Archive for Kayak

Faux Progressive and Self-Hating Loon Asra Nomani Sides with Lowe’s, How Predictable

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

Not all anti-Muslim loons are non-Muslims.  Indeed, there are a handful of loons that are in fact self-hating Muslims.  Case in point: Asra Nomani.

(I’ve written about her before, so I’ll skip introducing her.)

Nomani dons the mantle of a “moderate, progressive, and liberal” Muslim, yet she consistently takes the side of right-wing, uber-conservative loons against Muslims.  It is faux progressives like her who have tarnished the image of progressivism in much of the Muslim world.

Over the years, Asra Nomani has sided with extreme right-wingers and Islamophobes against Muslims time and time again.  At first, her absurd views had a lot of shock value.  Now, they’re just plain predictable.  So, it’s no surprise that Ms. Nomani has taken the side of Lowe’s, which pulled its advertisements from TLC’s All-American Muslim after Islamophobes sent them letters of protest.  The Islamophobes complained that the show only showed regular Muslims instead of Terrorist Muslims (since of course all Muslims are Terrorists).

Asra Nomani’s article, like her other work, is intellectually bereft.  The blurb to her article says:

Another advertiser pulled out of TLC’s All-American Muslim—but it’s not because the company is ‘Islamophobic.’ It’s simply a terrible program, writes Asra Q. Nomani.

The only problem with this, the entire premise of her article, is that neither Lowe’s or Kayak pulled out because the show is “a terrible program.”

Nomani writes (emphasis is mine):

Lowe’s, the national chain, did the right thing in pulling its advertising from the series. The company said it killed advertising from the show because it had become too controversial, but there is another legitimate reason the company could have given for yanking its advertising: it’s bad TV.

It “could have given” this “legitimate reason” to yank its advertisement, but it didn’t.  It pulled the advertisement because Islamophobes emailed them to do so.  Even their cover-excuse wasn’t that the show was “bad TV” but that “it had become too controversial” as Nomani’s own words attest to.

How did Lowe’s do “the right thing” if they pulled the show for the wrong reason, i.e. cowing to anti-Muslim bigotry?  To understand this point, imagine for instance if Lowe’s pulled its ads from CNN’s Black in America not because it was “bad TV” but because a bunch of white racists emailed them complaining that the show portrayed blacks too sympathetically?  That it only showed regular black people instead of murderers and rapists?  If Lowe’s succumbed to this bigotry by yanking its ads from Black in America, would Asra Nomani applaud this action (regardless of the show’s quality)?

The quality of All-American Muslim is irrelevant, because the reason advertisers pulled out had nothing to do with that, but everything to do with the fact that Islamophobes lost their minds that a show would show normal Muslims on television.

Asra Nomani’s whole argument is based on three words she slipped into her writing: “could have given.”  Except it didn’t.

True, Nomani was more likely referring to Kayak’s lame excuse for pulling its advertisement (see my earlier article about Kayak’s “apology”); she writes:

Now, Kayak, an Internet travel company, announced that it too is pulling its advertising. Robert Birge, chief marketing officer at Kayak, put it as plain as it gets: “…I watched the first two episodes,” he wrote in a letter to customers, titled “We Handled This Poorly.” “Mostly, I just thought the show sucked.”

But here again, Asra Nomani misleads the reader.  Robert Birge, the Kayak executive, does mention that he thought the show sucks, but the bulk of his explanation is about how the show became a “lightning rod” and how TLC supposedly didn’t inform Kayak about this.  Birge wrote:

When we decided to give our money to TLC for this program, we deemed the show a worthy topic. When we received angry emails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly.

The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it’s a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn’t let us know their intentions. That’s not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy.

So, after the show received “angry emails” from Islamophobes, they then looked into the show and pulled it because TLC supposedly hadn’t informed them that the show would be controversial.  In other words, their explanation is very similar to that given by Lowe’s.

In the concluding sentence of the “apology”, Birge writes:

Based on our dealings with TLC and the simple assessment of the show, I decided we should put our money elsewhere.

Even if we say the decision was partially due to the “controversy” issue and party due to the show “sucking”, does Asra Nomani not see the problem that the show was pulled only after Kayak received “angry emails” from Islamophobes?  Again, how would we feel about Kayak if it pulled its ads from Black in America after receiving “hate mail” from Neo-Nazi groups?  Any lame excuses such as the show was “too controversial” or that “it sucked” would not be taken seriously.

Asra Nomani goes on:

To me, the issue of Islam-bashing has become a straw man in this debate. This isn’t a referendum on whether a person hates on Islam or not. It’s about TV—and what makes for good TV and what doesn’t. For example, I made it through only two episodes of TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, because how many times can we watch Princess Penelope throw a temper tantrum? If Lowe’s or Kayak didn’t advertise there, would we argue that they were trashing prissy little girls and their mom? No, we’d say that they don’t want to spend their ad dollars on bad TV.

TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras does receive advertisements, even if you and I agree “it sucks.”  Has Nomani never flipped through channels on television and watched a reality show?  The vast majority of them suck, but even still they are able to garner advertisements.  Also, since when did companies restrict advertisements to shows they themselves personally watch?

