February 03, 2005

U.Chicago-Christistian network attacking Hinduism

It is an excellent expose by Rajiv Malhotra . It should be forwarded to the editors of the NY Times as well the Washington Post.

Rajiv comments: "Is a segment of the Indian Left being appropriated to serve the Christian Right?"

My comment: there is no need to coopt the Indian Left, for they will willingly serve anyone as a stooge. From the Communists during the Quit India Movement serving the British, to serving the Chinese and the Soviets. Note how some prominents Christian spokesmen like John Dayal were Communists until the other day.

The collapse of the Soviet empire 15 years ago and Chinese disinterest in their value has sent them looking for fresh pastures.

It is their livelihood and their identity to serve as anti-national
stooges. Note also how some self-confessed 'Nehruvian liberals' are trying to latch on to UPA patronage circuit by showering praises on its handling of national institutions.

All this highlights the need for our own independent ceters and media establishments. -- N S RAJARAM

More light needs to be shed on the apparent cronyism between powerful
institutions and players within these institutions that lead to
perpetuating biases and distortions threatening the integrity of
academic scholarship and media.

Besides the obvious Wendy Doniger and Martin Marty axis, a middle
rank facilitator may well be the UChicago Magazine editor, Mary Ruth
Yoe. A good starting point of her involvement is her editorial at
http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0402/features/ ) Out of 133,155 living
alumni, she selects eight and features them as her favorites. One of
these lucky eight is none other than our New York Times journalist,
Edward Rothstein, and her endorsement of him may be read at:


Ms. Yoe praises UChicago for producing these extraordinary
intellectuals, but her words cover up the role played by clever
institutional brand management that (a) draws bright students to seek
admission, and (b) is fed and perpetuated by "networking" the
alumni who use the institutional brand value and its
"contacts" for their personal career success. In other words,
it's the "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" club at

The recent UChicago Magazine article featuring the Chicago Queen drew
heavy criticism from many persons, and I am aware of over a dozen
sharp letters to the editor that were sent. Their next issue comes
out on February 11th and it remains to be seen how many of these
criticisms Ms. Yoe will print and to what extent she will edit them
to "tilt". While Ms. Amy Braverman was the writer of the
article, Ms. Yoe runs the magazine and has also had a long career as
Acting Director of the powerful UChicago Alumni into which the cartel
dips for support.

The incestuous connections between the players in the saga beg some
questions. Was Ms. Yoe eager enough to defend her institution's
idol under criticism that she requested her friend, Edward Rothstein,
who normally writes as a music critic and is not the Times'
religion expert or India expert, to write this column in blatant
glory of Doniger? If not directly at Ms. Yoe's behest, was there
another powerful figure at UChicago who asked for this favor? Or was
it one alumnus looking out for another? Was the article's timing
coordinated so that it would help the damage control in the
forthcoming issue of UChicago Magazine?

Do undisclosed personal relationships explain why the Times'
article has virtually the SAME points against Hindus as the UChicago
Magazine did just a few weeks earlier, with one difference: Rothstein
did not even bother to contact us for interviews, as UChicago
Magazine supplied whatever he needed to know? Does this, in effect,
make the UChicago Magazine the gospel on which New York Times relies
without its own independent journalistic inquiry? How might this be
compromising the published standard of ethical journalism by New York
Times, which forbids its journalists to do favors for friends in
exchange for personal career endorsements?

Furthermore, Edward Rothstein has co-authored a book with the
important Christian evangelist and theologian, Dr. Marty Martin, who
heads a prestigious Center at UChicago where Wendy Doniger serves as
Director. Dr. Martin was rolled out earlier in Beliefnet to protect
his institution's Wendy Doniger brand asset, even though his
scholarship has not been about Hinduism and he would hardly be
qualified to evaluate the issues being contested. While I do not
doubt his credentials in Biblical Studies, is he in a position to
critique the following assertions from Doniger's cartel: Does
Ganesha's trunk symbolize "a limp phallus" as they have
insisted with great authority? Is the Gita "a dishonest book"
as was alleged by Doniger according to the Philadelphia Inquirer?
Does Ganesha's belly represent "his appetite for oral sex"?
Was Sri Ramakrishna a homosexual who sexually abused the Vivekananda
as a child? The Times article did not have the honesty to explain the
real issues, and Martin does not have the background to evaluate the
work of Doniger and her cartel on these matters, of which the above
are only a few illustrative examples.

The deal for Rothstein to pounce on Doniger's critics as being
"Hindu Puritans" and "Hindu fundamentalists" appears
to have been "arranged" under suspicious circumstances.

It is important to understand the power and clout of Martin Marty. He
is considered in the same league as Billy Graham in terms of stature
in American Christianity today: "n 1978 the editors of 26
religious magazines voted Marty and Billy Graham as the two people
having the most influence on religion in the United States."
(http://magazine.uchicago.edu/9808/html/marty1.html )

The same article continues: "Marty is the author of 50 books
(including a National Book Award winner and five or six "classics" in
American religious history) as well as 4,300 articles, essays,
reviews, papers. He recently retired -- at age 70 -- as senior editor
of the influential weekly The Christian Century, and still edits the
fortnightly newsletter Context, which explores the role of religion
in public life. Add to that, a colleague estimates, the 100 or so
talks/speeches/lectures he gives each year-outside Chicago-and you
have a scribe/writer/ wordsmith of near-mythic profusion. Maybe
400,000 published words a year."

