The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Arnab Goswami must realise that journalism is about questioning, not blind acceptance

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Democracy and dissent

The rabble-rousing tendencies of Times Now anchor Arnab Goswami have been written about copiously. As is obvious to even casual viewers, Goswami's prime time show often descends to the level of a kangaroo court, as the anchor condemns and harangues his targets in a tone that betrays near-hysteria.

Examples of this include the instance in May when Goswami went so far as to accuse a Muslim participant on his show of being a cover for the Indian Mujahideen terror group after the man disagreed with the anchor. On Tuesday, Goswami crossed the line again by calling for the arrest of journalists who do not toe the official line on the Kashmir conflict. The anchor labelled these journalists the “pro-Pak lobby”.

For someone who is among the most visible journalists in the country, it is baffling that Goswami has failed to understand one of the primary roles of journalism: to question power and hold the powerful to account. All liberal democracies acknowledge that the state poses a potential threat to freedom, and attempt to counter this danger by encouraging an independent media and strong civil society voices.

But the Times Now anchor on Tuesday seemed to have forgotten that, as he nodded in agreement with every word of the ruling party’s spokesperson, Sambit Patra, about gagging voices that challenged the Union government’s position on Kashmir. As if to reiterate the official line, a Union government-controlled Twitter handle on Tuesday went so far as to retweet a message that asked the Indian Army to “take care of these pro Pak presstitutes”.

This is a sad illustration of the state of the India media. Goswami and other sections of the media are giving currency to the notion that opposing the Indian government is immoral. By doing so, they are actually undermining Indian democracy. As the scientist Albert Einstein once noted, “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

The Big Scroll

If you care about press freedom, perhaps it’s time to boycott Arnab Goswami?

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Political Picks
1. Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila will end her 16-year old fast to repel the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – which gives security forces immunity from the judiciary – and will contest elections.
2. The Delhi Police has filed a first information report against Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal for allegedly mentioning the name of the victim in a notice to the police. This comes as the Aam Aadmi Party alleges political vendetta on the part of the Modi government, with the as many as 11 of its MLAs now arrested in various cases.
3. Like with the Aadhar bill, it seems the Union government will also declare the bill seeking special category status for Andhra Pradesh a money bill in order for it to not be voted on in the Rajya Sabha.
4. Mohammad Akhlaq’s son, murdered for by a gau rakshak mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, alleged that the meat sample had been tampered with in order for it to be categorised as beef.

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Punditry

1. There are signs that Trump is bereft of any new ideas on India, says KP Nayar in the Telegraph.
2. Qandeel Baloch’s murder is yet another reminder that men craft, interpret and adjudicate over family laws in the subcontinent, writes Mrinal Pande.
3. Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative, asks George Monbiot in the Guardian.
4. Ambedkar-inspired Kabali is a film for our times, says Dhrubo Jyoti in the Hindustan Times.

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Ajaz Ashraf explains how vote bank politics is keeping Prime Minister Modi silent on the attacks on Dalits in Gujarat:

For Modi, to condemn Una unequivocally, on the day it began to grab media headlines, would have also meant severely reprimanding cow-protectionists. They – and people like them – are both Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s core supporters. He cannot alienate them to mollify the angry but floating Dalit voters, whose allegiance to him might not even be durable. “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” is a profound adage.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.