In July a reporter asked if I had ever been ethnically profiled. I happily replied, “No.” I can no longer say that. The L.A. Times, for one, characterized me by race, religion, ethnicity, country-of-origin and political leanings–wrongly on four of five counts. To them I was an Iranian-American politically conservative Muslim. It is perhaps irrelevant in our brave new world of journalism that I was born in Boulder, Colo. I am not a Muslim or practitioner of any religion, nor am I a political conservative. What am I? I am, most devoutly, an American. I asked the reporter if this kind of labeling was a new policy for the paper. He had no response.
The hysteria engendered by the series found more than one target. In addition to the death threats and hate mail directed at me, and my grotesque portrayal as a maddened right-winger, there developed an impassioned search for incriminating evidence on everyone else connected to the film. And in director David Cunningham, the searchers found paydirt! His father had founded a Christian youth outreach mission. The whiff of the younger Mr. Cunningham’s possible connection to this enterprise was enough to set the hounds of suspicion baying. A religious mission! A New York Times reporter wrote, without irony or explanation, that an issue that raised questions about the director was his involvement in his father’s outreach work. In the era of McCarthyism, the merest hint of a connection to communism sufficed to inspire dark accusations, the certainty that the accused was part of a malign conspiracy. Today, apparently, you can get something of that effect by charging a connection with a Christian mission.
Barack Obama knows of whence he speaks, it seems.
If the ultra-secular Times has the chutzpah to lecture the Pope, what’s to stop them from figuratively attempting to blacklist a mere director for having the gall to film while Christian? (My favorite was the article in England’s Guardian, which essentially hysterically accused Cunningham of being a religious zealot. Not that the Guardian itself doesn’t have direct experience with zealots of both an extremely pious and secular nature.)