The Medium is the Message

In my previous blog post, I promised that I would be making a major announcement about my friend, novelist Ashwin Sanghi’s first novel The Rozabal Line, and my reconnection with him after several decades.

So here goes:

For the last several months, I have been developing a feature-length screenplay based on the novel. I have collaborated with the novelist, Ashwin, on this project, in an attempt to capture his authorial vision as authentically as possible in the cinematic medium and language of screenwriting. If you happen to have followed the news in India, you might even have read a news article in the Indian newspapers in which Ashwin made press statement to this effect.

If you have read The Rozabal Line, you would have noticed that, in spite of being a pretty brief novel, it is extremely dense and complex–packing more ideas into its two hundred or so pages than most novels do in twice as many. As such, adapting the novel into a screenplay, with its interweaving plot-lines and its non-sequential structure, was particularly challenging. However, I am proud to say that I think we have succeeded in developing a really engaging and enjoyable fast-paced thriller screenplay that is currently undergoing its final edits and should be complete very soon.

If you are familiar with this novel and the content of the story, it would be pretty apparent to you that it is very controversial in its subject matter. It is the sort of story that challenges all your assumptions and dares to take you to places you might never have imagined before. Truly, the story is about challenging and engaging you at every level, daring you to question your belief system and ask yourself some pretty tough questions, such as, “Why do I believe what I do? Am I accurate in my beliefs and assumptions?” and so forth.

This story is not and never has been about undermining anyone’s faith or beliefs. However, I realize that when one asks difficult questions or addresses sensitive issues, such as religion, one will inevitably provoke a hostile response from some quarters. In an attempt to anticipate and preempt any such misinformed or ill-informed assessment of this screenplay, I am going to attempt to clarify some points here and, hopefully, prevent the kind of uproar generated by novels like The DaVinci Code, which, in fact, treads on similar territory as The Rozabal Line, though the two novels are completely different in most other respects, such as theme, style and structure.

Firstly, this is a work of speculative fiction. Spelling out what that means–it is a story, a narrative, meant to entertain you, the audience, while, hopefully, broadening your horizons at the same time. So in no way should this story be regarded as factual or journalistic, though it contains many factual and historical elements embedded within its narrative thread. Basically, it is intended to be a fun exercise in which one speculates on certain possibilities and, in doing so, one comes to a deeper understanding of the way things are by asking oneself some tough questions through the process of suspension of disbelief.

Secondly, this story is not intended to preach any kind of doctrine to you or dogma at you. I fully understand that there are people out there who don’t get what this means and who perceive any sort of narrative as some sort of religious tract or testament of faith. That’s not what this is! Rather, it is designed to challenge and encourage you to think critically! “The medium is the message,” to quote Marshall McLuhan. There is no explicit message here other than the challenge to ask difficult questions! If you pay close attention, you will notice that the story undermines itself at every level. This is by design–it is about challenging you, the audience, to play the detective and dig up the clues to what’s really going on here!

Finally, as I suggested earlier, this story should not be regarded as a statement of our personal belief systems. The words and ideas expressed by any of the characters in the story cannot and should not be ascribed to the novelist and/or screenwriter themselves! Personally, I consider myself to be a moderate Christian (who believes in the tolerance of all religions, philosophies and belief systems–even ones I may disagree with or object to–as long as they don’t violate the law or human rights). And as for Ashwin Sanghi, I believe he is a practising Hindu, who shares many of my own points of view on matters of tolerance and human rights.

One of the central themes in this story is the distortion of words and ideas, and how a nuanced, accurate view of history and current events is essential to promoting peace and understanding across the world. I can only hope that the same principles apply to my words and those of Ashwin Sanghi! The reality is that we live in an age of mass media, and in this echo chamber, distortion and oversimplification are inescapable! I can only hope that when people realize the true consequences of distortions and inaccuracies, they will make a greater attempt to discover the truth!

That said, I hope to get this movie made in Hollywood, once the screenplay is completed. Stay tuned for further announcements!

