My Own Private Bigotry

There was a time, in the pre-Internet days of the early 90s and late 80s, when I would sit at the library of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (my father was a professor there) and read, with a schoolboy’s sense of wonderment, issues of “Time” and “Newsweek”, marveling at everything from the quality of pictures to that of the reporting and of course the writing. The operative phrase here is  There was a time because these magazines have changed markedly since then, teetering close to financial ruin [Newsweek magazine is on sale after multi-year massive losses and Time magazine by the end of 2009 had lost 35% of its readership from the previous year while Newsweek lost 41% (link)]. And nothing perhaps symbolizes the rot more than Time USA’s bigoted attempt at humor, Joel Stein’s [picture to left] “My Own Private India“, a piece that twenty years ago would surely not have made the final published cut.

Before we go to a discussion of Time and in general the state of the US media, it is worthwhile to stop a while and read through Joel Stein’s article (if you have not already done so). Anna at Sepia Mutiny has done an admirable job of savaging this bit of bigoted garbage and so I will not go over a deconstruction of this piece. In brief, it is a rant that expresses the author’s anguish at having his New Jersey neighborhood being taken over my cologne-drenched, vulgar, stupid Indians (India, according to Stein, is a poor country because its citizens are half-wits) who worship “gods (that) have multiple arms and an elephant nose”, which according to the author should have been the hatred-ossifying image for his friends rather than the bindi [The “dot busters” being a New Jersey gang in the late 80s who killed and injured people of Hindu origin in New Jersey. I mention the word “Hindu” because in their manifesto they specifically mentioned the word “Hindu” and not Indians]

A defense for Joel Stein will be that he was trying to do racy racial humor of the Borat kind, wherein by perpetuating offensive stereotypes about an ethnic minority he was ,reflexively, making fun of his own bigotry  and that we stupid Indians should be smart enough to get it. Frankly, if that was the intent, most reasonable people missed it totally. Like for example  Jun Choi, who was quoted in the article responded by saying he was “disappointed that the article turned out to be distasteful and offensive to both Indian Americans and my hometown of Edison”.  If indeed, the motivation was humor and nothing else, the entire piece is such a comic misfire that the editors of Time should never have let it pass on the grounds of quality.

But they did. And the reason why they let it pass was not because it slipped through the cracks.

My theory is that they had their reasons.

In the US market, especially in the present Net-dominated landscape where traditional print and television media is hemorrhaging financially, anything that is published is examined through multiple lenses by not only legal departments but also by marketing and advertising in order to properly target the “base”.  Time magazine let this execrable article pass through the net because this is exactly the kind of  copy once-respectable media outlets, where increasingly marketing managers rather than journalists call the shots,  have to carry in order to boost their circulation.

It is universally acknowledged in American media circles that with the popularity of the Internet, people no longer rely on print and television as the source for “primary news”—why wait till 6:30 in the evening for the day’s happenings when you get them live as they happen. All that they care for are opinions, and the more outrageous and polarizing they are—-the better. The world of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and staid NYTimes editorials, the world of dispassionate news, is no longer financially viable.

One of the greatest media success stories of recent times has been that of Rush Limbaugh (for those who havent seen him—think of a 200 lb heavier Wayne Rooney), whose insanely successful independent radio show (which has flourished outside the framework of classical big media) has grown in size, influence and revenue because his brand of anti-minority and anti-immigrant hatred has a huge market in the US. The established media has followed the Rush route, hiring polarizing figures to do their prime-time programming —-from Left wing loons like Keith Olbermann [MSNBC] to right wing reactionaries like Hannity, OReilly [Fox News] and the worst of them all, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs [CNN].

The print media, magazines and newspapers, have suffered the most in this paradigm shift. They are restricted on two axes—–due to the nature of the medium, their content producers are not able to depend on the verbal calisthenics and dramatic voice modulations of a Beck or a Rush to rouse the audience. On the other hand because of the nature of their finances, they have to do with second-rate talent like Joel Stein, occasional face on VH1’s “I love the 80s”,  to write provocative pieces.

Of course when writing attention-grabbing pieces, two things have to be considered.  First of all is there a market in peddling bigotry against the target group? In this case, there is a big market for anti-India rhetoric, comprising of the 25-40 educated elite, many of whom laid-off by the loss of high-tech jobs to India. For these people, any kind of brown-bashing is a lot of fun—from the Elephant Gods to the fact that the country has no flush toilets and that the river Ganga sounds like a disease [Glenn Beck on CNN], from the poor accent of Indian call center operators to the fact that H1B workers pay no income tax [a lie repeated endlessly by Lou Dobbs and also written in his book]. CNN, supposedly a liberal media organization, had the India-bashing segment of the market cornered with its gas-balloon Lou Dobbs till he overstepped the line, going after Barrack OBama  through his espousal of the Birthers, a loony right-wing borderline group who claimed that Obama was not American, a cause so outrageous that CNN had to ease him out. There too, there was commerce——– virulent Obama-baiting  is a place where Rush can go, because his demographic wants it. Not CNN’s however since it has many Democrat voters and African-American and Hispanic viewers.

The second thing to be considered is how much of an influence the target group has. In the US for example, African-Americans cannot be targeted by such “humor”—-they are too big a commercial market and too powerful politically.

A few years ago, Seinfield favorite Michael Richards had his career ruined after some similarly racist anti-African-American “edgy” stand-up routine of his was captured on camera-phone and uploaded on the Net[ No one as far as I remember used the “It’s a joke. Get over it” in his defense] As yet another example, there was a huge outcry in the US media when KFC advertisements for cricket matches in Australia had West Indians being pacified by fried chicken—-because of an American “racist” assumption that African-Americans like friend chicken. To illustrate the point further, if Joel Stein had just replaced Indians with African-American in his piece, ruing over the fact that his white neighborhood  had been taken over by Blacks, then Time would never ever, not in a thousand years, let that get to print.

Like African-Americans, Hispanics have their powerful backers. So do Jews. Muslims also have the very well-funded Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who would give hell if such stuff were written about their co-religionists. And if Stein so far as got a bit off the line with his edgy humor and veered onto areas Muslims hold very dear, then not only Joel Stein but also Ben Stein would need police protection, just because they share a last name.

Indians/Hindus (I use Indians/Hindus since Stein is targeting people who worship Elephant Gods and Stein in his ignorance does not know that Indians arent just Hindus) are of course easy targets. They do not have political might nor a big organization behind them. Nor are they united —since sections will pat Klein and Time perhaps because they want to “fit in” into US society and they think that acting like Uncle Tom will help them assimilate into the mainstream and make them look “exalted” and “intellectual”.

The fact that this is packaged as humor will make it easy to say “Oh come on don’t be defensive. It’s just a joke”. That’s unfortunately the cover for bigotry. What is most important to remember is that the people who are coming to read this piece (this crock of a piece is now the most read page on the Time website), and Liking it on Facebook are not doing it because they understand the “reflexive” humor but because they are going “Yeah that’s the way to tell it to the piss-drinkers” [A note to Joel Stein: Poor research sir. You forgot that part where we drink urine and charm the snakes by blowing].

In other words, the reason this piece is appealing to most of its audience is not that they get the humor but because they do not.

And in an interesting sidelight, Time International (which has to sell to Indians in India and where the curry-hating demographic does not exist) did not carry this article—-if this was pure and simple humor of the intelligent sort, why was it kept out I wonder.

I am of course not suggesting that Hindus should treat bigotry with threats of violence or aggression or anything of the sort. But it also does no good to shut one’s eyes and mouth when a flagship media outlet like Time, an institution our generation grew up idolizing,  carries something as repulsive as this, at the best out of lack of oversight and worst out of a desire to pander to the worst in its readership.

Immensely disappointing.

131 thoughts on “My Own Private Bigotry

  1. First! Yay! :))

    Thanks for the tweet! :))

  2. You know what? I know quite a few people who feel all that GreatBong can write is humour and cynicism.. They perceive your knowledge of politics, media, history, etc. as limited.. I know people who say, “he just picks up already-funny movies or characters and writes funnily about them. There’s no depth of thought.” I am so glad, GB that you keep coming up with posts like this one and the Tagore one, that proves these people wrong.