The problem is that All-American Muslim is being singled out and unable to hold some advertisers because the show is about Muslims.  Had these companies pulled out from the show on their own volition due to ratings–and not immediately after Islamophobes demanded them to–nobody would be crying foul.  So, in reality, it is Asra Nomani who is raising a straw man argument: again, if it had really been about the show sucking and its ratings tanking, then nary a Muslim or liberal would protest.

Asra Nomani’s article blares:

To me, the issue of Islam-bashing has become a straw man in this debate. It’s about TV.

This assessment reflects how vacuous Asra Nomani truly is (I see absolutely nothing intellectually stimulating ever coming from this woman): it’s not about T.V. at all–it is all about Islam-bashing.  The show was pulled because Islamophobes protested it and not because the show “sucks.”  This is exactly the reason why in my earlier article about Kayak’s “apology” and this one, I have not even tried to defend the show’s quality, because that subjective opinion is simply irrelevant.  But if you want to go down that path, I can safely say that there exists no dearth of sucky programs on the boob tube, all of which seem to attract and hold advertisers just fine.

*  *  *  *  *

In my previous article about Asra Nomani, written almost exactly one year ago, I mentioned how she always feels compelled to inject herself into all of her articles:

Notice how she prefaces her statement with “I am Muslim.” Well then, you must automatically be a spokesperson for Muslims everywhere, and whatever you say about Islam and Muslims must be true. You are, after all, a real life Muslim! In fact, Asra Nomani can hardly ever write an article or argue a point without injecting herself into it, such is her self-absorbed nature.

Lo and behold, the very first words of her article about All-American Muslim:

As a real-life American Muslim…

And elsewhere:

As an American Muslim consumer…

And still elsewhere:

…I’m Muslim…

We get it!  You are a real life, living, breathing Muslim!  Well then, you must be an expert on everything about Islam and Muslims.

Asra Nomani keeps mentioning that she’s a real life Muslim because the only reason she has obtained some level of fame is because (1) she voices right-wing views against Muslims and Islam, and (2) she is a Muslim herself.  If she were simply a right-winger, she’d just be another run-of-the-mill Islamophobe trolling the internet.  On the other hand, if she were just Muslim, well then so what?  But it’s the combination of #1 and #2 that sustains her notoriety, because certain right-wing elements like to promote a self-hating Muslim who says all the things they themselves say: if even a Muslim says it about Islam and Muslims, then it must be true!

Meanwhile, Nomani remains very hungry and desperate for attention, which is why she added this absolutely unnecessary bit to her article:

As an American Muslim consumer, I can say that I’ll likely buy the lumber for my son’s treehouse at Lowe’s, and I’ll switch from Expedia to Kayak. I like the company’s common sense

Asra Nomani is like the black kid who hung a Confederate flag in his dorm room; he wouldn’t have garnered national attention had he been a white kid.  And likewise, Nomani’s writing would whither into oblivion if she didn’t constantly invoke her “I’m a Muslim” card.  That’s because aside from this fact, there is nothing at all interesting to learn from Asra Nomani’s uninspired writing.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

All-American Muslim: Kayak Executive Robert Birge Issues World’s Worst “Apology” Ever

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Lowes has been at the center of the All-American Muslim controversy for having caved to anti-Muslim bigotry and pulling its advertisements from the show.  But there is another company that is also just as guilty: Kayak.

So far, Kayak has been flying under the radar, with Lowes absorbing much of the heat.  That may change after Kayak’s Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge issued what can only be called the world’s worst “apology” ever.  It was not only dishonest and rude, but it was also simply a “non-apology,” shifting most of the blame to TLC and the show itself!

The “apology” begins with this gem:

Our team includes people who are descended from early Europeans who came here escaping religious intolerance, and newer Americans who include many religions. We get what America is about.

So basically, his team consists mostly of white people.  Oh, it also has some non-white people, who Robert Birge considers “newer Americans.”  Does his “150-person team” not have a single black, American Indian, or Hispanic person?  Apparently, Mr. Birge does not realize that black people are as old as this country (they were brought here in chains and the country was built on their backs), that American Indians were here long before Birge’s ancestors were, or that Mexicans lived on the land long before Europeans invaded their country.  Does his company not have any Japanese-Americans, who have been in this country for generations?  Even many Arab-Americans in Dearborn itself have been in the U.S. for three generations.  To Robert Birge, I suppose these are all “newer Americans.”

Then, Mr. Birge issues his non-apology:

When we decided to give our money to TLC for this program, we deemed the show a worthy topic. When we received angry emails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly.

The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it’s a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn’t let us know their intentions. That’s not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy.

What exactly didn’t TLC disclose “about the nature of this show”?  A New York Times article counters this lame excuse:

A reporter who received an e-mail from Kayak with Mr. Birge’s blog post was puzzled because there was considerable publicity about “All-American Muslim” before its debut. Articles outlined the contents of the show and its focus on the Muslim-American community of Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb.