Meanwhile, please feel free to check out Horizon Cybermedia’s website, http://www.explorationtheseries.com, for our ongoing video series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. A new episode is currently in the editing room and should be online pretty soon.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

300 Years

300 years is a long time.

300 years ago, America was still a British colony. There was no Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution. 300 years ago, France was still ruled by an oppressive monarchy and aristocracy. 300 years ago, the steam engine was considered to be cutting-edge technology. 300 years ago, the British Empire was expanding world-wide and Europe was just entering the Age of Enlightenment.

And yet, the earliest complete extant version of the Christian New Testament dates from about 300 years after the crucifixion of Christ. The Codex Sinaiticus was probably commissioned by and produced at the behest of the Roman emperor Constantine, after the First Council of Nicaea was convened to establish Christianity as the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

This leads one to wonder—how much does the familiar figure of Jesus Christ from the modern editions of the Bible actually resemble the historical figure of Yeshua, the Nazarene (or Essene)—the Hebrew prophet who preached in Jerusalem in 30 AD and was brutally executed by Roman occupying forces for heresy at the behest of the orthodox temple priests of Jerusalem? The prophet who subsequently came to be known as “Kristos” (or “Christ”)—Greek for “anointed one”—when he came to be widely renowned as the “Son of God?”

How much of Christianity, as we know of it today, is an accurate reflection and representation of the life and teachings of Yeshua? How much of it is a distortion, possibly inspired by political propaganda, cultural shifts, errors in translation (from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek to Latin, the Romance languages and, finally, to English)? Not to mention centuries of religious pogroms and inquisitions and the banning and destruction of who knows how many texts!

The simple fact is that we don’t really know. For centuries, Christianity has based its knowledge of the life and deeds of Jesus, the primary architect of the Christian faith, on the authority and credibility of the New Testament. But how credible is the New Testament when we really take a long, hard look at it? The version that survives today dates from the time that Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman empire. When we think of Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of the separation of church and state, one has to wonder about the very origins of modern Christianity, arising out of the politicization of a persecuted religion. The irony is that Constantine, the Roman emperor who established Christianity as the Roman state religion, was, in many ways, no less ruthless and psychotic than his predecessors, such as Caligula and Nero, who were notorious for persecuting, scapegoating and murdering Christians whenever it was politically expedient for them.

When you think about the fact that Christianity is, in its origins, the most apolitical of religions—as epitomized by the Biblical story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness—the devil offering Jesus all the world’s kingdoms as a reward for Satan-worship—one has to wonder to what degree Christianity itself was distorted and corrupted by the very political forces that made it such a powerful world religion. By becoming a “world religion” or “state religion,” did Christianity, in effect, become worldly and corrupt, thereby undermining its own message of rejecting worldly corruption in favor of the spiritual “kingdom of God,” at the very moment it began to take shape as the modern religion we know of today?

In essence, would it be too radical to suggest that “Jesus Christ”—a Biblical personality with a Latin name—is, in fact, a pagan idol and that Christianity, as we know of it today, is a false religion? If the modern “Jesus Christ” is a corrupt, distorted representation of “Yeshua, the Nazarene,” the Hebrew prophet who preached in Jerusalem in the first century C.E., then perhaps millions of ardent Christian believers worldwide are inadvertently worshipping a false, pagan idol!

These are some of the ideas entertained by Ashwin Sanghi’s ingenious and fascinating novel, The Rozabal Line. The novel examines the intricacies of religion and human motivation, against the unfolding tapestry of history, all told in the vein of a nail-biting modern thriller.

Stay tuned to this blog for an upcoming announcement concerning my association with this novel and my reconnection, after several years (decades, even), with the book’s author.

Until then, check out Horizon Cybermedia’s website at http://www.explorationtheseries.com for the engaging travel video series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. The current video in the series visits Big Bear Lake, CA. The upcoming video in the series visits the Buddhist sculptures of the Kanheri cave temples at the Borivli National Park near Mumbai, India.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

– Posted using WordPress from my iPad

Was Jesus Christ a Buddhist?