    Lovely post! So agree with you.

  3. Fact-check: Glenn Beck is on Fox News, not CNN as your link in the para about the Ganges piece says.

  4. 2nd- now I will read it

  5. R,

    Fact check: “In January 2006, CNN’s Headline News announced that Beck would host a nightly news-commentary show in their new prime-time block Headline Prime. The show, simply called Glenn Beck, aired weeknights at 7:00 p.m., repeating at 9:00 p.m. and midnight (all times Eastern) from May 8, 2006 to October 16, 2008.”

    Beck made his name in CNN. And then moved to Fox.

  6. second – now I will read

  7. great – number two

  8. yes……. number two

  9. GB,
    I read the piece, but I wasn’t as offended by it as you are. Of course, I have no way of knowing (or verifying) whether most people who read the piece read it because they do not get the humour as you say, and I suspect, you don’t either. But if you do, would love to have some data to back up your assertion.

  10. I think, these types of articles are also a reflection of their fear for us… They want to shout that Indians are dirty, Indians are poor, Indians are stupid and want to stay happy in their make believe world that they are far ahead of us. It might be to generate a false feeling of comfort.

    The same sentiment is also propagated by BBC. On any news on India, they would start with a slum, show some dirty roads and beggars in the middle and end with a dark lane. I am not saying that what they are saying is not true… but they are only part of it…

    I think we Indians should not get bothered by these… lets stay focused and keep doing the good work… and let them be happy in their own fantasy world…

  11. Very well written. Couldn’t agree more with the claim that people are liking it because they don’t get the humour. And that I think is a very sad state of affairs because if you react then you’ll be labeled as a “Hindu fundamentalist, intellectually challenged etc” and if you don’t then you are forced to watch the haughty humiliation of our society from the more-equal-than-the-others people.

  12. So you are turning more and more right with each passing day. 😉

  13. great article… lou dobbs left CNN long back and is as good as dead. Beck & Oreilly are assholes, but Olbermann is hardly a loon… he’s just loud

  14. Nothing new Arnab da. Im not trying to be comfortable with this kind of derogatory remarks about my fellow people but its my ex girlfriend.I know she wont understand few things in life and continue to be insensitive.Not because I stopped trying to justify few things, but because Id have to put an AI chip inside her gray cells so that the sanity returns to normality.
    -No offense-

  15. @greatbong: True, but the wording makes it seem like the rant you mentioned was on CNN, when it was on Fox. That is all I meant.

  16. “friend chicken” is an almost unavoidable typo.

    We need a lobby to represent Indian interests, but for such a lobby to exist (or even independently) we need to feel a national identity. Somehow, educated Indians, unlike Americans, Australians, etc., do not feel any national identity.

  17. Is it ironic that such a bigoted article feeds the American stereotype? That most individual Americans are a bit dense, regionalist, arrogant and see other cultures through their insensitive RayBanised glasses. Either that or the American economy is so far down the toilet that they need any visible minority group to blame their troubles on – Indians for hi-tech job losses, Chinese for owning most of their country and the Arabs for oil dependency. When will these guys grow up?

  18. @Arnab
    “I am of course not suggesting that Hindus should treat bigotry with threats of violence or aggression or anything of the sort.”
    ->Of course not. Violently agree with you here.

    “But it also does no good to shut one’s eyes and mouth…..”
    ->So what are you suggesting we should do? The freedom-of-expression-fundamentalist within me is telling that demanding apology or asking TIMES to take down the article (at least from its internet version) is equally pointless like the physical-violence. By the time I finished first few paragraphs of Joel Stein’s article I had a fairly good idea of what is coming. I still chose to read it through when I could have turned away. So if I claim that Joel Stein offended me, I am lying.
    Methinks, writing a blog in protest and sharing views with sympathizers is the right thing to do. I guess that is precisely the stuff you did in this blog. The unintended side-effect is that Mr. Stein is getting a huge readership. I guess a major portion of that readership is us Indians.

  19. The biggest problem with the article is that it is just not funny enough, and therefore comes across as half baked racism.

    “They do not have political might nor a big organization behind them. Nor are they united”

    Why, you do have a great leader in Rajan Zed! Just follow him and he will lead. 🙂

  20. Hey Greatbong, at least we drink cow piss because we believe it has some chemical virtues, not because we think it’s the blood of a prophet.

  21. To be honest , I feel it was not such offending. The biggest offence we had lately was ‘Slumdog millionaire’ and we go gaga over it!
    It was certainly not very ‘amusing’ humour. But the best way to take it is to enjoy( or atleast pretend) and ignore .

  22. Very Well written and true Too !

  23. I have no desire to fit into the US society, as I don’t live there in the first place, but I didn’t find the article offensive at all. It is just an (edgy) humorous account of how a town has changed over the years due to immigrants. As for Jun Choi’s comment, he is a politician, it is obviously safe for him to disassociate himself from the article, especially if the town is as full of Indians as the author says. If others are reading the article and going, “yes, give it to those Indians” instead of appreciating as a piece of humour, then why blame the author for it?

    As for “idolizing Time magazine”, that indeed was a mistake on the Indians’ part which needed to be corrected anyway, with or without this article. But that is happening already. The present generation doesn’t take everything the western media says as gospel truth like the earlier generations used to do.

  24. whats in a name July 1, 2010 — 6:59 am

    Great Bong as i said in my earlier comment i can see a shift in your thinking and the pace at which you are moving towards right is pretty quick. Please continue writing with a neutral approach. A neutral greatbong is much more effective than a right winger greatbong.

  25. Arnab what do you make of this piece

    Honestly if the Site was not titled Search India, i would have imagined it to have been written by some Red Neck down South or some one laid off in Silicon Valley.

    It is not just Indian Coolies(whatever that means) he is against, his hate targets include “Yellow Monkeys” (Chinese) too.

    I stopped visiting that site, long time ago, just that your piece reminded me of it.

    Somehow i always feel that the worst enemies of Indians are not Pakistanis or Chinese, more often than not they happen to be fellow Indians sadly. Something which the Brits took full advantage of.

  26. Prashant Kaul July 1, 2010 — 7:25 am


    I echo your sentiment and this is really nothing but a fool, second rate author who would want to sensationalize and ride on the recessionary wave in the US by bashing Indian or hindus.

    You have such sterotypes everywhere and one can come up with atleast 1000 such things about so called “white communities” where people spend there lives drinking cola, eating burgers, watching idiot box while digging in there noses!!. Clearly, editors were caught napping and this is definately not acceptable from Time. There are no good than “India TV” or Human digest (sold in railway stations)!!!

  27. But i don’t think it is just Indians, Americans generally have the tendency to make fun of any culture that they are not there. They seem to love stereotypes, and its not just India or China, they don’t even spare their neighbours up North, the Canadians. And even within US, you have the eternal rivalry between the Deep South and the North, both sides, firing at each other, relishing in the stereotypes. I have seen that people in the poorer states of US( West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi) quite often end up the butt of nasty remarks and jokes. And of course we always had the Ugly American phenomenon.

    I stayed in S.Korea for a year, and among the expats, the foreigners who quite often cribbed about everything were the Americans, and i heard it was the same case whether they were in Japan or China or Singapore. Of course their complaints about the place, don’t seem to extend to the females. Somehow again i don’t see this sort of attitude in the Canadians, who generally are more tolerant of other cultures.

  28. GB, do you feel Hindus are too tolerant? A former boss of mine (Indian) used to say ‘When you want something fight for it. Don’t be a Hindu about it!’
    Regarding the article, I didn’t find it as offensive as I expected to. I think I’ve heard far worse from some Singaporean colleagues during my tenure in the Lion City.

  29. I like the fact that you decided to comment on the reasons articles such as these make it to previously-reputed magazines, and not so much on the content itself – because it deserved just that!

    However, at the risk of being nitpicky and digressing, I can’t help but liken this to Priya Ramani’s article in Mint. Another reputed medium, another poorly researched article completely relying on the sensationalism, another mistake (?) by the editors who don’t realize the extent of damage such things do to the paper’s brand. Somehow, that hurt a little deeper because it came from someone closer home – someone who chose to make a rant out of standing for the national anthem than another person who is just being an ignorant twit about a group that isn’t his audience and therefore, he doesn’t know/care about. (Again, the attempt in her article towards twisted humour fell flat).

