I am always looking for how to put the power of media technologies to work to make the world a better place. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to use so much energy hating some other person, group or country? If our lives are essentially the expenditure of energy over time, think about how much energy that would leave left over for stuff we wanted to do!
The following is a great example. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a civil rights watch group. CAIR has thanked Matt Groenig of Fox’s “The Simpsons” for an episode that challenges negative stereotypes. Shows like this can do a great service because they start to normalize more accepting beliefs. Often efforts to do the right thing are so grim and heavy-handed that they end up preaching to the choir, as the expression goes. If you directly assault someone’s beliefs, it is more likely to close their ears than open their eyes. I like to think of effective education as, to quote novelist Nancy Mitford, as the thin edge of the wedge: prying open enough of a gap in a person’s cognitive map to let some new perspectives in. Well done Simpsons and well done Fox for supporting this kind of programming.
CAIR Thanks Fox for ‘Simpsons’ Episode Challenging Islamophobia (LOS ANGELES, CA, 12/3/08) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to thank the Fox television network and the creator of “The Simpsons” for a recent episode that used comedy to challenge Islamophobia. The episode, which aired Sunday evening and is titled “Mypods and Boomsticks,” highlights anti-Muslim sentiment by featuring a young Muslim character named Bashir and his family who face prejudice after moving to Springfield. In the program, Homer Simpson wrongly suspects that Bashir’s family is involved in a terror plot. Bart Simpson befriends Bashir and defends him from bullies. To view the entire episode, click here . CAIR’s Greater Los Angeles Area office (CAIR-LA) sent a letter to the show’s creator Matt Groening thanking him for challenging anti-Muslim prejudice. (CAIR letter to Matt Groenig in PDF) The letter said Sunday’s episode “brought to light how Americans can work toward mutual respect and inclusion by getting to know their neighbors.” It went on to state: “The episode also builds on the values that have made America the great nation it is a nation in which citizenship is about finding common ground and building a better society. American Muslims have been doing just that by making daily contributions to our society that often go unrecognized.” “Because of its acceptance in popular culture, comedy is often one of the best vehicles for challenging stereotypes and intolerance,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Fox and Matt Groening are to be congratulated for tackling the disturbing phenomenon of Islamophobia.”