Most of us assume that Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of the Christian faith, was an orthodox Jew and that Christianity as a distinct religion was really founded by his followers, the Apostles. But is that really the truth? Could it be that Jesus was, in fact, a member of an obscure Jewish sect known as the Essenes or the Nazarenes—that he was, in fact, “Jesus the Nazarene” rather than “Jesus of Nazareth?” And could it be that his membership in this sect, which apparently had its foundations in Buddhist philosophy, and its origins in the doctrines of Buddhist missionaries from the court of the Buddhist Indian emperor Asoka, was the source of his conflict with the orthodox priesthood in Jerusalem? A tension between orthodox Jews and the Essene sect which contributed directly to Jesus being crucified by the Romans for religious heresy?

These are just some of the possibilities entertained by author and historian Ashwin Sanghi in his gripping and highly entertaining thriller, The Rozabal Line. The novel is an engaging tapestry of startling scope and complexity, brilliantly weaving together themes and ideas, characters and situations, historical events and future speculation into a gripping drama spanning space and time with style and aplomb. The novel centers around Vincent Sinclair, a devout Roman Catholic minister, who is plagued by horrifying visions brought on by traumatic experiences he undergoes in the course of his life. In his attempt to find answers, he takes a sabbatical to visit his aunt, to whom he is very close, and embarks on a world-spanning journey that takes him from London, England to Mumbai, India; from the sparkling beaches and resorts of Goa on the western coast of India to the picturesque Himalayan state of Kashmir in northern India. Through hypnotherapy and “past-life regression,” he “travels” to the past, where he witnesses such events as the crucifixion of Christ, the carnage of the French Revolution and social upheaval in medieval India and, by projecting his consciousness into the future, a vision of Armageddon in Tel Megiddo, Israel.

His journey takes him on a quest for a mysterious text supposedly discovered in 1787 by Alphonso de Castro, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, during the Portuguese occupation of Goa beginning in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and continuing to the mid-20th century—an occupation that included a ruthless and bloody inquisition by the Catholic church, leading to the forced conversions, torture and executions of thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Syrian Christians (Christians who had been converted by the Apostle Thomas’ mission to India in the 1st century A.D.). This text is, supposedly, an authoritative text of mysterious origins that is, apparently, so controversial and threatening to the Catholic church that they are prepared to kill indiscriminately to keep it from being discovered. The document, about which I will not reveal any more so as not to ruin the story for readers, apparently resolves the issue of Jesus’ true fate and life history—an issue which is the controversial centerpiece of the novel. The novel suggests that Jesus had visited India during his formative years and actually survived the crucifixion and returned to India, where he spent his remaining days in the region of Kashmir. The novel suggests that the tomb of the Jewish mystic Yuz Asaf in the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, a tomb that dates back to A.D. 112, is, in fact, the tomb of Jesus Christ Himself.

The novel describes a world of intrigue and danger, of numerous intersecting plotlines involving a diverse cast of vividly rendered characters. It describes a world of mind-boggling mystery, with literally dozens of secret societies and fringe religious organizations, each with their fanatical agendas for world domination and Armageddon. The narrative relates how the murderous agendas of such fanatical religious societies as Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic society featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code, intersect with those of the Taliban and Al Quaeda. Not to be outdone by Dan Brown, Sanghi brings the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, the Rhodes Scholars, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Aum Shinrikyo into the mix, as well as inventing some new secret societies such as the Crux Decussata Permuta, an ultra-orthodox Christian organization with Islamist connections, and the Lashkar-e-Talatashar, a hidden wing of the Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, with a secret Apocalyptic agenda involving a nuclear catastrophe of tragic dimensions.

At the core of this dizzying panorama involving dozens of hidden organizations with intersecting political and religious agendas is an alternative version of history purportedly suppressed by the Catholic church through inquisition, intimidation and banned documents concealed from public view in the Vatican secret archives. According to this version of historical events, Jesus, in fact, had a deep spiritual and cultural connection with India, survived the crucifixion and raised a family with Mary Magdalene, his descendants surviving to the present day (as also suggested by Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code). According to The Rozabal Line, not only was Jesus educated in India in the Essene and Buddhist traditions, he also retired to India with his family and settled down in Kashmir for the remainder of his days under the pseudonym of “Yuz Asaf.” In fact, he is venerated to this day as an Islamic saint by the Islamic population of parts of Kashmir, while Hindu texts, such as the Bhavishya Mahapurana authored by the poet Sutta in A.D. 115, supposedly describes an encounter between Jesus and the Hindu ruler Shalivahana in the mountains of the Himalayas decades after Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem.