In 1996, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion gave Marty
Martin its career achievement award that year – contrast that
with Meera Nanda being hired by the proselytizers to demonize
Hinduism's reinterpretations in a scientific framework! Is a
segment of the Indian Left being appropriated to serve the Christian Right?

Clearly, Edward Rothstein, Martin Marty and Wendy Doniger have known
and collaborated with each other for a long time. For example: (1) In
his January 1, 2000 article in the New York Times, Rothstein,
features prominently James E. Block, who is a fellow alum from the
Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago where
Rothstein also got his PhD. He mentions Marty Martin as the
dissertation advisor. (2) On December 23, 2000, Rothstein does a
favorable review in the Times of a book by Wendy Doniger. (3) In a
March 10, 2001 article in the Times, Rothstein quotes Wendy Doniger
while reporting on a conference at the University of Chicago where
they had invited him.

Let us try to analyze all these facts. The US Navy has a battleship
group strategy which works as follows: at the center of an armada of
ships is a huge aircraft carrier with massive firepower, and
surrounding it are dozens of ships with specialized capabilities that
must defend it and in return utilize it for their own leverage. Wendy
Doniger and Martin Marty may be modeled as the huge battleships
driving two separate armadas, serving as the leftist and rightist
ideological faces, respectively. Doniger's own direct support
vehicles (i.e. her cartel in Hinduism Studies) have started to desert
her in many instances, ever since her work came under scrutiny. For
example, Courtright is not teaching Hinduism at Emory, presumably to
lower his profile and allow Emory to restart it's fund raising
with local Hindus; Kripal at Rice University is not publicly speaking
much of his theories about Sri Ramakrishna's alleged sex scandals
and is focusing on securing his tenure; Sarah Caldwell has
disappeared at least for now. Therefore, Doniger has merged with the
other battleship group, i.e. where Martin Marty is the big gun. The
supposedly "liberal" / "postmodern" scholar and the
Christian theologian are indeed in one Navy. Under pressure this
unified configuration gets deployed, while in peace time they are
kept separate. The support ships of this unified armada now include
Ms. Yoe, Mr. Rothstein, and many others who are likely to surface in
the future. Does this not support my thesis about the knowledge
cartels that control India Studies? Also, many Indian sepoys on the
margins are clamoring for attention, seeing this is as the same kind
of opportunity as Chalabi of Iraq saw when he cashed in.

When individuals in or around Enron or Worldcom engage in related
party transactions it is rightfully attacked for compromising the
level playing field. But what if the exchange of favors is not in
terms of concrete and tangible things like money, but intangible
valuables like career endorsements, speaking up for one another,
promoting one another's works, i.e. helping each other's
brand management? Should these incestuous dealings also be considered
conflicts of interests, and should the public demand transparency of
disclosure and arms-length dealings by such scholarly clubs?

Interestingly, when Amy Braverman interviewed me (by email so the
entire record is unambiguous), she asked me pointed questions about
my financial links, if any, with Sulekha and other publishing
outlets. I gave her an explicit written response -- which I copied to
many other persons to avoid future deniability, with her knowledge --
that I had NO financial interests or any management role/influence
over Sulekha or the other media outlets I had used (Rediff, Outlook
India, etc.) Then I asked for reciprocity, i.e. that she should also
ask Wendy Doniger to disclose her links with funding agencies
including religious, governmental or other sociopolitical groups. Ms.
Braverman quickly changed the subject and the issue of financial or
other links of influence was completely ignored in her article –
a good gate keeping job for the main battleship's protection.
Suppose, hypothetically, that all these folks mentioned above were to
voluntarily disclose all their past and present dealings with one
another, both directly and indirectly through intermediary
institutions and affiliations. What might we discover?

My hope is that some day the notion of capital in matters of
conflicts of interest will get expanded to also include symbolic,
intellectual, and credibility as forms of capital. That would bring
under the microscope a wider range of "favors" which are the
lifeblood of these cartels. Until full disclosure and transparency
become the norm, there is no way to produce the evidence to
satisfactorily prove (or disprove) my claims. Until they answer to
the public, we must continue connecting the dots that reveal blatant
patterns of cronyism, pervasive biases, and an elite conspiracy bent
on sheltering itself from legitimate scholarly challenges by
demonizing those who dare to disagree.

The high level of ignorance among most Americans about things Indian
has become an opportunity for tricksters, fraudsters and journalists.
Since ignorant readers are dependent upon "reputation", i.e. brand
value or symbolic capital, membership of cartels gives privilege and
legitimacy, and shifts the burden of proof on the shoulders of any
critics. Notice how the journalists covering Wendy Doniger's
controversial works start by giving her the full benefit, and place
the burden of proof on her critics. Her positions are stated in the
language of fact while her opponents' are stated
as "alleged", "claimed", etc. contextualized within entirely
unrelated random acts of chaos/violence for special effects in the
overall framing. That this is so blatant and yet the supposedly
intellectual freedom-lovers are complicit is an important story in
its own right.



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