Thanksgiving Day Surprise from Gardiner Harris of NYT


Thanksgiving Day is a happy day in America, a day to spend with family & to express our thanks for the good in our lives. This Thanksgiving we Indian-Americans got a happy and unexpected surprise. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times actually published a mea culpa article about denigrating Indian culture with false accusations of rape & violence towards women. 

Well, let us be candid. Harris did not actually say mea culpa either for himself or for his paper. Instead, he sort of implied it by writing:

  • “… many sociologists here have questioned whether India was experiencing a true epidemic of rapes or if it was simply going through a media-created frenzy. Surveys around the world have shown that Indian women actually experience comparatively low levels of sexual violence.”  
  • ” … overall, India has fairly low levels of violence, and that is true for women as well. Indian husbands beat their wives far less than men in many other developing countries, according to comparable surveys done in multiple countries. Domestic violence levels are far higher in Colombia, Egypt, Peru and Zambia than in India, the surveys found.”

Harris was writing about the Budaun case in which 2 Indian girls were found hanging from a tree. The media created a rape-murder frenzy that, in Gardiner’s words, was viewed as “a symbol of what many claimed was the precarious safety of women in India. …. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, cited the Budaun case at an event celebrating an international day to end violence against women.” If that was not enough, the media, including New York Times, speculated about inter-caste violence being a motive for the alleged “rape-murder” of the two girls.

This case had a big impact on India’s image. As Harris writes:

  • “As awareness of the case grew, the news media in this nation of 1.2 billion began reporting rapes almost daily, giving India an image of a place deeply antagonistic to women. Tourism suffered. Parliament passed a tough law to crack down on sexual violence.”

Now Harris reports, the two girls were neither raped nor murdered. The Director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation announced after their investigation that the two girls had killed themselves and that “no rape or abduction was suspected“.

We remind readers that Gardiner Harris was as complicit as his western media cohort in throwing the proverbial mud on Indian Culture. Harris himself manufactured links to the great Indian epics – Mahaa-Bhaarat & Ramaayan – by writing in January 2013:

  • The foundational texts of Indian culture — the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, ancient Sanskrit epics — both revolve around the communal outrage that results from insults to a good woman’s modesty. … A woman’s body as the site of cultural purity is the predominant theme in the epics”

Harris had tried to cover himself by attributing the quotes to an Indian-American professor. When we checked with the professor in question, he told us that he had made a general comment about all traditional religions and not specifically against Hinduism. We also found that the professor didn’t know much about the two epics either.

Now Gardiner Harris has come forward and essentially admitted he & his pals blew it. And, whether he intended to or not, he did it on Thanksgiving Day. Kudos to him. And kudos to his editor for publishing this implicit mea culpa.

Isn’t it time for others in the western media to come forward and issue their regrets? Where are similar admissions from, to name a few, Washington Post, Times of London, CNN, Reuters? We remind viewers about the utter defamation heaped on Indian culture & Indian men by these stalwarts of western media (emphasis below is ours):

  • Minerva Kennedy in the Washington Post – It’s easy to blame a retrograde culture that’s hostile to women, but rapid transformation is also part of the story.  
  • quote of Libby Purves in the Times of London – “India’s “patriarchal culture,” where Indian men are characterized, as Libby Purves put it recently in the Times of London, by a “murderous, hyena-like male contempt” towards women.”  
  • Sonia Faleiro wrote in her op-ed in the New York Times – “India has laws against rape; seats reserved for women in buses, female officers; special police help lines. But these measures have been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture.”
  • CNN’s Erin Burnett inventing “facts” in her zeal in her program on Tuesday, January 8, – “there isn’t even a word for rape in Hindi, the predominant language spoken in India(Ms. Burnett expressed regret the next day after she was informed about this blatant falsehood)

Where are the mea culpas from these organizations? These people went so nuts in their hate of Indian culture that an Indian woman tweeted then:

  • i swear. internationally it seems entire country is getting raped

This tweet prompted us to write our own article on January 19, 2013 titled “Gang-Rape” of Indian Culture by US Media. The above quotes are from that article.

Getting back to Gardiner Harris, we think his mea culpa is incomplete. He only compares India with other developing countries. What about the USA? Despite the ‘holier than thou’ attitudes of US media, our country has pretty bad people too. In June 2013, ABC World News quoted the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women as saying “Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United StatesA Woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds3 women die at the hands of abusers daily.”

None of this violence is ever attributed by the US media to US Culture or to the US Religion. But violence against women in India is invariably linked to Indian Culture or Indian Religion. And Harris’ own organization, the New York Times, is the lead dog in that hunt.

The real problem is that people may be getting inured to media reports of assaults against women. No sane rational man can condone sexual assaults on women or violence against them. But the frenzied coverage by media seems to be backfiring at least in America. Witness the series of appalling allegations by several women against Bill Cosby. Instead of creating outrage, the twitter feed is running 3:1 in favor of Cosby according to what we heard on CNN. That shocked us and led us to wonder why. Apparently the majority of the Twitterati (!) don’t believe the allegations made reportedly after 10-20 years. Such a backlash is occurring in India as well where reportedly over 50% of allegations of rape by women have been proved false & based on “the desire to get even“.

There is no question that violence against women is a major problem worldwide. There can be no question that this needs careful reporting and alert justice. But the greatest obstacle to such actions might be media frenzy that ends up up alienating the good middle majority by raising doubts about media credibility. 

The mea culpa by Gardiner Harris of the NYT takes a small solitary step in the right direction. Kudos and thanks to him. 


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