was arrested. It felt like the ultimate example of the phrase: Karma is a b*tch!
For years now, Goswami has been a polarising figure in the media landscape. You may think he’s a fearless journalist speaking truth to power, but I can’t see anything more than a bully who picks on the weak or silent. Much of that silence is due to his television persona, which is that of a cocaine-fuelled journalist who’s professors taught him that yelling and interrupting anyone who disagrees with him is the only way to deliver news to the public.
Oh, if you are offended that I used the phrase “cocaine-fuelled”, forgive me, I think I’ve become influenced by Goswami. After all, he’s shown us that it’s okay to yell unverified information and shout out slanderous accusations at those who cannot adequately defend themselves against him.
Part of me wonders if I should even spend this much time explaining why Goswami is a despicable journalist, but if I’ve learned anything over the past few years on social media, it’s that I shouldn’t assume there aren’t many Malayalis who champion people like Goswami as heroes. I know that is a bitter sentiment, but we are talking about a bitter man who’s embittered our hearts for years now.
Last week, when I talked about why (I believe) the American president influences our lives, there was a reader who accused me of not knowing what I’m speaking about. He gently suggested that it would be better if I allowed journalists to write about such matters, and proceeded to clearly list out all the reasons why he thought it was a good idea.
Just kidding, he insinuated terrible things about me and my writing and my “background.”
I bring him up for two reasons, the first of which is this. I feel equipped to talk about how terrible Arnab Goswami is as a journalist because I am one myself.
Well, if you want to nitpick, I’ll be certified as one in a few months. And though none of us need a journalism degree to understand that Goswami isn’t a journalist, earning one has reminded me of just how terrible he is.
Journalists are taught to be fair and balanced in their reporting. That principle permeates every action they take in their career. Journalists cannot state opinions in news stories, only facts. They need to source each and every fact they state. If they are quoting someone, they need to quote the exact words or at the least paraphrase accurately. Journalists need to identify themselves and their motives so that people know their words are going to be reported. For important stories, they won’t rely on just a single source, and instead, seek out secondary confirmation. They won’t voluntarily reveal their sources to the law, but they will be able to produce them if required.
The best way to absolve Goswami of violating journalistic ethics is by claiming he isn’t a journalist. He’s a television personality.
It’s an argument that’s been used by Republic TV’s American counterpart Fox News. One of its high profile presenters, Tucker Carlson is a more subdued version of Goswami who peddles lies but doesn’t shout them. When he was sued for stating false facts in order to support his anti-immigration and racist commentary, guess what his lawyers argued?
You shouldn’t believe Tucker Carlson because it’s clear from “the general tenor of the show” that Carlson isn’t ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’
The argument was a success, and Tucker Carlson continues to lie freely. You could wonder if Goswami is the same, but we may not be lucky enough to see him get sued in court and forced to admit that his show is “an exaggeration”.
Instead, millions of Indians tune in to watch him and believe everything he says without hesitation.
How did we come to this?
The easy answer is three letters. TRP. It’s clear that Goswami’s antics are successful because Republic TV is the most-watched news channel in India right now. Though we don’t yet have the technology to find out how many are actually hate-watching or watching in order to laugh in disbelief.
When I was asked by my editor to write about Goswami being arrested, given that I have a journalism background, I wondered what angle I should explore. There’s much to be said about how ratings and the 24-hour news cycle have destroyed the credibility of news channels not just in India but all over the world. But before exploring the bigger picture, why not think of how we are influenced on a daily basis?
I’m not talking about those among us who have become convinced that Goswami is the white knight who was so concerned about Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide that he decided to saturate the news cycle with it for months. They are not bad people, just fans who loved an immensely gifted actor who passed away too soon and are looking for answers. It’s not their fault that Goswami has exploited that grief for his own benefit.
Here’s how I think we can counter Goswami and his culture of hyper-aggressive, theatrical rhetoric that aims to attack and not understand the opposing view. No, boycotting Republic TV won’t be enough (though it’s certainly a start, especially if you’ve been dealing with headaches lately).
Instead, the best way to react to Goswami’s arrest is by acting like the anti-Goswami every day. It’ll be the ultimate middle finger to this man, and everyone like him who thinks elevated heart rates and clenched fists are good as long as it means profit for them.
The first rule of being the anti-Goswami: Don’t shout. Don’t shout at others in real life and especially don’t shout at them in the digital world. Don’t use caps lock. Don’t use three exclamation points after every sentence.
Secondly, don’t accuse, just ask. Don’t get mad when the waiter at the restaurant is slow while serving food, and accuse him of being a pothead. Instead of accusing “You’re ON DRUGS?!”, smile and ask him, “Are you alright?”
Don’t tell people your conclusions before you give them a chance to tell you their stories.
Thirdly, don’t interrupt. Don’t interrupt your parents, your friends, or anyone. That means don’t talk over them on the phone, in person, or on Zoom. Also, don’t interrupt online. Don’t interrupt a Youtube video and comment halfway through it. Don’t interrupt and challenge an Instagram post without fully reading the article referred to in it.
Fourth. State your opinion alone, not just the fact that you are right about your opinion. I believe Goswami is an embarrassment to every category he belongs to, be it journalist, television personality, man, or human. That’s my opinion, and trust me I’m certain about it. But conversations in real life and online are about exchanges. There’s no point in me telling you that you are wrong because then you’ll just return the favour. Instead, let’s both know that we are right and allow the other to express themselves.
Fifth. Back up your opinion. This is crucial and one of the main reasons why I feel Goswami’s behaviour is replicated by many of us online today, even if we don’t watch his show every day. He’s championed a way of communication that’s making our shared spaces extremely toxic.
Here’s an example that’s fresh in my mind. If you believe that Joe Biden is a terrible choice as President of the United States, don’t just state that. Explain why you believe that.
Look through Instagram and Facebook comments in your feed. Can you believe the number of people who state opinions and expect others to agree? If you don’t have the time to back up your opinion, here’s an idea. Don’t state it! The world will survive another day, and you can come back when you want to engage in a conversation.
Sixth. Don’t call names. It’s sad that we live in a world where adults need to be reminded of something that little kids are taught. Don’t call someone who opposes you a derogatory name. Because saying that they are “Sanghi” or “Simp” won’t shake them out of their spell and let them realise the error of their ways. It’s just a way for you to vent. But that’s like taking a shit on the road: might relieve the pressure that’s built up within you and make you feel good, but if enough people do that, pretty soon no one will be able to use the road anymore.
I’m sure you can add to this list, but hopefully, this is a great place for all of us to start. Let’s make sure we are anti-Goswamis every day. It’s not only the best way to react to his arrest, it’s a great way to show our defiance.
Because it’ll remind everyone that despite spending crores of rupees to infect the minds of viewers all across India and whip them into frenzies about controversies while distracting them from catastrophes, Arnab Goswami and others like him haven’t succeeded in damaging our discourse.
Watching Arnab Goswami getting arrested might have given you momentary joy. But behaving as the anti-Goswami will offer you a lifetime of civility and contentment.
Looking for an alternative to watching Republic TV? Then check out Marwan Razzaq’s debut novel, “The Man Who Found His Shadow”, a fast-paced crime thriller that’s available now on Amazon!