The weekend is here. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him questions about various topics, ranging from covering what is going on in the news, to career advice for students & entrepreneurs.
Today, the Cleveland Indians announced that they have changed their team name from the “Cleveland Indians” to the Cleveland Guardians. This comes after months of internal discussions, as fans, and people who work in the game have expressed their concerns about team names some might call racist. The Cleveland Guardians will be called by a new name for the first time since 1915 and will take effect at the end of the 2021 season.
I wanted to get Ash’s thoughts on this name change and learn more about how WatchMojo evolves over time as well.
Major League Baseball’s Cleveland team announced that they would be replacing the Indians brand with the Guardians. I wanted to get your thoughts on that, but also in general about how WatchMojo evolves and adapts its editorial as what society accepts changes over time.
Two sides to that question. On the one hand, WatchMojo is ultimately like
– a historical time capsule when we may cover contemporary things (eg. movies of the year) or
– a look back at things we feel nostalgic about, effectively recapping and commenting on a given era.
There’s a balancing act. I don’t want us to rewrite history and pretend that racism, sexism, homophobia didn’t exist. The key is to contextualize the information, and not condone it.
That takes me to the second aspect, which is how we describe those events, the words, and the images we use. Without a doubt, we may have used terms of imagery in a 2006 video that may no longer be appropriate… and despite our good intentions, if that’s the case, we earnestly look at the details and see what action, if any, should be taken. Sometimes it’s adding a pinned comment, other times it’s to add some kind of explanation in the description, and sure, once in a while, it’s taking down a video.
We aim to entertain but inform as well. So in other words, we do not want to whitewash history. We want to depict history and comment on it. After all, that’s the whole point of our fair use editorial: we comment on things, we criticize people, we don’t rewrite things to present them in a preferred – but inaccurate – light.
Thus to me, we still want to cover things but put them in context:
– why was it funny, or
– if it’s no longer appropriate, then explain why it’s not.
Finally, this doesn’t mean that anytime anyone complains we have to take things down. That’s a slippery slope that leads to groupthink and censorship.
With regards to the Indians brand name, unlike a term like Redskins which was perhaps more overtly insensitive to many, I commend the Cleveland organization to recognize that even if a term is indirectly making a caricature of a community, then it’s probably not acceptable. Reality is America and Canada can do a better job of accurately portraying their histories vis-a-vis Native Americans, and this is a small step in the right direction.
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash