Editor’s Note: This is an extremely important issue. So we wanted to lay out our reasoning in depth & detail. Unfortunately that made this a long article. Please accept our regrets. Ideally we will find a “tutorial” that will teach us to write both succinctly and in depth.
Like all of you, we have heard stories about Muslims in the Middle East being taught to hate Christians & Jews by narratives broadcast via TV & textbooks. We have read a little about Goebbels & his propaganda about Jews in Nazi Germany. But we never understood how or why these narratives worked because their approach was so extreme and over the top.
1.A live tutorial in spreading religious-cultural supremacist hate?
Well folks, we got educated last Sunday evening thanks to CNN. It was so skillful that it left us with a sense of awe. Frankly, every radical Mullah in the Middle East and every Goebbels-type in the world could learn the art of slick well-packaged religious denigration by watching this CNN show again and again.
We were so impressed with the tradecraft that we tweeted the CNN anchor/host near the end of the show:
- Editor Viewpoint
@MacroViewpoints @rezaaslan Kudos-yr show + tutorial fr upcoming Goebbels-types & ISIS teachers how to spread “hate” while acting studious/humble– 5/5
What tradecraft did this CNN show teach?
- You have to begin with a TV host who appears humble, studious & compassionately interested, ideally an educated TV host with a Ph.D. from a renowned university (fyi Goebbels had a Ph,D. from the University of Heidelburg).
- Secondly your content should be designed & presented to make your audience feel good about themselves. Your central theme has to be something that your audience already knows to be a fault or problem with the religion-culture you wish to denigrate.
- Then you choose a small & extreme sect of that religion-culture and highlight their beliefs & actions that will leave your audience stunned.
- Throughout the show, you adhere to an undertone that the actions of the extreme minority sect are really shared in a more understated manner by the majority of that religion-culture.
- Finally you end the show by presenting a couple of people who are trying in their limited way to change these bad or horrific central beliefs of the majority.
Ergo, you have achieved denigration of the religion-culture you target while leaving your audience happy & “enthralled”.
We are nowhere as skillful as Reza Aslan and we just don’t have the inner hate that we sense in Aslan. But let us see if we have followed his “tutorial”.
2. A GNN Show titled Believers
Imagine a mainstream non-American TV network that reaches across continents. Let us call it, say GNN or Global News Network. Let us call their show as “GNN Believers” and let us select for their launch something the majority of non-Americans believe about America. What is something that seems unique to America from a non-American point of view?
- That Americans love their guns & won’t part with them; that violence has been an integral & intrinsic part of American Christian culture since the days of the Wild West; that America finds it so easy to attack non-White countries and kill as many Arabs, Asians, Africans & Latins as possible without much care or concern; that a central part of American Christianity is white supremacism.
The reality of American society & American Christianity is completely different but GNN doesn’t really care about reality. It is about producing a TV program that showcases a horrific set of beliefs. But where would GNN find such American believers to showcase? Easy. GNN can look up Wikipedia and find 41 pages under the category “White supremacist groups in the United States“. In that list you can find groups that profess to be Christian.
There is no shortage of international TV hosts who can appear humble, studious & compassionately interested, even a host with a Ph.D. in sociology or political science. Heck, GNN can even find such a TV host from the ranks of CNN anchors or guests. Now GNN can follow the CNN “tutorial”:
- Get this studious sounding non-American TV host to visit the compound of a American White Supremacist Christian group and showcase their beliefs, their training, their target practice. Let the TV host state unequivocally that religion & culture are essentially the same. Then get a couple of people from that group to express their deep seated beliefs about what their version of America should be. End the show with a couple of people who are working to end the White Supremacist Christian mentality of America and make America a tolerant society.
QED! Now GNN has constructed a show that would resonate with the majority of non-Americans in the world, a show that confirms their worst perceptions about American Religion & Culture.
Any one who has lived in America, any one who knows American society knows that the above portrayal is totally wrong and rabidly hateful. But the majority of the world will see it as a candid yet softly understated portrayal of American Christian reality. And GNN will feel good about themselves for having brought the evil reality of American Christian Believers to the world’s notice.
That brings us to CNN, the role model of our fictional GNN construct.
3. CNN Believers Show on Sunday, March 5 with Reza Aslan
Let us be clear. Unlike the fictional GNN Believers construct above, the CNN Believers show was a real show broadcast on CNN last Sunday at 10 pm. And it was every bit as wrong & false as the GNN construct above. It seemed designed to rabidly denigrate Indian Dharma (often & wrongly termed as Hinduism) and Indian Culture. The CNN host, Reza Aslan, demonstrated his utter lack of knowledge of Indian Dharma. But he didn’t seem to care about his ignorance or religious teachings. Because, in our opinion, the show’s purpose seemed to be to defame Indian Dharma & Indian culture as a barbaric anachronism.
In his show, Aslan did everything our fictional GNN host would have done. If you watched the show, you would have perceived Aslan’s message coming across as “Indians are a beastly people with a beastly religion“. Any one who knows the history of British occupation of India would recognize this Nazi-like hateful description used by the British and recall the contemptuous hate that made British treat Indians like dogs as well as the contempt that made Churchill exclaim to his private secretary “the Hindus were a foul race ‘protected by their mere pullulation (rapid breeding) from the doom that is their due..”
The sad reality is that the vast majority of Americans have got their views of Indian Culture & Religion from the British. To them, the Aslan show would come across as confirmation of what they have been taught for decades. That may be why Aslan’s pre-screening audience was “enthralled” to watch Aslan’s portrayal of an obscure minority sect spraying urine and eating out of skulls of dead people.