    So, while I echo your opinion: “I am of course not suggesting that Hindus should treat bigotry with threats of violence or aggression or anything of the sort. But it also does no good to shut one’s eyes and mouth when a flagship media outlet like Time carries something as repulsive as this”, in Priya’s case, we decide to shut our eyes to a statement like “Ram is a loser” under the pretext of her right to express. A right we think should be upheld at all times, no matter how hurtful the content. A right I don’t question, but she chooses to abuse beyond the tolerance of most of her readership.

    Do you still think Ms. Ramani’s article can be excused in a hurry, if only to prove a point in tolerance? Because I sense the same bigotry in this article as in that.

  30. Well argued, but then what can one expect from a publication that has Chetan Bhagat in its top 100 list??! Among nine chosen Indians, no less. THAT’S what I call poverty of content 🙂

  31. Somedays back you did a post on that Priya Ramani article called Me Indian?
    Will Ms Ramani read this and that Joel Stein article and please do a piece called Me American?

  32. …In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if “dot heads” was the best racist insult we could come up with… This Line is realy funny. Even i didn’t find the article offensive. let them talk about india. it only shows thae we are arrived.

  33. Manish Mittal July 1, 2010 — 9:45 am

    A rarity – 2 spelling mistakes, or are they? “friend chicken” and “SeinfIeld”

    Well, no need to repeat, another well thought-out, well-reasoned and well-written piece. If this is what “Going Right” is, please be in the right most lane.


    “TIME sincerely regrets that any of our readers were upset by Joel Stein’s recent humor column ‘My Own Private India.’,” the magazine said via e-mail early Wednesday. “It was in no way intended to cause offense.”

    Yeah Right.
    What losers.

  35. This is the old demographic-the new one does not care on ethnicity. I was at a conference, where the director of the US census made that point-people within the ages of 18-24 do not understand, or care about, ethnicity. Its only the old guard that does-which is fast being replaced.
    The best thing to do to such pieces of tripe is ignore it completely. And most important, ‘Stein’ happens to sound German, so I guess that makes Joel Stein a Nazi-right? Since all Germans are Nazis..bah…

  36. Typo.
    “Jersey neighborhood being taken over my cologne-drenched” should be “Jersey neighborhood being taken over by cologne-drenched”

  37. @ arun
    Are you a moron?

  38. Bigotry? Don’t you think he was just trying too hard to be funny? Sure Indians are always a hot-button for ridicule but to be honest, Americans take enough pot-shots at themselves too.

  39. Agree with neeraj. Didnt make me feel angry. It felt just like Bangalorians who lament that Bangalore has become too full on north indians or like goa is not goan anymore with the nouveau riche spoiling the atmosphere etc. Didnt feel offended with the description of ganesha ( even the pot belly was not mentioned).

  40. @Gestapo-To answer your question-no, I’m not a moron. If you catch the drift of what I said-i’m just saying that its as stupid to stereotype germans as nazis as it is to stereotype Indians as curry eating, dot wearing guindians….
    Anyway-there are more personable ways of asking for a clarification-but then I guess you’re not aware of those

  41. Nothing to be offended about..Author is simply trying to be humorous but clearly did not quite succeed..Its just juvenile tripe..think it best to ignore..

  42. Agree with Neeraj and Revathi. I did’t find Joel Stein’s article offensive.

  43. Hey, GB ,
    ever seen this video?

    Bloody awesome.

  44. GB,
    While I agree that some areas of Stein’s article were definitely objectionable, but could not resist the temptation of saying this: what happened to his freedom of expression? Or did it hurt more that Time (not Mint), which once defined politically correct in liberal world, printed this piece of trash? Would like to hear your explanation.

  45. Sid,

    What about freedom of expression??? Am I saying “stifle the voice of bigots”? I also have my “freedom of expression”. No? By the way, racist rants like this serve as the fuel for things like this, right in Stein’s old neighborhood.


  46. Hi,

    I just read the Joel Stein’s article. Again.
    I had just ignored it as a poor attempt at humor, where the writer
    had to stoop down a notch or two and tried really hard to be funny.
    Much like Lambu Ata’s “Gore gore gal” dance before Bulla to distract him. Did not work.

    I personally did not find it offensive, and now makes me wonder
    should i find it offensive?
    Why did I not find it offensive?
    Here might be a few reasons that many Indians (Hindus) will not find it offensive.

    1) Such targeted humor by the American media has an effect that the minority itself gets a stereotypical image of the majority.
    If this was the best selling piece, it sends the message, that majority of Americans would not appreciate subtlety and cultural sensitivities much like
    they do not see cricket in any other light but an inefficient and terribly long version of baseball.
    Why get offended if they don’t get it or are opaque to these sensitivities ? It would not stop me from playing cricket. And cricket like Hinduism is not a missionary religion, that I HAVE
    to take them to God’s pavilion along with me.

    2) The article has enough things which an American could possibly take to be offensive. This in fact is a ploy used by many writers. They seem to be saying ” Look, the joke is on me too, dont you get it?”
    They are like kids with water guns spraying on themselves as well as you.
    And that is one difference between them and Dr. Zakir Naik who is a teenager who just sprays water on you.

    In other words, in a multiracial society like America it is ok if “teri biwi uske saath aur uski biwi tere saath” or it is considered ok if I ridicule
    my culturein the same proportion while ridiculing yours.

    3) I cannot say for other Hindus, but for me personally, my spiritual side
    has little overlap than the rational side.
    I do not intellectualize my worshipping Gods with several hands and elephant nose.
    Or shall i say it is my rational conclusion that faith is beyond my
    rational limitations.
    Or that it is ok for me to practice is faith amidst my own
    paradoxes and reasonings.
    In that sense if things in my bible or my quran are not validated scientifically, I am least bothered.
    In that sense, Hinduism is very practical and robust.
    Generalizing, majority of readers who did not find the article offensive
    do not care about a stupid, ignorant write up which might have
    offended a greater percent of Muslims had it been about them.

    Of course that is not to say, that one is not justified in taking a stance.

    4) In my opinion, stereotypes have an effect, when there is a deeper problem underlying.
    For instance, Stereotyping African Americans as not being intelligent, or stereotyping “Islamic terrorism” have far serious consequences.
    This is because, unfortunately the numbers point to a premature half baked conclusion enough to create trouble.

    Most of Steins stereotypes were because of his ignorance, and fortunately not because of a deeper problem with the Indian community.
    If Americans regard Indians as Call Center operators, an Indian doctor, an Indian grad student or lawyer is not offended as Stein does not hit where it hurts the most. In fact he is not even close.

    Conclusion: I am not offended because Stein is ignorant.
    If you have to offend me, then say India does not produce fast bowlers
    except a few like Agarkar.

  47. @ Arun: actually most German Steins were Jewish :)… eg Einstein…

  48. GB,
    “Am I saying “stifle the voice of bigots”? I also have my “freedom of expression”. No?
    That is what I asked in your “Me Indian” article. I did not call for stifling Priya Ramani’s voice, I expressed my “freedom of expression” in criticizing her comments on Rama. Face it. You have de-linked “Hindu” from your identity. Thus, when “Indian-ness”, which you proudly consider part of your identity, is under attack, you can devote an entire article attacking the attack. But when Rama was abused in somebody else’s article, it did not hurt your identity, did it? It became a shining example of freedom of expression and “tolerance”. Hats off to your standard of morality sir.

  49. Sid, you said “Defamation”. She was “Defaming” Rama. I showed you, with extracts, that that’s not defamation. Whether it hurts my identity has nothing to do with it. Joel Stein hasnt defamed anyone. Nor Ganesha.

    Hats off to your standards of self-congratulation and selective-memory.

  50. @ Arun
    Read khreyak’s response and you will know why I asked you that question.

  51. GB,
    First, I did not say defamation, I said libel. They are not same. And it came with respect to saying that Ramani’s written statement can not come under freedom of expression and thus the supposed “tolerance” does not apply.

    Second, I did not say Rama was “defamed”, I said that it was a libel against people who thinks Rama was a part of their identity.

    In this case, I am with you because part of Stein’s article (some part of it was really funny) did hurt people who consider being Indian part of their identity. But as I said, you do not consider that you have anything to do with respect towards Rama or those who think they are associated with Rama. Thus you could shrug, hide your indifference in the garb of tolerance and move on.
    I initially thought that it is double standard on your part, but I stand corrected because now I know that you really do not care to know what you were writing about when you wrote about that statement. Please have the courage to acknowledge that when you think Ramani’s statement was a sign of great tolerance, the tolerance was mainly because you really do not care about those who consider Hindu identity or their respect for Rama important.

  52. That guy Joel Stein tries very hard to be very funny, but as you said he is a third rate comic writer. I invariably open up to his column (its on the last page in Time, can’t help it) and I give up about half way thru any of his pieces. That’s the reason I just rolled my eyes and forgot about this particular trash article.

  53. The article was not funny by any stretch of imagination but neither was it offensive.Its absolutely normal for someone to crave for his hometown to remain frozen in time just as it was in his youthful days.If the demography of ones hometown has changed significantly in a short span of time , it creates a sense of is a fact true as much for Bangalore or Mumbai as it is for Edison.
    I don’t know why I feel these days that you write for a readership which comprises of regulars at the rediff messageboards. Just a feeling.

  54. I read that article in TIME last night and was wondering whether any other Indian living in USA has been as offended by it as I have. And I turned to your blog just to check that. I am so glad that you have blogged about it. Joel Stein has his own way of making fun of current issues but this time he has gone too far. Most shocking was connecting the History Issue of TIME featuring Thomas Alva Edison with the immigration of Indians to the city of Edison. The cover piece mentions by way of statistics that half of the doctoral degrees in science and technology in USA are awarded to foreign nationals. Indians probably lead the list of the “foreign” PhDs in USA. Where would USA be without these “stupid” immigrants?

  55. Ha ha. its funny to see you branded as getting more right by the day 🙂 the fact that you feel offended by something and others don’t automatically shifts your position from neutral to right wing. sooner or later you’re going to be branded a chaddiwala 😛

    Its funny how if you feel the need to reject something you find offensive, one is immediately subtly or outrightly branded right wing these days instead of actually contesting what you write. Kill the messenger sorta deal rather than arguing about what you write with counterpoints in a debate. Especially when it comes to anything hinduism, with the oft repeated lines of “i’m a hindu too and i dont think its wrong. you’re just right wing fundamentalist.” Sure calling gods ten headed twenty armed weirdos with elephant heads and tigers for a vehicle might seem funny to some but for some its deeply offending. Pretty similar to putting up images of the prophet for which nobody says the same thing. Then it magically becomes ‘secular’ to respect their rights.

  56. @ Vaibhav
    So the threat “consequencies” define whether a stereotype is “offensive” or not.

    Isnt the tail wagging the Hippo here?

    Zakir Naik is not a kid spraying water. He is a trained Islamist doing exactly what the book tells him to do.
    Has happened all throughout history…
    Moinuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Aulia, Bulbul Shah (Bulle Shah), Shah Jalal…the list is long and trecherous.

  57. @Varun

    Were you refering to these 2 recent articles? It turns out that cow urine has been found as a source of a potent anti-cancer drug.

    RSS-developed cancer drug gets US patent

    PTI, Jun 17, 2010, Times of India

    NAGPUR: An anti-cancer drug extracted from cow urine and developed by an affiliate of the RSS has got a US patent for the third time for its anti-genotoxicity properties, a senior official has said.

    The drug developed by RSS-backed Go Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra had earlier got the US patent as a bio-enhancer with antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs.

    The research for the drug brand named ‘Kamdhenu Ark’ was carried out jointly by the Anusandhan Kendra and National Environmental Engineer Research Institute (NEERI), Acting Director of NEERI Tapan Chakraborty said.

    The research found that Re-distilled Cow Urine Distillate (RCUD) was useful for protecting and repairing DNA from oxidative damage, Chakraborty and Sunil Mansinghka of Kendra told reporters yesterday.

    Oxidative DNA damage is a leading cause of ageing, cancer and other diseases.

    RCUD works against genotoxicity, a harmful action on a cell’s genetic material, they said, adding research has strengthened the efficacy of ‘Kamdhenu Ark’ as an anti-cancer drug.

    The research was carried out on three patients, two of them having throat and uterus cancer, Mansinghka said.


    RSS-sponsored cow urine drug gets US, China patents

    Vivek Deshpande
    Jun 19, 2010, Indian Express

    Nagpur It’s the RSS’s pet project, but partnered by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and validated four times over by patents granted by the US and China. Sounds like a heady cocktail, but is, in fact, all about cow’s urine.

    After two earlier patents by the US, one confirming its drug-availability enhancing property and the other for its anti-cancer and anti-infective properties, the results of NEERI-Go-vigyan Anusandhan Kendra (an RSS front) joint experiment on Gomutra Ark formulation has now been validated, apart from the US, by Leftist China – this time for its anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and cell permeability enhancing properties.

    While the Chinese patent (100475221) came on April 8, 2009, the US patent (7718360) was granted on May 18, 2010. The two patents have certified that the composition is useful for protecting and/or repairing DNA from oxidative damages. DNA oxidation is known to to cause cancer.

    “The patents have validated our results,” NEERI’s acting Director Tapan Chakravarti told mediapersons at a press conference here. “Many patients, some of them terminally ill with diseases like cancer, have come to the Go-vigyan Kendra for treatment and have claimed to have benefited from Gomutra Ark,” he said.

    NEERI, incidentally, had got involved in the project after the then CISR DG Raghunath Mashelkar visited the Kendra at Deolapar, 80 km from here, in 1999 along with the then VHP president Ashok Singhal.

    An impressed Mashelkar had then announced the CSIR’s partnership with the Kendra.

    Chakravarti said, “The formulation that can be prepared even at home with the help of a set of clay pots, also transiently enhances the permeability of mitochondria, the component that provides power to the cell, thereby restoring the process called apoptasis.

  58. Like it or not GB, if someone just happens to read your columns for the last couple of months, he/she will probably take you for yet another Hindutva guy.

  59. Shaswata Panja July 2, 2010 — 12:20 am

    Stein is a German word which means this Times author has German roots..Considering how often the ending Stein appears in the surnames of German Jews I am gonna take a fair guess that he has Jewish ancestry…Arenot his people also hated by the real white people in the West?

  60. Dib,

    I like it. If protesting bigotry directed against Hindus means I am Hindutva I like it. (Does protesting bigotry directed at Muslims make one a Jihadi—-I dont think so does it? But leave it). Of course Sid up here thinks I am pinko since I am not aghast at the “libel” (a word he has trouble understanding) against Ram for the Priya Ramani article. But forget him for a while. You and your friends provide me a lot of entertainment. By the way, go through my archives on my articles on Arundhati Roy and you will realize I have been a “Hindutva guy” (as per the perverted definition of what it means to be Hindutva) for a long time.

    Thank you come again.

  61. Shaswata,

    This guy is an American Jew. Whats ironic is that when they came to US, they faced exactly the same bigotry directed against them as Stein directs against Hindus/Indians (again I mention them together since Stein thinks they are one and the same). In other words,Jews were accused of being clannish, weird and uncouth. Also when the local Christian population discovered that not all Jews were “smart people” and that there was Jewish mafia and Jewish “low life” what they must have said must have sounded very similar to what Stein does. What we see here is “transference”.

  62. @ Dib
    “…read your columns for the last couple of months, he/she will probably take you for yet another Hindutva guy.”

    Just another Hindutva guy. OMG how dare Arnab become just another Hindutva guy.

    And what are you, just another self deluded pseudo who uses the crutches of everything else in this world because his parents didnt teach him enough about Hinduism and he obviously doesnt have the grey matter to self realize.

  63. Ignorant, ignorant article and Time magazine is even more ignorant for publishing that crap! Not just those with background from India are offended…there are many other Americans who are as well.

    The article was not funny at all and not for a moment do I believe Time magazine is innocent in this. This was a mean, evil article. Time continues its descent into the sewer!

  64. I think I heard Joel Stein a few times on MSNBC’s shows. Maybe Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann.

