Vinay Menon is the senior writer and commentator for The Indian Express.
It was a satisfying and cathartic moment to observe male journalists, on a daily basis, perform more objectively and using straight-talking if unflinching language about the desecration of Christmas trees at malls and other public spaces in India. In India, as elsewhere, Christmas season is the start of the country’s monsoon of hate and discord, a time when Indians root for each other in sports, but fear what lies beyond, when the cricket is over. But nowhere are the signals of the shared project more visible than on Christmas trees, a ritual of pitchforks and bayonets, which carry a dual meaning: a kind of strange, slightly un-Hinduized version of the Jesus Christ theme song, and as a spectacle which creates perverse joy for people of different religious backgrounds.
So, it was a genuinely surreal moment for me when I realized how low Fox News is on the totem pole of powerful and moneyed media houses in India when a few of the anchors and hosts of its flagship show, “Hannity,” suddenly began acting as if calling the stabbing of a young Muslim in cold blood a “hate crime” was the clearest message in defense of what appears to be an organized campaign to desecrate the Christmas trees in India.
Smollett meant that he was not citing facts and that he was not presenting a coherent case, simply a knee-jerk reaction at his American media colleagues who are not only hypersensitive, but conveniently ignorant. Right now, Fox News is the Jussie Smollett of cable, simply using hate to and for its own purposes to bolster its end, to score big ratings or build its brand, whatever it takes to lure in the millions of us who continue to be hooked on it, transfixed by its badinage and paranoia. There will be more such reactions, desperate attempts to claim more territory to grab. And what was actually most uplifting about the reactions to Smollett’s “bloody Christmas” instead was that they highlighted the illiberal or xenophobic side of the holiday season, which is widely understood as a celebration of peace and bonhomie, whereas Fox News makes fun of the events, dances around death threats, while our partners down South go about the business of crime.