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2010 According to Katie Couric

From the Scrapbook.

Jan 17, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 17 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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2010 According to Katie Couric

2010 According to Katie Couric

Earl Keleny

The New Year is as good a time as any to evaluate the Old, and The Scrapbook has been interested to read the varying interpretations of 2010. Among the chattering classes, for example, there seems to be consensus that the past year was a horror​—​and from their point of view, with some reason. Not only did the guard change in Washington, with unprecedented Republican gains in Congress, but Barack Obama was unmasked as a mere politician, and a hamfisted one at that.

The Scrapbook’s most revealing look back, however, came from the perspective of Katie Couric, the CBS news reader. In 2010 she was horrified, she declared, by objections to the Ground Zero mosque in Lower Manhattan, which revealed a “seething hatred” of Muslims in America.

To be sure, she didn’t mention anything specific, nor explain that criticism of the Ground Zero mosque was seldom directed at Muslims or Islam in general​—​dozens of mosques thrive in greater New York​—​but at the painful symbolism of a mosque deliberately constructed beside the site where 3,000 people were murdered by Islamist fanatics. The problem for Katie Couric is not the notion of a bumptious development proposal but the “seething hatred” she ascribes to principled dissent.

Of course, there’s no accounting for network anchors; and The Scrapbook can hardly begin to explain to Katie Couric that people in the news business, above all, should avoid simple epithets when explaining complex circumstances. But then again, this is Katie Couric we’re talking about​—​and the best part of her year-end review is her solution to the problem of “seething hatred” for Islam: “Maybe we need a Muslim version of The Cosby Show,” she says. “The Cosby Show did so much to change attitudes about African Americans in this country, and I think sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”

Well, when it comes to Islamists who consecrate their lives to killing as many innocent Americans as possible, people are afraid of things they understand all too well. But what can The Scrapbook say to someone who thinks America’s problems are alleviated by sitcoms? Only that a lifetime spent in TV studios seems to affect the brain. 

The Cosby Show (1984-92) was a pleasant depiction of an affluent obstetrician, his lawyer-wife, and their adorable kids in a comfortable Brooklyn brownstone. It is deeply insulting to suggest, as Katie Couric does, that “attitudes about African Americans in this country” were affected in any way by the Cosby sitcom, especially as late as the mid-1980s. It takes a genuinely provincial mind to believe that social attitudes in a country the size and complexity of the United States are influenced, in any demonstrable way, by mildly amusing TV shows intended to sell soap.

Unless, of course, you think that I Love Lucy taught tolerance for -Cuban-American bandleaders, or that -bigotry ended with All in the Family. Surely that would explain how Gomer Pyle, USMC made the Vietnam war wildly popular, and I Dream of Jeannie put a man on the moon. ♦

Calling All Atheists of Color

Beliefnet​​.com—​​a religious website so ecumenical that it serves every community, from the Bahai to pagans to faithful nonbelievers​​—​​recently ran a sobering piece about the appalling lack of diversity in the atheist community.

Most atheists, it turns out, are white men. Says Beliefnet:

From the smallest local meetings to the largest conferences, the vast majority of speakers and attendees are almost always white men. Leading figures of the atheist movement​—​Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett​—​are all white men. 

Alert the EEOC!

Atheists are working to put a more diverse public face on their movement. A new group, Black Atheists of America, drew about 25 attendees at its first national meeting in October. Also last year, the Institute for Humanist Studies was born in Washington, D.C., with a goal of helping atheism become more diverse. 

But diversity remains elusive. As of late December, American Atheist magazine hadn’t been able to find enough black atheist writers to fill a special Black History Month edition for February. In another telling sign, the Council for Secular Humanism tried in vain to present a diverse array of speakers at its four-day October conference in Los Angeles. Most of the 300 attendees were white men, as were 23 of the 26 speakers.

“Considering the changing demographics of our country, we need to consider why our message is not resonating with Latinos, why it’s not resonating with people of color, and why it’s not resonating with women in the way that it could be,” said Debbie Goddard, director of African-Americans for Humanism.

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