    He seems to be a reasonable guys with the obvious perpectives of the commentators who come to those two anchors’ shows.

    The universal umbrella of Hindu Dharma offers its practioners a plethora of expressions as varied as pravrittis and gunas of the diversity of its followers, the third largest in the world. From the extreme non-existentialism to ritualism to materialism, you name it and its there.

    Such a bandwidth also offers a lot of space for abuse, especially for the ignorant and the malevolent. I have a feeling that Joel belongs to the former category.

    Hindus in America should take this as an opportunity to educate everyone about all that our philosphies have to offer.

    Would help Hindus as much as it would help Joel. Especially to realize that most Indians are Hindus but all Hindus are not Indians.

  65. Ironic (but not at all out of place) for a Jewish man to be talking this way. He uses the same forms of stereotypes that Europe used against his people.

  66. ‘But they did. And the reason why they let it pass was not because it slipped through the cracks.’

    Arnabda after reading Steins’ article I feel the above sentence should be ‘And the reason why they let it pass was not because it slipped through theIR cracks.

  67. Nice Article. What I feel is that you need to have a strong identity for others to not to have a dig on that. This holds true for every country, society or any other god damn thing on which people group. Hindus, by far, have been very poor on that front even in India. They prefer to be identified as part of as small groups as possible. As in India a party will fetch more votes in an election if they concentrate on a particular rather than on the Hindu religion.

    So, whatever you have written doesn’t surprise me and I believe such articles are not going to end any time soon.

  68. I read the article and didn’t find it too offensive. What he has written is basic human nature. I can easily relate to it. These days, when I stand in my railway station back home in Kerala, I don’t hear Malayalam around me. I hear Hindi, Bengali, Assamese all around me. I am not too comfortable with that. That’s what this guy has also written.
    Also, is anyone forcing you to stay back in that land of racists? It’s their country. Rather than trying to change them, why don’t you come back to your country of birth?

  69. Those with stars and stripes in their eyes, longing for that great american dream should wake up atleast now. Why be an unwanted clinger in such a rascist country when you can find stronger , better racism of your very own kind in India itself?

    My very own private —–fill in the state name. In any corner of India.

  70. Great Gong…thanks for the amusing and true post…I had a friend turn me on to your blog. I will be back.
    Let me know if you are going to throw rocks at Beck, Limbaugh and Dobbs I would like to be in on that one!

    ~The Baby Boomer Queen~

  71. Everyone’s entitled to freedom of expression and may have their own pet prejudices but these need not be put on display in major publications with an especial lineage of impartiality.
    Stein’s article was mildly offensive in its snide comments but the real damage is such that it subtly brands Indians unfavorably even in the minds of Time’s more free-thinking readers.
    If I’d not been an Indian, I’d still be slightly disturbed by this convenient re-enforcement of stereotypes. Of course, being an Indian makes me more incensed. But the sad truth is, while we should assuredly assert our freedoms and speak out against this, it would be well to remind ourselves how often we as Indians stereotype our fellow citizens on region, language, caste and on so many other levels.

  72. Was following your discussion with others on twitter. All those who say that they find Indians’ desire to congregate together in the same community in the US somewhat strange, need to know its just not Indians but all communities do that. Yes even Whites. All they need to do is search for White Flight.

  73. Great article. The reason Hindus do not unite is because they become Maharashtrian, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalee before they unite as Hindus. Also, Hinduism is a liberal individualistic religion, where it allows individuals to be and pray at their convenience. We are not forced to attend Masses, Jumaa prayers or Sabbath prayer meetings. Christianity is a highly organised language with priests acting as spokespersons who can influence and steer public opinion on a wide variety of issues ranging from birth control to politics.

    It is only when Hindus unite that we will be treated and considered as “one group” – a majority at that. You will be surprised to know that even in US there are people who seek and stick to people from their own geographical region in India.


  74. Seriously, get a life – how could you NOT see the humor in the article. Maybe it was lost in translation: worth a retelling-
    This new intellectual high-income family moves into the neighborhood and is wildly popular with the folks. Soon, however, the First-new-Family’s less educated cotton-picken’ relatives move in. Which is followed up by their even more deplorable crack-smoking, gold-toothed, hip-hop blasting, Roca-wearing third cousins. There goes Mr. Roger’s American neighborhood. On the bright side, Washington gets some highly valued chitlin and fried chicken franchises to brighten the local palate.

    Once the humor in the above episode becomes apparent, you will definitely recognize the wit that it is based off (the Joel Stein article)- but unlike that erudite gentileman, eloquence withers on my tongue.

    By taking a gamble to insult the Indian community, the Time editor’s are blatantly stating that the Indian community financial support can be done without – just cancel/boycott Time magazine subscription.

  75. Arnab_da, who is Great Gong ? One of the reasons that jobs are being eroded away from the “Opportunity Land” is maybe because they simply cannot even Copy+Paste a small piece of text !!!

  76. Hindus are defined by exclusion in some ways. Don’t forget that unlike organized Abrahamic religions, Hinduism isn’t a religious movement – just a belief system prevalent in a geography. To the extent that there is no mention of the word Hindu in any of the ancient scriptures of Hinduism – this is not even a religion in the same sense as the Abrahamic religions. That way Hinduism is more like traditional belief systems in Rome, Greece or pre-Islamic Iran (Zoroastrianism). We don’t even have names for the first two.

    So Hinduism is as much a demonym (for Indians in general – the Spanish demonym for an Indian is Hindu) as it is the name of a belief system. The linguistic/ethnic identities of the many diverse peoples that call themselves Hindus are often stronger than their religious identities simply because of the history of this belief system. And therefore, Hinduism appears fractious and disunited. Changing that and enforcing a stronger religious identity appears neither feasible nor need it be effective.

  77. @ Jll
    America is truely a melting pot. Joel’s parents were outsiders as were any of those Hindus parents in Edison.

    They are all Americans now. The religious/ethnic diversity creates its discords, but Joel can be criticized by Jatayu as much as Joel crtisizes Jatayu.

    Thats what is great about this country.

  78. Namaste! Lovely to meet such a combination of intellect and sense. Will be following your posts with interest from now on.

  79. @ Arindam
    Hindu dharma is a Religion (in the Abrahamic definition of terms) and MUCH MORE.

    Because what scholars and laity across the board consider as “religion” is and has been inherent in the progressive development of Hindu Dharma. But beyond that it brings to the world much more than what many “Abrahamic faiths” have brought. Now let us look at what constitutes a “religion” and see if Hindu systems have them.

    1. Scriptures: Hindu dharma has them.
    2. Doctrines: Hindu dharma has them.
    3. Sacred Space: sanctified places of worship and pilgrimage.
    Hindu dharma has them.
    4. Sacred Time: feasts and fasts. Hindu dharma has them.
    5. Sacred Persons: priests and monastics. Hindu dharma has them.
    6. Rituals: Hindu dharma has them.
    7. Sacraments: sanctification of the important stages of life.
    Hindu dharma has them.
    8. Mysticism: Hindu dharma has it.
    9. Code of Ethics: Hindu dharma has it.
    10. Contemplative practices: Hindu dharma has them.
    11. Humanism: Hindu dharma has it.

    But beyond that, Hindu Dharma has the fluidity of thought, that leaves room for a evolutionery discourse within its religious framework. But one should not miscontrue that fluidity, as a way of dissolution of the Hindu identity itself.

    The word “Hindu” itself represents that fluidity, as a defining identity for what began as pre-Vedic, Vedic, to Sanatana Dharma, to what it is today.

    Preservation and promotion of this wisdom in all its fluidity thus becomes the responisiblity of all those who call and will themselves Hindu today and day after tomorrow.

  80. Borat was funny. Joel Stein is incompetent and just plain dumb. It is hard to get outraged over ramblings of a retard.

  81. I saw Joel Stein on Real Time with Bill Maher once. He tries very hard to be funny, and often ends up embarrassing himself. He wasn’t funny then, at all. Here too, he has made the mistake of handling racist humor badly. I have been to comedy clubs in Manhattan, and seeing my skin color, the odd comedian has made a joke about Indian stereotypes, but articulation is the key. It should truly look and sound like good-natured humor. This guy on the other hand, is just not good enough.