May be that is why CNN promoted this show for days with a big bold banner that read “cannibals”. That brings us to a crucial question, the only question that really matters.
4. Who is mainly responsible? Aslan or CNN?
Contempt & Hate are human emotions. Nothing arouses contemptuous hate as religious fervor. That make personal expression of contempt & hate towards other religions a human right. Sad & unfortunate but a reality nonetheless.
Reza Aslan is reportedly a Muslim. Not just a Muslim but an Iranian by origin. Persian was the lingua franca of Delhi for over 500 years and, to this day, Iran considers India’s Mughal history as a captive civilization of Iran. Aslan seems to have received the traditional “US Ivy League” education on “Hinduism”, an education that has inherited the British view of Indian Culture & Religion. In other words, Aslan has been the inheritor & recipient of nearly 1,000 years of Muslim-British colonial hatred of Hindus.
And this man was chosen by CNN to host a show about Hinduism? In our opinion, that is almost like choosing a moderate soft-spoken Nazi to do a show about German Jews or a moderate soft-spoken Muslim “scholar” to do a show about Israeli Culture & Judaism. That brings us to CNN.
Remember a human right is a personal right and free expression of religious contempt/hate is a personal human right, not an institutional one. Corporate entities, by definition, are not human. And for-profit public corporations don’t have any “human” rights. Instead they are bound by fiduciary obligations to their shareholders & HR obligations to their employees (as an aside for inquiring minds – can Hindu employees now claim that the Aslan show has made CNN a hostile work environment for people of Hindu faith?).
CNN, a large global institutional TV network, cannot claim a personal “human” right to free expression of religious contempt, denigration and/or hate. So all the damages, if any, and the entire responsibility for this show rests on CNN and its corporate owner Time Warner, Inc.
5. Who at CNN is Responsible? Jeffrey Bewkes, Jeff Zucker or the Head of CNN Originals?
Jeffrey Bewkes is the President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Time Warner. For full disclosure, we have reached out to Mr. Bewkes in the past on three different occasions about mistakes/statements of CNN anchors about Indian Culture & Dharma. On all three occasions we saw effective results from Mr. Bewkes. Based on our limited experience & on what we hear, it would be wrong to attribute any anti-Hindu feelings to Mr. Bewkes.
We have a decade long history of engagement about Indian or Hindu coverage with Jeff Zucker dating back to his role as President & CEO of NBC Universal. We have been favorably impressed with his alacrity in the past in responding to the issues we brought to his attention at NBC. We did reach out to him once on an issue after he took over the helm at CNN and once again we saw results. So it would be wrong to attribute any anti-Hindu feelings to Mr. Zucker.
That is why we believe that the entire primary responsibility for the CNN-Aslan show rests on the CNN Originals group (@CNNOriginals) and the head of that group. That is also borne out by a communication from a Hindu group to its members. This group’s communications director was told by Reza Aslan that CNN Originals did not permit Aslan to do a similar Believers show about a Muslim event called Ashura. Guess CNN Originals were afraid of an angry reaction from Muslims.
Clearly CNN Originals didn’t fear any angry or violent reaction from Hindus and so they allowed Aslan to go ahead with, what we see, as his contemptuous show about Hinduism. Well, CNN Originals were both right & wrong. Right in the total absence of any violent reaction from Hindus in India or America. But totally wrong in their estimates of angry reactions. We have never before seen such raw anger from the Hindu community in India and America. Not red hot anger that explodes & cools down but intense white hot anger that remains hot for a long time.
Frankly, the intensity of this anger makes us worried. Hindus have been “sissies” for so long that they have been treated as “sissies” by American media forever. But ” lambs” do sometimes turn into “lions” as the Jewish people have demonstrated since the foundation of Israel. Hindus turning into lions is long ways off but we see indications that Hindu “sheep” may be turning into “rams” who can butt heads, even heads at CNN.
The anger is across the entire spectrum of global Indian community from Science Ph.D.s from top-tier American Universities to senior executives of multinational companies to rank & file Hindu activists. The breadth and depth of the anger makes it clear that CNN, not just one group at CNN, but the entire entity called CNN has crossed the Rubicon of contemptuous religious hate against Hindus.
And that makes this the final responsibility of both Jeff Zucker and Jeff Bewkes. It is incumbent on these two executives to take immediate steps to assuage this anger. As journalism executives, they should know that covering up and hoping the fire goes out doesn’t work well.
6. An America-India Issue?
Frankly, this issue has all the signs of becoming a broad US-India issue. CNN is the face of American TV journalism for Indians. Mr. Murdoch owns a very large network but Fox News is not active in India. ABC/CBS/NBC mainly run entertainment channels, not news channels.
CNN is America to Indians. So with one hateful show, CNN has damaged the reputation of America with Hindus in India and in the Global Indian Diaspora. What does CNN want? Already America is deemed to be anti-Muslim. Now CNN wants to paint America as anti-Hindu as well?
All this makes it incumbent on Mr. Bewkes & Mr. Zucker to act very quickly & very effectively to demonstrate that CNN is not, to put it plainly, a Hindu-hate filled organization.
This also makes it incumbent on every Indian American to contact their representatives in the Congress to express their outrage about CNN’s actions. We, for our part, will reach out to the India Caucus of the US Congress, Speaker Ryan, House Minority Leader Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Schumer and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Fortunately, CNN is not Julius Caesar. Having crossed this Rubicon of corporate-accepted Hindu-hate in error, the Bewkes-Zucker team can cross it back to the old shores and apologize for CNN’s grievous error of judgement. The question is will they?
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