These ideas might seem controversial to the conservative Christian mindset, but regardless of one’s opinion about them, one has to wonder what controversial, potentially mind-boggling documents and artifacts must be concealed from public view in that vast, hidden repository of historical relics known as the Vatican secret archives. Who knows what potentially earth-shaking discoveries lie waiting in there, permanently inaccessible to the unsuspecting public. After all, one must keep in mind that the version of Christianity that survives to this day is, in fact, a heavily edited version that dates to the First Council of Nicaea, convened in A.D. 325 in the city of Nice, France, by the Roman emperor Constantine, primarily for political reasons—as the precursor to the adoption of Roman Catholicism as the state religion of the Roman Empire. Who knows what documents and doctrines were, since that time, dismissed as heresies by the Roman Catholic church over centuries of religious inquisitions. Who knows what value they might have and what Christianity might originally have been like as a nascent religion during the years immediately following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Ashwin Sanghi’s novel dares to suggest that the truth is, in fact, startlingly different from the “official version” of the events handed down to us by the Church as a Christian religious institution and the state religion of the Roman Empire. He suggests that Christianity in its raw, essential form is truer to eastern mysticism than to western orthodoxy or fundamentalism—that the Church as a political and religious institution has suppressed the true form of Christianity and the true identity of Jesus over the ages in order to prop up its own religious and political agendas.

The truth is never what you expect. It is, in fact, a cliché to suggest that truth is stranger than fiction. But even so, the truth would have to be pretty remarkable indeed to outdo the standards set by Ashwin Sanghi’s mind-bending, thoroughly entertaining and enormously informative novel, The Rozabal Line.

Horizon Cybermedia continues in its aspirations to produce quality media content for the discerning public. Do visit our website at http://www.explorationtheseries.com for the latest episodes in our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. Stay tuned for the next episode in the series, coming soon, which visits the marvelous rock-cut Buddhist temples of the Kanheri Caves on the outskirts of the city of Mumbai, India. As always, I look forward to the pleasure of your company on these and future explorations through the film series.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Note: The current edition of Ashwin Sanghi’s novel, The Rozabal Line, as pictured on Mr. Sanghi’s wikipedia page is, unfortunately, unavailable in the USA. My critique of the the novel is based on this edition, which Ashwin Sanghi graciously presented to me as a gift. However, readers in the US may still purchase a prior edition of the novel on Amazon.com, published by Mr. Sanghi under the pseudonym “Shawn Haigins,” an anagram of his real name.

Science and Religion

It’s been way too long since I last updated my blog, so I figured it was about time I posted something—even if it’s just filler material, pending the next major project that I’m currently working on for Horizon Cybermedia. A quick update on what’s to come—I recently started editing the next film in my Exploration series, which will visit the outstanding rock-cut Kanheri Buddhist cave temples located in the Borivli National Park near Mumbai, India. At the same time, I plan to post a review of a fascinating novel I have been reading, written by a friend I have known since childhood. The novel is The Rozabal Line by Ashwin Sanghi. It is a remarkable work of speculative fiction that delves into the deepest, hidden recesses of the human psyche and dares to address one of the most controversial, difficult subjects of all—religion! The novel ties in very neatly with my film, as Buddhism plays a crucial role in the story—one that I will address in greater depth when I am ready to publish my review.

As it happens, I have also been reading another very interesting book on the subject of comparative religion, namely God is Not One by Stephen Prothero, in which the author does a comparative analysis of the eight major world religions, emphasizing their differences. He suggests how unlikely and even dangerous it is to assume that it is at all possible to envision a world in which all the world’s major religions could be unified into some sort of harmonious whole or molded into a global world religion. He strikes many interesting chords, and I am inclined to agree with his point of view in many respects. 