  82. vivek, iselin,nj July 2, 2010 — 8:49 pm

    Joel Stein’s article is a lame attempt at humor. Time is not new ,atleast to me, for being so lame for publishing such dull articles. Joel truly must have come to edison after many years. Indians like me living here would barely care what joel has to say. lot of americans here go to indian restaurants mostly because of variety of vegetarian foods. One factual error is indian restaurants here donot really spicy food. they are nothing compared to real south indian spicy. almost all of my american friends can comfortably eat this indian food served here. it is not uncommon to see Americans and chinese in indian restaurants and grocery stores. Matter of fact Jun choi couldnt have won without indian support. there are lot of indians competing in state elections from here.

    I am surprised why indians are reacting so much to this lazy article. no need to boil over it. the fact that the merchants came and brought their cousins. they are not geniuses but doesnt mean they are dumb. it is just they belong to merchant class like many jews who are good at business than going to school. lot of gujjus i know have multiple dunkin donuts and 711s. lot of indians have pizza hut franchieses.

    People dont get upset by this article. if anyone from edison or iselin reads it they know lot of indians who live here are working in New york. thats how this place has lot of indians. it is iselin where people from merchant class live. joel is wrong about it. joel is wrong about moghul being famous restaurant in the country. moghul restaurant sucks ( god i wanted to get it off my chest ). they lunch buffet has more soda than food.

    so people just go on with your stuff and stop paying attention to these sillies. more you react, you become a reactionary.

    Btw Mr. Bong Keith Olbermann is not a loon. Oreilly is not a reactionary or neither is Rush.thats the way they do their business. they know how to conduct their business. Plus MSNBC is an opinion media. while fox passes opinion disguised under news.

  83. @Rishi Khujur, sorry but I am not about to get into a debate on the virtues of Hindu dharma. I gave a historical perspective of the evolution of hinduism as an element in the identity of Indian people and society. I do not intend to talk about what should / should not be done about some religion, and who should do it. In other words, I was not expressing a personal interpretation of Hinduism – just a historical perspective – and why the Hindu identity is fundamentally different from a Muslim or Jewish identity. There was no specific admiration or insult in that.

    And to a lot of people, the need to connect with nature, God or whatever his perception of a spiritual cosmos is does not require the framework that (as you so rightly put) religion entails.

  84. My intention was to clarify to you why Hindu Dharma is also a religion too, besides being much more; which your previous comment was discounting.

    Was not intending to debate anything else.

  85. GB, I did not mean that you have become a Hindutva . Obviously you are not; I have been reading you for the last 2 years and I know you have clearly lashed out against all extremists including them. What I meant was your views in the recent topics are almost in sync with the Hindutva guys and for someone who has not been following you may be misled into taking you for just another pro-Bajrangi guy. Just a comment.
    @Bagel, I agree with GB’s views on almost every thing ( A Ray, Maoists, the flotilla..) barring this particular post. In other words, I am more on your side .

  86. Great observations here. You have helped me understand why desis on Facebook and on some news sites continue to defend Stein while 99% of non-desis are shocked and upset by it.

    My rebuttal to Stein is in this week’s News India Times ( see Page 2 (online)


  87. Great post! I just sent an email to Time ( and gave them a piece of my mind. I am Indian-American (born in NYC but grew up in Woodbridge – the next town over Edison) and I’m SO sick of these nasty comments over my religion.

    The only reason people like Mr. Stein can get away with this is because Indians have NO political clout the way African-Americans and Hispanics do. All the more reason to encourage our Green-card holding permanent residents to take the plunge and become citizens, especially as this is an election year. Once we become a voting bloc, such comments will no longer be tolerated by politicans and they will pay attention to us.

    The other issue is that we need to point out to Americans that many of us were born in this country like them and that outsourcing is hurting us too. I think that’s the main reason our community is quite often a target – other races are jealous of us and our incredible success and they are mad that jobs are being outsourced to India. I have experienced such anger directed towards me and I have explained that it’s not my fault – I’m as American as anyone else and I hate outsourcing too.

    In my view if other people in the US would learn about us instead of listening to the stereotypes they would see that the reason for our success is because our culture is one that values education, demands excellence, and generally has stable families with both parents involved in their kids’ lives.

  88. I might add that “dot head” is an offensive word and very deragatory. I pray that one day, use of this word will not be tolerated the way the “N” word is intolerated.

    To those of you who are claiming that this article did not offend you, it’s probably because you did not grow up in the Edison area the way I did and were not subject to “dot head” comments or targeted by white supremacists the way I was. Your homes probably were not egged right around Diwali the way mine was. And you probably did not have to deal with unsympathetic law enforcement who refused to do their jobs and acted like vandalism was no big deal.

    Jokes are fine – make fun of the overcrowding, the way these FOBs pack the trains like sardines, have no concept of personal space, their hygiene, etc. But why is it okay to make fun of Hinduism but not Allah, Muhammad, Judiasm, Jesus and Christianity?

    Consider this…Nazi Germany came about in part because Jews were blamed for the economic troubles. Targeting Indians born/raised/settled in the US because of outsourcing sounds eerily familiar.

  89. @ Benita
    Very enlightening thoughts.

    How do you respond when people make fun of Hindu-ism?

  90. @ Rishi:
    I usually try to educate people but only those that I think will listen. Some people have their minds made up and nothing will convince them otherwise.

  91. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and always hesitated to add my 2 cents here (thought I would be lost in the deluge of comments), but great blog, love the way you write and especially love this article. I’ve lived in the US for more than 5 years now. And I have a great sense of humor, I can take hits on myself and sometimes even on my people, but, I am no fool and I was offended by Joel Stein’s article. But the reason I really am leaving this comment is because I would like to remind everyone reading this blog, that it is a BLOG, someone’s personal opinion. NOT A NEW SARTICLE. So, all you people who want the Greatbong to stop leaning toward the “right” and be more neutral, this is his blog and he can write any damn thing he wants. Like it or lump it. Of course, no offense meant.

  92. Here is Joels twitter ‘apology’.
    “Didn’t meant to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing”

    So Joel, its OK then for me to say something incredibly insulting about your Jewish origin? Because when you get offended, I ‘ll say
    “What? I didnt mean to insult you. I assumed you guys have gone through worse in Hitlers Germany”

  93. @ Benita
    True. Do you think there should be more organized efforts to create education and awareness?
    Do you know of HAF?

  94. This is a form of bigotry — wherein its OK to “make fun” of sections with a lower voice and lesser political power, while the comparitively more empowered sections are holy grail! Sad, very sad. Not TIME…. not TIME!
    For the record, IMHO, Borat suck3d a55 too. I guess I am too dense, and never “got” the humour in it.
    Why, oh why, do we need to love, or even LIKE something in order to respect it? Tolerance doesn’t demand total agreement, does it?
    Reading the article, I did find some humour in it. However most readers might easily derive a current of Indian (Hindu) bashing on reading it, rather than enjoy the little humour that it does possess. It was nice though, to see apologies at the end of the article, from TIME as well as Joel Stein. I’d like to believe that they were heartfelt and sincere, and that Stein and the editors just “screwed up”. I’d like to believe that.

    I meant, “This is a worse form of bigotry” in the first sentence.

  96. yet another NRI July 5, 2010 — 9:38 am

    Most Maharashtrians are amiable people. Although they do have concern and angst about Bihari bhayyas coming in under one pretext or the other without any definite plan to return. They are unhappy about their social and racial fabric being shredded slowly but surely by the bhayyas who have started bringing their missus.
    Then someday some “execrable” Raj Tha-xecrabl-ay and utters aloud and in public the fears that most civilised Maharashtrians have but would not say in public, due to their humanity.
    The bhayyas are up in arms – but still do not consider the situation of being back in Bihar, where they are still welcome of course.

  97. GB/Arnab, I’m sure there is enough insensitive humour in the article for Indian Americans (and some other Indians too) to take offense and even fear violence “inspired” by it. Nevertheless, I did find the article really funny, except the Arizona reference maybe, which was unnecessary and clearly meant to cash in on the recent popularity of anti-immigration rhetoric in the US media. I think it’s not about people being intellectually “dense” for not getting the humour, perhaps some of them are too close to the issue to see anything funny about it. And many like you are even more disappointed with the publication than with the author, which is understandable given it’s history.

