Dear Kunal Kamra, Let's Not Become Arnab Goswami
Kunal Kamra heckled Arnab Goswami on a flight, and the internet took notice. All of a sudden, the comedian was measured against the strictest standards of journalistic ethics. The nation wants to know - why are we so mad at Kamra for doing exactly what Arnab does every day?
Dear Kunal Kamra,
We’ve all seen The Video.
Over the past 24 hours, people across the internet have cringed and cheered as you heckled Arnab, realising perhaps for the first time, that offline trolling is also an option and politics doesn’t stem purely from a keyboard.
We know you tried to instil some sense of accountability in the man, but I’m not sure you went about it the right way. Sure, since the universe put both of you on the same flight twice, in two days, maybe the whole brouhaha was fated.
But let’s be honest. One-to-one conversations and monologues don’t work in this country. Who needs confrontation when you can have confusion? Who needs to read when you can simply retort, who cares about Rohit Vemula when you have the entirety of Shaheen Bagh to destroy?
It would have been so much more effective to get on a stage and spit a rhyme, maybe something along the lines of the BJP’s mad beat like “Desh ke gaddaron ko, Goli maaro saalon ko”?
But I digress. On the one hand, I wanted to cheer and applaud as you did what, quite honestly, I would have done as well.
We’ve all wanted to hold him accountable for the vitriol he masks as journalism.
But on the other hand…
Right Wing - Goli maaro saalon ko...— Kunal Kamra (@kunalkamra88) January 29, 2020
Liberals - We must not disturb people on flights & respect an individuals private space
Our whole existence relies on the moral high ground we occupy. We, as liberals, as the good guys, as the proud self-proclaimed saviours of society, preach because we consider ourselves better than them.
Our elitism is covered in a thin, carefully curated veneer of activism, and it allows us to be the Don Quixotes of our time.
How do we continue to do that if you come and make everything so very messy?
How can we be Don Quixote if one of us needs to be Don Quixote-ed?
What I mean to ask is, how can we be us, and have us against them, if one of us turns into one of them?
You said you did exactly what Republic TV journalists do to people in their private/public spaces, and you don’t regret it. You make no apologies for it.
Your sentiments have even been backed up by the epitome of elite, inaccessible liberalism in India:
The truth is that it was time someone gave him a taste of his own medicine. These are the words he regularly uses to berate his innocent victims, except he does so in a hectoring, bullying manner & at higher volume & pitch than @kunalkamra88 does in this video. https://t.co/e94B8WcEtj— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 28, 2020
But that’s exactly the problem - there are better ways to hold bad journalists accountable, than to simply mimic them. (Funnily enough, Mr Tharoor agrees.)
This is also where I differ from the majority of liberals holding you accountable.
To them, this is a question about privacy, personal space, and safety. 'Sanitised spaces' like airplanes are supposed to be safe zones, places you are safe since you can afford them. They're the barrier against political accountability, a place we can finally relax into our unapologetic privilege. Definitely not a place we'd like to talk about - or even think about - Rohit Vemula.
When you're done rolling your eyes, let's move on to the only reason anyone could blame you for what happened.
As I write this, you’re being attacked online and on the ground alike. In fact, goAir, Spice Jet, and Air India have all banned you for the grievous hurt you have caused them directly.
When Pragya Thakur, the terror accused BJP MP delayed a SpiceJet flight for 45 minutes because she wanted a plum seat, there were no repercussions.
Wonderful, @flyspicejet. Please tell us why you took no action then against Pragya Thakur for disrupting and delaying a flight for 45 minutes. Go ahead and suspend her now if you take the safety of your passengers so seriously.https://t.co/WN498wooby— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) January 29, 2020
When, in 2017, Ravinder Gaikwad, a BJP leader, assaulted an Air India employee by slapping them with a slipper 25 times, there were no repercussions.
In the latter case, AirIndia tried to ban him, but the ban only lasted 2 weeks, thanks to the intervention of the central government. No wonder AirIndia was the first airline after Indigo to hop-to Mr Puri’s imperious order.
‘Be human’ - the refrain you fired at Goswami - puts it quite succinctly.
Be human is the expectation placed on people like you and me.
However, in this broken country, it isn’t the standard for people like Arnab Goswami, or Pragya Thakur, or even Anurag Thakur. That's incredibly messed up.
But when you stepped up to Goswami, when you mirrored the teachings of his brand of hate and bigotry masked as journalism, I wonder how he might have felt.
You did exactly what he has been teaching his minions to do, and I’m sure of this - If Arnab Goswami wasn’t Arnab Goswami, then Arnab Goswami would have have been immensely proud of you.
And therein lies the problem.