However, I think he neglects to address what I believe to be some basic truths—namely, that, in the end, all religions, however diverse they may be, are essentially the product of the human psyche, which is fundamentally similar. So at the core of all religions are some very fundamental, universal truths and these truths, I think, could be a foundation to establish some sort of common ground between religious systems—not so much in an attempt to promote a “global world religion” as to promote understanding, peace and fellowship among human beings of all creeds, backgrounds or ethnic origins. As a Christian myself, I interpret Christ’s message to be this very theme—after all, wasn’t Jesus Christ most critical of doctrinal orthodoxy and dogma to the exclusion of basic humanity and human decency? Would not Christ, if He was with us right now, be sharply critical of so-called religious authoritarians, whatever their credo, who use doctrinal orthodoxy to justify or rationalize a basic lack of decency, humanity and compassion? Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the whole point of the Christian message is to move away from the head and towards the heart—away from petty doctrinal divisiveness and towards basic humanity and compassion.

Interestingly, another project I am currently working on, quite independent from anything to do with Horizon Cybermedia, is a novel based on a screenplay I had written a couple of years ago. This novel is more about science than religion—it tackles the other great subject of our age. It brings to my mind how fundamental this dichotomy between science and religion is—the more so in this 21st century, when science and technology continue to advance at an ever increasing pace. For some reason, nevertheless, religion is proving to be no less relevant even in this era of supposed enlightenment—an enlightenment to be inspired, in part, at least, by scientific and technological advancement. So where will it all lead us? What does the future hold? The end of religion, in a world where scientific knowledge reigns supreme and abolishes the superstitions of the past? Or will religion make a dramatic comeback and have the final say? After all, in a world in which “Scientology” is itself a religion, one cannot—one dare not—underestimate the power of religion over the human psyche! Truly religion is a force to be reckoned with, but even so, does it have a place in a progressive, technologically advanced society, and if so, what is it’s role?

These are some of the questions I hope to address in future blog posts. Consider this one to be a starter—a foretaste or foreshadowing of blog entries to come!

Meanwhile, I welcome your feedback. If you happen to be reading this blog entry or following this blog, I welcome you to reflect on these weighty issues and post a comment or two with your insights. Religion is a sensitive subject and is liable to provoke a passionate response from some quarters, so I urge you to measure your words carefully before posting them. Of course, I will be moderating all comments to ensure that nothing offensive or inflammatory gets posted on my blog so that the spirit of congenial dialog is in no way compromised!

I look forward to hearing from you! Meanwhile, do keep on the lookout for the next film in the Exploration series, coming soon, and, of course, my review of Ashwin Sanghi’s brilliant novel, The Rozabal Line and even, possibly, of Stephen Prothero’s book God is Not One. Meanwhile, do continue to visit http://www.explorationtheseries.com and check out the current and archived videos in the film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, which takes you to fascinating sites around the world right from your armchair by the fire at home!

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Radical Islam Threatened by Hollywood

Not long ago, I ran across an article on the web—an Associated Press release—that included the following passage (quoted verbatim):

Elsewhere in the northwest, a car bomb exploded close to a movie theater in the city of Peshawar [in Pakistan], killing at least six people and wounding 80 others, witnesses and police officer Saleem Khan said. Authorities blamed militants that have targeted theaters before in the region, believing them to be un-Islamic.

The article, entitled U.N. seeks $543 million for Pakistan refugees, was originally published at this link. It has since been updated by the Associated Press and no longer includes the passage cited above. The same news story, Bomb at Pakistan movie house kills 6, may also be found at this link, which also contains a similar passage as follows:

Militants have targeted movie theaters in the region in the past, charging that the businesses violate the tenets of Islam. Pakistan’s Dawn News television channel reported that some theaters in the area have recently received threats from the Taliban, and that a few theater owners have shut down.

I find these passages to be particularly eye-opening as they clarify and put into sharp relief what radical Islam and, for that matter, any sort of religious extremism, represents to the world of culture and the arts—which naturally includes cinema. Religious extremists are invariably threatened by the arts because the arts represent freedom of expression and a representation of the truth. Religious extremists, like the Taliban and other repressive theocracies of the world, which base their very existence on propaganda and authoritarian dogma, invariably find themselves at odds with artists and artistes of all kinds.