    I won’t point out stuff that I found funny cos I’m sure most people have already read it a million times and if it wasn’t funny to them the first time, I can’t force them to see things my way. But let me quote legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce, who had slightly different ideas about “hate words” (and almost everything else too):

    “Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? “Are there any niggers here tonight?” I know there’s one nigger, because I see him back there working. Let’s see, there’s two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kyke. And there’s another kyke— that’s two kykes and three niggers. And there’s a spic. Right? Hmm? There’s another spic. Ooh, there’s a wop; there’s a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there’s three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there’s one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kykes here, do I hear five kykes? I got five kykes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kykes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ’til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.”

    While reading the article I did get the feel that Stein was attempting something similar, even if he never heard of Lenny Bruce (which is unlikely). Maybe the same was true for Michael Richards too, but unlike Bruce, both Richards and Stein are associated with reputable media outlets and can’t get away with something that’s really offensive but not funny in the same proportion.

    Like most stand-up artists, Bruce’s own life suggests his clever theories about society didn’t work out too well for him, and so his words are not meant to be taken seriously even if they seem to make sense. But this particular rant does raise a good question: does the taboo attached to hate words give them their real power?

  98. @ Rishi:
    What is HAF? Yes, I do think we need to educate people about our culture/religion and also that just because people have black hair and pale skin does not mean we’re all Muslims or Middle Eastern. “Americans” need to learn the differences between Hinduism, Islam, Sikkhism so as not to group us altogether just because we look similar to one another.

    More imporantly, we desperately need members of our community who have Green cards and have lived here for more than 5 years to become US citizens, vote regularly and become more active in American society including politically. Only then will mainstream politicans pay attention to us and condemn bias attacks and insensitive remarks. Unfortunately, now that India is charging $175 for that surrender certificate/renunciation to those who become citizens after June, this will deter current H-1 B and green card holders to become citizens.

    Maybe it’s because of the timing of the article (4th of July week) but notice that mainstream media (local stations like eyewitness news, nbc 4, cbs, etc.) has totally ignored this article? If racist remarks were made against African-Americans or Hispanics, both political parties, especially Democrats, would have shown outrage to look like they cared about these constitutents. And the media would be reporting this non-stop as other big news besides the oil spill in the Gulf.

    There were definitely some funny comments in the article but poking fun of ANY religion is truly crossing the line. And that apology? What a joke! Use offensive words in an article and then “apologize” by making reference to one of India’s greatest heroes who actually influenced MLK Jr.?

    I think most Indian-Americans have a sense of humor and I think most of us did laugh at the funny stuff…but those of us who grew up harassed over our religion and who were called “dot head” have every right to feel outraged and offended.

  99. @ Benita

    I completely agree with you about the need for a constituency in the Hindus living in America, especially those who were from India and do not get voting rights.

    Hindu American Foundation (HAF) primarily consists of second generations, like yourself; and over the past couple of years, has made consistent efforts at the Capitol to impress upon lawmakers the need for awareness about Hindu and as a result, Indian religious traditions/cultures.

    Unfortunately, many people (more so the first generations) are themselves quite ignorant about how to respond to stereotypes and slights. They may be successful lbusinesspeople, doctors and engineers, but a when a infringing situation arises, they either respond by way of denial or by aggressive refutal, without a coherent and logical response that would reduce a repetition of such incidents.

    The fact that such prejudices can only be removed, by a process of education at the community level, hardly crosses anybody’s mind. The wisdom of why Ganesha’s deity has a Elephant’s head, and the allegory and symbolism that it represents in the Hindu religious tradition, is often missed out in the discourse, that if explained to people like Klien may actually empower their intellect enough, so as to turn their outlook from that of “ridicule” to atleast that of “respect”.

    Most importantly, it would make America a better place for everyone.

  100. Holy fuck GB. Way to perpetuate another stereotype with your over-the-top indignation. Even after all that whining, you didn’t feel the need to substantiate your claim that most readers read the article out of closeted bigotry. Yeah, let’s complain about anti-Indian stereotypes while taking as granted the stereotype of Americans being racist and culturally intolerant.

    I don’t deny that there exists a market for Limbaugh’s and Beck’s crazed rants, but I highly doubt that it’s the same market as Time’s readership. Of course, I’m predicating this on my anecdotal interactions with Americans. Appealing to such “common sense” seems to be good enough for you.

    As for those being outraged and offended over a fucking article: grow up. If that’s too hard, wear a helmet. Members of every minority experience schoolyard insults at least once in their lives. Mature adults aren’t traumatized by such things. One of the many unfortunate things India has in abundance is hordes of self-anointed culture defenders who spare no opportunity to express mock indignation while thumping their chests and doing everything but minding their own lives. Don’t contribute to the problem.

  101. About Stein’s article itself: I completely agree that it was an epic fail. Rehashing tropes used by amateur stand-ups is no way to write a Time article.

  102. @ Rishi:
    Thanks! I didn’t even know such an organization existed. I will have to check out the site.

  103. @ Benita
    My pleasure

  104. Each time there is a reference to the Time article, more insults are added For e.g cologne-drenched by you and “worshiping penises” by Anna (SM) I’m sure Kal Pen had a few of his own 🙂

  105. Isn’t the word “bigot” ‘racist” being used a little too liberally around here, huh? I mean one could similarly accuse Great Bong of being a “facist” for attempting to get another (Joel Stein) to think like he does, and god forbid, if that other guy does not, then GreatBong gets all shaken up and rushes to hurl “racist”. Haha.

    So, GreatBong, who is a racist? One who insults a race? Or someone who dislikes what folks do, and they happen to be from a particular race?

    Is Stein beholden to some God that he has to like everything that he claims Indians have done to “his” place? He is not, just like Great Bong here is not beholden to like whatever Stein has written.

    Maybe many of the things he’s written finds in echo in many others who feel similarly about their neighbourhood that they identified with. Maybe GreatBong cares a fuck about his neighbourhood and wouldn’t care less if cats shat on his doorstep. But Stein cares, right. And he is free to write about it. So what?

  106. TIME responds: We sincerely regret that any of our readers were upset by Joel Stein’s recent humor column “My Own Private India.” It was in no way intended to cause offense.

    Joel Stein responds: I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people. I was trying to explain how, as someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular, I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we’d be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue.

    Read more:,9171,1999416,00.html#ixzz0szdqJMsE

  107. A well written letter to the editor of Time showing why Stein’s article was wrong on so many levels.

  108. Point is, Indians are the new kids on the block, compared to any other ethnicity. Any changes they bring to the contemporary American way of living is bound to attract attention. Joel Stein had the courage to express his discomfort with the overwhelming ‘Indianization’ of his town. The phenomenon he was trying to talk about was the ‘involuntary’ and ‘unexpected’ bigotry that arose within him inspite of he considering himself as unbigoted. His aim was to share his feelings and find a way to better understand its origins.

    I at least, can empathize. If any group of a particular race, religion converged on my hometown in overwhelming numbers and fundamentally changed the way of life in that town, I would resent it.

    What needs to be understood is that such feelings are natural and integration cannot be forced. A couple of generations down the line, once samosas are as well known and popular as falafels and pretzels, that is, facets of Indian culture are ubiquitous in the American social psyche, all this hoopla will die down. These are birth pangs. Nothing more.

  109. @ Anonymous
    Lets see if Mr Stein can write a similar article about Dearborn, Michigan; and keep his hands from getting chopped off 🙂

    But I agree, the cultural digression from his percieved outlook, will take some time to get absorbed.

    The Hindu community should also make an effort to pro-actively inform the likes of Mr Stein.

  110. One of my blogger friends wrote:

    “The man is belly-aching about Indians taking over ‘his’ small town. Great. It will be easy now for him to imagine how Red Indians must have felt when his brutal and venal race was taking over their entire continent. At least, Indians are not exterminating Whites and raping their women while doing so.”

