In his latest post on Newslaundry.com, Arunabh Saikia decided to bash a post of OpIndia.com, largely consisting of curated tweets and protect some evangelistic preachers from the Western world, leeching on the misery in Nepal. We had earlier collated a few tweets of such Evangelistic folks in this post, which went viral all over the world, and which also managed to get Saikia’s attention. Although I usually talk about serious, influential Media, not the kind of sites which just happen to be running by coincidence, I must break this covenant to respond to some utterly hilarious allegations on OpIndia.com.
Firstly, Saikia’s piece is titled “RIGHT WING ON TWITTER HITS A NEW LOW WITH #SOULVULTURES”. For the uninitiated, #SoulVultures was a hash-tag which trended on Twitter by people across the spectrum who were outraged when they saw Christian evangelists trying to link Christianity and the disaster in Nepal. If at all anyone hit a “New Low” it was the Evangelical folks, not the people who exposed them. But that is logic, and we cant have logic and Saikia in the same sentence.
Saikia explains this hash tag as “…in response to Christian missionaries reportedly (on social media) carrying out a mass proselytisation drive in the wake of the disaster “. Yes, “reportedly” on social media, because Saikia couldn’t see all the tweets for himself.
Further, Saikia says “there are no ground reports or first-hand accounts to suggest that something like that (proselytisation) is indeed taking place. Possible, but we are getting there. Even as we speak, “Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization” with the Trademark of “HELPING IN JESUS’ NAME“ and with over a lakh followers on Twitter, has “teams on the ground bringing relief” to Nepalis. At this point, they very well maybe helping with relief material, but they are self-declared evangelists, who have already reached the spot.
Next, Saikia gives a clean chit to all these “Soul Vulture” tweeters, by calling them “bunch of loons in some godforsaken town in Midwest America“. This sounded eerily similar to clean chits issued by Extreme Right Wingers to motor-mouth Hindu extremists calling them the “loony fringe from UP, Bihar” (read all your Sadhvis etc), but it is well within Saikia’s rights to be blindly hypocritical. Saikia later again defends these soul vultures by spouting these comical lines:
The Twitter users that OpIndia quotes in its story hardly have any significant following – and come across more as fringe elements desperate for any kind of attention than part of any organised proselytisation group.
Firstly Mr Saikia, “twitter followers” is not the equivalent of having influence in real life. Many of these twitter accounts may have low follower counts, but they are Pastors, Accounts of Missions, and self declared Missionaries. Secondly, they very much are part of proselytisation groups, if only you had bothered to actually check some of the accounts:
1. Bevin Centre: “The Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization exists to connect The Souther Baptish Theological Seminary (SBTS) (which has a separate Evangelical Department) to the global mission field in faithful obedience to the Great Commission.
3. Reverend Rob Armstrong: pastor at New Union Baptist, the site which, states that they “labor to advance the gospel throughout the nations” and their mission as “To see our neighbors and the nations glorify God in Christ”
5. Sandra Johnson: who describes herself as a “Mission Service Corps Missionary”
6. Tony Miano: “An outspoken conservative, self-styled preacher, who has previously been accused of homophobia” who suggested Nepali’s should convert. He was covered by UK based media house “The Independent”
These are some of the Twitter Accounts featured in our earlier post. And these are the tweeters, a young journalist like Arunabh Saikia is defending vehemently. For what? We do not know. Most of them have low follower counts, and that, for our lazy journalist friend, that is coclusive proof of having ” hardly have any significant following”. I would be laughing Mr Saikia, but the sorry state of affairs at Newslaundry is rather sad.
Also, on a lighter note, the assertion that these Pastors , Missions and Missionaries are “bunch of loons” from “Midwest America” is quite incorrect. First of all, I strongly urge “Midwest Americans” to oppose this lazy regional stereotyping by Saikia. Especially because this is purely baseless slander, which is reflected in the following map, showing locations of the tweeters.
Next, Saikia uses a straw-man tactic, of creating a false argument to show he won. He mentions “Columnist Sandeep Balakrishna” in the very next paragraph after talking about our site. And with malicious intent, doesn’t at any stage clarify that Sandeep is not in any way related to our site. He has his own site, which again has no connections with us. But facts don’t matter for Saikia, who then uses one of Sandeep’s tweet to say: LOOK ALL OF RIGHT WING IS STUPID . Fact is, Sandeep has already been called out for his “superstitious” tweet. While some Sandeep sympathisers would say he is just a single “loon” from “South India”, so lets ignore him, Saikia reserves such courtesies only to Evangelical Missionaries of USA, for reasons best known to him
Next he calls out journalist Rupa Subramanya for “passively defending” Sandeep, WHILE SAIKIA, IN HIS POST HAS ALL THE TIME BEEN PASSIVELY DEFENDING PASTORS, MISSIONARIES AND OTHER SUCH EVANGELICAL FOLKS WHO ARE READY TO LEECH ON THE MISERY OF NEPALIS. Well played Mr Saikia, Well played.
Saikia ends with the most absurdly hilarious nonsensical statement saying the Indian Right Wing is “Milking a tragedy for personal gains”, which ironical applies exactly to Saikia’s “loony” friends, rather than right wingers who just decided to expose them.
Coming to more important things than some journalist on some site, Why is Nepal such an important place for Missionaries? Simple: Nepal was the only constitutionally declared Hindu nation till 2008 odd. It is among the three countries, where Hindu’s are in majority and consequently, Christians are just 1.4 % of the population. This makes it a great target for evangelical groups, to help in “disciple-making” and “church-planting”
A parting note on Newslaundry.com: While it has objective intellectuals like A Rangarajan (although in limited capacity as Consulting Editor), the site has a whole has failed to live up to its name. A site which was started to actually track lazy journalism and hang it on a clothesline, has now fallen low enough to indulge in exactly the same kind of journalism, as we have shown above. It’s hate for a site like OpIndia.com is understandable, because our constant focus on shoddy journalism, was exactly what Newslaundry attempted, but failed. We get plaudits from editors of the very sites we trash when they post idiotic pieces:
— R Jagannathan (@TheJaggi) April 29, 2015
We are also way more popular than a full-time site like Newslaundry.com, in a much shorter span of time, with our limited stories, and without asking a single rupee from anybody “to keep news free”.Try harder next time, Saikia and Newslaundry. I used to like your site many moons ago…