Islamic radicalism has always been about repression—the suppression of individual freedoms and the violation of human rights. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the same fanatical theocracies that have no qualms about resorting to outright brutality to protect and further their social, political and religious agendas—a fact that the world is witnessing only too clearly with recent events in Iran—would feel threatened by culture, the arts and, most recently, by Western cinema, as evidenced by the recent bombings of movie theaters in Pakistan orchestrated by the Taliban.

From the earliest of times, Islamic culture has been characterized by a particularly intense hostility towards imagery or rendering. Some of this fanaticism may be justified by Islamic apologists as an attempt to assert the peculiar brand of monotheism that Muslims adhere to. And, of course, there is no denying the cultural achievements of the past, in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad, Iraq. However, it cannot be denied that the radical Islamic movement of recent times, as epitomized by the likes of the Taliban and Al Quaeda, have displayed a pretty ruthless hostility towards all forms of artistic representation. And this destructiveness has been felt only too keenly in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut and Baghdad, which are now wastelands thanks to decades of sectarian violence and brutality.

In March 2001, in fact, the Taliban ordered the destruction of two gigantic, ancient statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan—an act of ruthless vandalism against art and culture—against historical artifacts of immense archaeological importance and cultural value—an act that many believe was an ominous precursor to the destruction, only six months following, of another pair of monoliths of immense socio-cultural importance, namely the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the great Western cultural center of New York City. Arguably, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 is an undeniable expression of a deep-seated hostility for Western art, culture and, in this case, architecture, on the part of radical Islamic factions.

After all, if Islamic radicals like the Taliban, Al Quaeda and the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran have no problem with murdering thousands of innocent civilians (by sponsoring terrorism) or engaging in brutal misogynistic practices or controlling their populations with an iron fist through religious dogma, can it be at all surprising that they would find Western cinema threatening? One has to wonder: how many Hollywood movie stars would feel the least bit comfortable having any dealings with the likes of the Taliban or Al-Quaeda or the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? And, furthermore, how agreeable would Hollywood or Las Vegas, with their culture of over-the-top extravagance, be to the average Islamic radical?

I have no doubt that when the likes of Osama bin Laden condemn Western and, in particular, American culture as inimical to the tenets of radical Islam, what they have in mind are such cultural centers as Hollywood and Las Vegas—cities whose culture has always been about extravagance and excess of every kind. For a religion that enforces draconian dietary regulations and forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, Hollywood would have to be a profound anathema!

No wonder that the Taliban and other Islamic radicals feel compelled to bomb movie theaters in Peshawar, Pakistan!

Horizon Cybermedia, on the other hand, is about preserving art and culture in the face of brutal religious extremism. We are about championing the cause of freedom, especially in the venue of artistic self-expression. For us, the worst possible of all scenarios would be to be subjected to an Islamic theocracy that denies us our basic freedoms and human rights—freedoms such as those that enable us to produce art, culture and cinema!

Check us out at our website http://www.explorationtheseries.com, which features our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, a travelogue documenting our sojourns to remarkable venues the world over.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Misinformation Age

Recently, I was watching a History Channel documentary about the Dark Ages on TV. At first glance, it looked like a bullet-proof, extremely convincing historical account that told a very clearly mapped-out story of the collapse of the western Roman Empire and civilization and the onset of a millennium of chaos and turmoil in western Europe, known as the Dark Ages. Backed up by a series of historical re-enactments to corroborate the claims made by the academics, the case they made seemed to be irrefutable on the surface.

Still, thinking back on it, what strikes me now is how flimsy and full of holes the case really is and how biased, speculative and propagandist this History Channel documentary, as a whole, was. Genuine academic scholarship or a deliberate campaign at misinformation and propaganda? You be the judge as I systematically dismember . . . I mean analyze . . . the documentary and the claims it makes.