Exactly.  Contrary to what Mr. Birge insinuates, there was nothing mysterious about the show or its intent: it was clear to everyone, even the Islamophobic bigots themselves, that it was about showing how American Muslims are regular people just like you and me: they have jobs, mortgages, children, dreams, etc.  What was unclear about this?

Read between the lines and it is clear what Robert Birge is saying: he is arguing, just like the anti-Muslim bigots, that this show about American Muslims had an ulterior motive and a secret agenda.  You know those swarthy and stealthy Muslims always have some secret Islamic agenda and can’t be trusted!

The NYT article goes on (bold is mine):

The reporter e-mailed Kayak to ask why Mr. Birge believed TLC kept information from the company. In an e-mail response, Mr. Birge replied: “When TLC pitched ‘All-American Muslim’ to advertisers, it was characterized as a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim.”

“However,” he continued, “what was not disclosed was the pre-existing controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.”

Dearborn “has been a center of controversy for right or wrong,” he added. “However, that was omitted by TLC when it pitched the show.”

Here, the Kayak executive regurgitates the arguments raised by the Islamophobes.  For example, Florida Family Association argued that the show did not depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim” since it didn’t deal with certain issues, such as how Muslims (supposedly) want to impose Sharia on non-Muslims.  Mr. Birge says almost the exact same thing, arguing that the show fails to depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim” because “what was not discussed was the pre-existing controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.”  He stops just short of saying that the Muslims of Dearborn are subjecting the Christians of the city to Islamic values.  (Only Christians are allowed to impose their views on others in this country.)

Instead of denouncing the FFA, Robert Birge focuses his wrath on FFA’s target, TLC and the show.

Can you imagine if Kayak had pulled ads for a black reality show because of a controversy (created by Neo-Nazis) that it failed to depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of” black people–you know, all those “pre-existing controvers[ie]s surrounding” crime, drugs, and violence.

Just imagine if Kayak had treated Jewish-Americans this way.  What kind of apology do you think Kayak would be issuing then?

Furthermore, as the NYT article points out:

There seems to be nothing from TLC in the way of news releases or other material from the channel that would suggest it wanted to be inflammatory on the issue of Muslims in America or take advantage of the ensuing controversy over the advertising on the show.

Might I ask Mr. Birge: if Kayak had known that anti-Muslim bigots would protest the show for showing American Muslims as normal people, would they simply have not advertised on the show, using “controversy” as an out?  Isn’t that the very definition of “cav[ing] to hatred”?

Robert Birge concludes with this infuriating line:

Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked.

Mr. Birge, you are the Chief Marketing Officer of a major company and this is how you issue a formal apology when your company royally screws up?  Is this what you consider professional behavior?  Your company’s choices, which we see as the endorsement of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry, have seriously offended and hurt American Muslims and Arab-Americans.  And this is how you end your “apology”?  If I were in charge of you, sir, I would fire you, because you lack common sense.

Do you think it is wise for you to end your non-apology with your personal opinion that the show–the first reality show about American Muslims (the same group your company sided against along with anti-Muslim bigots)–sucks?  The truth is that you are only so flippant about this matter because the demographic you have insulted is currently the lowest on the social totem pole.  I doubt you’d be so callous about this topic if you had been accused of siding with anti-black racists or Anti-Semites.  You’d be grovelling to keep your job in that case.

More importantly, since when has your company pursued a policy of only advertising on shows that you, Robert Birge, specifically enjoy?

Kayak will hide behind the claim that they pulled their ads because of the “controversy” surrounding All-American Muslim, even though this “controversy” was all manufactured by anti-Muslim bigots.  There is absolutely no evidence that TLC or the show seeks to be controversial.  In fact, they depict the very mundane lives of regular American Muslims to show that they are not all that different from you and I.

The only “controversy” is that created by anti-Muslim bigots.  So by citing this as their reason to pull out, Kayak has sided with them.

As for me, I’m not going to give one cent to Kayak ever in the future and I encourage you all to do the same.  Not until they issue a real apology.  If they wanted to show sincere contrition (instead of an insincere non-apology), Kayak would back it up with action and renew their ad contract with the show.

Admit this much, Mr. Birge: if this controversy had been about a show called Black America or All-American Jews, can you honestly say that you wouldn’t be falling all over yourselves renewing your ad contract with the show?  But because it’s Muslims–the most discriminated segment of society right now–you could care less.

I doubt Kayak will do the right thing, but I can guarantee you this much: in one generation or two, American students will study about this time–just as today’s students study bigotry towards Japanese-Americans during World War II or racism against blacks in the 1950′s–and look back at amazement and utter disgust at those who sided with the forces of hatred.

Shame on you, Robert Birge.  And shame on you, Kayak.

Note to readers: I would recommend sending a strong but courteous email of disapproval to Kayak, which can be done here.  If anyone can find Robert Birge’s email address, please post it and I will update the article with that information.  Also, make sure to hyperlink to this article in your email.  I would also appreciate your help in spreading this article by linking it on your Facebook walls, so that we can let it be known to the world: Kayak, you suck.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.