  111. Dear Members of our Indian-American community,

    As a long time NJ Indian-American resident who has friends of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds, I am proud to uphold our Indian culture and bring members of all races to experience our amazing culture. I have converted many of my non-Indian friends to our amazing food, dance, songs, and Bollywood films! So I am as shocked as each of you of Joel Stein’s article and have joined the public outcry. Privately, though, I am more concerned on a deeper level. I hope you will understand:

    I have been increasingly disturbed to defend our kind as ‘not racists’, based on some of the sick ignorance that happens within our own community as well. I know for a fact that most Indian-origin people do not participate in this ignorance and are amazingly loving people to all color and races. But by allowing the ignorant members of our community to continue, it falsely represents all of us as accepting it.

    For instance, on (a blog site targeted at desi girls to experience Bollywood and Indian fashion), young Indian-American teens lambaste duskier Indian stars, forgetting that Indian beauty comes in all colors… (i.e Freida Pinto is too brown to represent India ; ‘dark maid’ comments to dark-skinned models..; fair vs dark wars..). These sorts of racial color comments and glorification/bashing of Indian stars based on their color are accepted as a-ok on that site. The moderators who are adults and should know better, accept and publish comments, and let it continue among these kids. The net result is that many of them who may suffer from self-image issues based on their skin color!

    And more shockingly, I got several emails from my white and black friends saying there was a racist making Indian restaurant reviews calling Indian waiters ‘chimps’, dark, idiots, and all sorts of nonsense ( ). After vowing to get to the bottom of this, I decided to write to the NAACP to stop this. Imagine my shocking embarrassment when I realized the reviewer was an Indian-American!

    In this case, how can I properly battle the Joel Steins of the world, when in fact, many members of my community are facing similar cultural self-hated, resulting in a similar ignorance to Joel’s? Furthermore, many members of our Indian community too in fact dislike Edison (and honestly, Oak Tree could use some trees, flowers and major cleaning up… to show our pride.. ). So here is my ‘intended’ imagined letter to Joel to show you the deep dilemma I believe we in the Indian-American community now face. I believe the solution is to clean up our backyard together. I know we can grow and change- making this painful episode, a positive step forward for our community.

    Sincerely, Rini.
    Congratulations Joel!

    After master-minding the reaction response, you disappear like Garbo. Call us desis dim for not getting the satire that you’re making fun of racists and not us, but… hey!
    Brilliant method, I must say: smack yourself a bit for the safety net of political-correctness.. then smack us harder. Guess what you did?


    WASPs across the globe must be rejoicing, as minorities like you rip us Indian-Americans up. Reading the blogdom, Indian-Americans are ripped by folks of all shapes, sizes and colors.. heck including even their traitor origin country, India! -> Some African-Americans say hey.. Indians are racists against us.. so let’s make two wrongs a right and rip em! Some NJ Chinese-Americans residents conveniently forget their Chinatowns..and on your facebook, agree with ya! Some liberals are saying Indians are just outsourcers so it’s ok to diss em.. (conveniently forgetting the difference between Indians in India and those who have legally immigrated as Americans is the difference between an American and a Brit).

    And just to jump in this party, our own desi community joins joins racist humor restaurant reviews of Edison itself, via the infamous comedic NJ Indian restaurant reviewer from! Examples of this dude’s humor matches yours quite well: Ahhh, the good old fashioned humor of the melanin fear factor separating the whiter Indians from the darker ones, calling his waitress the ‘dark, fat girl’ & rude: . This guy keeps this up in review after review, often remarking on the dark skin color and calling waiters chimps and all sorts of racial names that the Brits once chose for Indians. Write to the site to stop the ignorance, and they fire back that you’re a disgruntled restaurant owner reviewed badly (brilliant!). So we’re thin-skinned to not laugh (brilliant!). He must be taking a page out your humor book, Joel. brilliant!

    Looks like you found your your twin soul this Indian-American humor reviewer…. we’re all more alike than we think, aren’t we?
    The funny thing is, unlike the huge outcry from SAALT and the Indian-American against you, there is no outcry for this dude…

  112. Authors like Stein and Ramani have every right to express their feelings but neither Priya Ramani’s article nor Stein’s article should be ignored or passed off as freedom of expression. These should be rather read and intelligently critiqued. Thanks Great Bong for doing that. We need more of intelligent critiquing and that too in so-called mainstream liberal press or TV (I don’t expect conservative media–in US or India–to do it).

    And rather than just calling anything a “rant”, such as some who called this blog post one, I would give those comments more credibility that say why these are rants.

  113. Think Lou Dobbs is no longer with CNN. You forgot Rachel Maddow.

  114. good work

  115. Some of what Joel Stein was bordering on offensive, but all of it was true. One visit to Edison and you see what he means.

  116. @Shatadru: I live in Edison and I know what Joel means. I do not have a problem when someone says “Edison is overrun with Indians.” I do have a problem when someone says “Indian gods are ridiculous” or “Indian malls are ugly” or “Looking at the stupid Indians here one can see why their whole country is so damn poor.” Different DOES NOT mean inferior or ridiculous – you need to understand that. If you agree to what Joel says, then you also must agree to the notions that gays are ridiculous, or people with physical deformities are inferior, since they are different from the majority of us.

    Point out the differences, sure! I do that all the time on my own blog. Just don’t be judgmental about what’s good and what’s bad.

  117. how different is the times article from the statement made by Indian Union minsiter for Environment Mr. Jayram Ramesh who said that all cities in india are dirty, filthy and if there is nobel price for dirt and filth india will get it no doubt????

    go to any city, town in india people spit around, throw dirt around, piss anywhere they feel like… for them everything outside there home is a toilet. now if they come to usa with this attitude than ofcourse most americans are gona hate it. if u wana be dirty back to india if u wana be clean, well behaved have manners than u can be in usa.
    thats what the article says….. if u dont like times article listen to ur indian minster and try to change. dont make american cities dirty like indian cities.

  118. @jay: Have you ever been to the US? Because it seems if there was a “nobel price” for ignorance you would have won it.

  119. @ anirban
    lol i did read the article by an american telling us the sad reality about his home town edison and i also read the article by union minster for india on the nobel price for dirth and filth telling us how indians themselves have dirty habits. now even if i or others have never been to india or usa we can read both the articles, check pics on the internet and come to a conclusion.

  120. @jay: Did you see the American complaining about filth in his hometown? All that I saw was he being pissed about the abundance of Indians in general (unless you make the assumption that Indians = filth) in his hometown. And also their elephant-nosed gods. And yes, their spicy food. Where does filth come into the picture? Aren’t you confusing two different issues?

  121. My God! That Glenn Beck video showed what an ignorant, arrogant prick he is.

  122. *******Point is, Indians are the new kids on the block, compared to any other ethnicity. Any changes they bring to the contemporary American way of living is bound to attract attention. Joel Stein had the courage to express his discomfort with the overwhelming ‘Indianization’ of his town. The phenomenon he was trying to talk about was the ‘involuntary’ and ‘unexpected’ bigotry that arose within him inspite of he considering himself as unbigoted. His aim was to share his feelings and find a way to better understand its origins.******

    Hmm.. No. Indians(The doctor Engineer types) started pouring in during the 60s.
    Somalians are the newest kids in the block. They seem to have reed-ki-haddi unlike self-loathing Indians like my Uncle who came to USA in 1968. Even though the gangsta type Somalians outnumber the intellectual types, They are not afraid of their identity. They wear their “strange” ethnic muslim garb openly in the whitest of white neighbourhoods, while we Hindus remove our “dots” out of fear of being stared at and pretend to hate BJP in order to please the westerners. They(Somalians) have found political representation and have the courage to defend their sharia-esque law on national TV and on Bill maher’s show (ALL within a decade and a half).
    When Joe Biden said “I know many Indians. They make good motel owners and 711 employees”, the reporter didn’t even bring up Kalpana Chawla, Sanjay Gupta, Kal Penn and many many IT workers. Our attitude is, “He is not entirely wrong!” Infact, I know some Indians who think that their ignorance is actually cool and try to emulate it.

    Anyways We have only ourselves to blame for such insults. We should have found a voice long back. I blame the self-loathing generation that came before us. See, how connivingly Joel Stein appealed to the “Gandhi” in us. That is double-speak for, “I can slap you but you can’t slap me back. I expect you to smile and show me your other cheek”

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