For one thing, the documentary presents us with a series of supposed scholars or academics making various claims—presenting us with their interpretation of historical events, their examination of the repercussions of these events, their assessments of key historical personalities, etc. The scholars—who may very easily be pseudo-academics, for all we know—all had such obscure credentials that their claims could not really be taken seriously. Who were these characters—really? What publications could they attach their names to? How legitimate are their claims, as such?

Even if their claims can be corroborated or attached to authentic academic publications with true scholarly merit, what they are not telling you is that their version of reality, as expressed by them in the documentary, is really only one version among several competing versions, each having equal, if not greater, academic merit. All they are doing is presenting their interpretation of the facts as the authoritative truth—backed up by historical re-enactments to create the false impression that the viewer is actually observing history “as it happens” so to speak.

And furthermore, even if the version of history they give you is conclusively established as the only acceptable version, academically speaking, what they are not revealing to you is how much of the story is purely speculative and how much is based on hard evidence. Typically, what they do is take tiny shreds of fragmentary evidence of very dubious authenticity and then construct an elaborate hypothesis out of it. It remains unclear how much of the hypothesis is inferential and how much is pure fabrication based upon invalid assumptions or extrapolations from personal experience or even deliberately contrived to promote a socio-political agenda or justify a private opinion. For example, I saw another documentary in which a scholar made a pretty far-fetched claim—that he had uncovered evidence that centuries pre-dating Christ, another Jewish Messiah had lived, died and been resurrected in Jerusalem, so that Jesus was merely an imitator. However, the evidence he presented to corroborate his claim was so flimsy—a partially eroded rock-cut slab with some of the key text wiped out—that it became pretty evident that he was distorting the evidence to fit his claims.

Furthermore, even if the version of history that these so-called historians present to you is undeniably the only possible inference that could logically be drawn from the available sources, they do not reveal just how authentic or believable the sources are in the first place. Are they fragmentary archaeological remains acquired from the black-market? Or are they long surviving historical accounts where the original text has long since been lost to history and all that survives is a fragmentary copy that has, itself, been copied and recopied by hand countless times and may include any number of editorial errors or distortions?

So, if you analyze it carefully, it becomes pretty self-evident that what appeared, at first, to be an irrefutable case is actually so fabricated, contrived and full of holes that it can only be classified as pseudo-scholarship. It is actually propaganda—not history at all—and the historical re-enactments only underscore that idea. It is propaganda designed either to reinforce existing societal prejudices or to promote a socio-political agenda or to justify the actions of present-day politicians by claiming a historical precedent (of dubious authenticity). The irony is that any serious academic would be aware of this and how history itself is full of such attempts at propaganda and myth-making—which is why many supposedly ironclad historical accounts are themselves suspect and of dubious authenticity.

And, so, one has to wonder what is the hidden agenda that such propagandists are attempting to promote. Is it anything like, for example, the racist, racially supremacist agenda of Nazi pseudo-scholars? Or the left-wing, naïvely pluralistic social agenda of more liberal academics? Or is it an attempt, by some, to justify certain modes of criminal behavior by presenting us with a dubious historical precedent—suggesting, for example, that because xenophobia, polygamy, genocide and sodomy were acceptable practices in ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome and Judea, they should be excusable in the present day as well?

Horizon Cybermedia is about questioning such attempts at propaganda and eyewash by mainstream media sources. In this “Information Age,” in which social media are becoming increasingly prevalent and more and more people have access to revolutionary modern media technology, one has to wonder just how valid and accurate the information is . . . and how much of it are distortions or dishonest attempts at misinformation and propaganda.

The last thing we need is for universal access to media technology to create a “Misinformation Age” of widespread questionable information. However, it should also be noted that thanks to the universality of modern media technology, it is now easier to question universally-held assumptions and prejudices and the authenticity of so-called authoritative sources of information.

Please do check out our ongoing film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar at our website http://www.explorationtheseries.com. The current film is a visual tour of some of the key sites in the city of Calcutta, India. Future episodes visit the ski resorts of Big Bear Lake, CA and the rock-cut Buddhist temples of the Kanheri Caves near Mumbai, India. We look forward to your continued support, entertainment and information.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.