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Author Schools Fox News Journalist in Cringe-Worthy Interview

Author Schools Fox News Journalist in Cringe-Worthy Interview

You’ve seen the Fox News interview with Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and author, right? Oh you haven’t? Take a few minutes and give it a gander. It’s a little hard to watch. But in the same way that The Office was sometimes hard to watch. It’s hard to laugh through all the cringes.

Oof. That was bad. I was actually embarrassed for the host, Lauren Green, which doesn’t happen often with Fox News.

There are a lot of reasons why Buzzfeed wondered if this was “the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done.” Green was utterly schooled by Aslan. While it’s tempting to consider this clip to be 10 minutes of schadenfreude, it really illustrates the Islamophobia and anti-intellectualism that runs through the American right.

Green’s main contention, if I understand the clip correctly, is that Aslan, who identifies as a Muslim, has no business writing a book about Jesus because he’s, well, a Muslim. Anyone who heard Aslan’s interview with Terry Gross knows this isn’t the full story. According to that interview, Aslan was raised in quite a secular household, converted to Christianity as a teen, then back to Islam when he was in college. This isn’t someone who is unfamiliar with the finer points of Christianity.

That assumes, of course, that there is something wrong with a Muslim writing about Jesus. Which, of course, there isn’t. From an academic perspective, it’s probably preferable to be a non-Christian. Not having a dog in the fight — that is, not having a preconceived idea of how Jesus must have been — probably enhances his ability to be impartial. But I guess, because he’s a Muslim, Aslan must justify his writings on Jesus the man.

The Fox News interview also illustrates a lazy anti-intellectualism. It’s possible that Aslan is wrong in his interpretation of the historical evidence. It’s not an exact science; different evidence can be interpreted and weighted in different ways. But Green’s endless reiteration of the same question — which boils down to, what gives you, a scary Muslim, the right to study and write about Jesus? — didn’t give us anything to chew on. Her entire critique, if you can even call it that, was to call into question his qualifications.

That’s not to say that you should automatically accept anything someone with with an advanced degree tells you. Of course you shouldn’t. But a quick Amazon search reveals that Aslan has written about religion before. This isn’t just some schmoe off the street. If he couldn’t answer actual criticism, that’s one thing. But this interview offered none of that. Instead, it just went after a Muslim’s ability to talk intelligently and fairly about Jesus, which no regard for the individual involved.

Perhaps it’s not anti-intellectualism, as David A. Graham argues at the The Atlantic. Perhaps it’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of how academia works.

I’ve seen the interview characterized as “anti-intellectual,” but that’s a misreading of the issue at stake here, which is that Green and others subscribe to a mistaken view of how academic research works. The nature of research is that scholars make arguments about the material they study. When that’s about, say, William Makepeace Thackeray’s views on marriage, it’s not controversial enough to make cable news, but more politically contested fields like 20th century history or Jesus are no more immune to legitimate disagreements of interpretation and scholarship than comparative literature. But the root of this controversy seems to be an objection to Aslan making arguments about Jesus in the first place.

I think that’s right. The entire interview did just boil down to, ERMAHGERD MUSLIM. But I’m not sure that means that the interview isn’t anti-intellectual. Green may not understand how academic research works, but…she’s a journalist! It’s kind of her job to find out. If Green was interested in having an in depth discussion on the historical Jesus, nothing seemed to be stopping her. She had the book at her disposal, and presumably, she can read. But attacking his credibility, instead of his arguments, was easier. That is lazy thinking at best.

If you’re interested in watching an actual good interview of Aslan, in which the book is actually discussed, check out the clips from The Daily Show embedded below. As usual, a bunch of comedians do news better than the journalists at Fox News.

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166 comments

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7:19AM PDT on Nov 1, 2013

But which "Jesus" are you talking about,Greg V.,as you celebrate "his" death via the worst means of turture of that era.Because there were as many "Jesus' " as writers about "him," none who appear to have actually lived at the same time "Jesus" did.Essentially each Jesus was described according to each authors' beliefs.It's Christianity's celebrating of this death by torture that finally chased me away from the belief,Greg V. Because too many still "die for causes "to this day,usually against their will.Let's celebrate and support,instead,LIVING for causes.By doing so we stop letting off the hook those who murder in the name of silencing voices of conscience and justice.

9:07PM PDT on Oct 31, 2013

Greg V. "Jesus died for his cause. That seems pretty committed to me." I thought he died for us is the usual position.

I don't know if Jesus existed, or if he was of religious importance if he did. I think the teaching attributed to him are important; and reflected in many other group's behaviors/beliefs, including atheists. I try to live up to being a good person (but not because being so is attributed to an instruction from Jesus).

Taking the assumption that Jesus was the son of god ... I'm not sure I think his dying on the cross can be taken as "pretty committed". Painful, yes, but he was (I am accepting for this argument) the son of god and god after all.

If I give away my coat, knowing I can buy a new one, it isn't the same as if I give away my coat knowing I cannot buy a new one, but it is still the right thing to do.

2:04AM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

I know many Muslims and have had discussions with them regarding religion and I have yet to meet one that did not believe in the existence of Jesus.Where they divide from us is the belief of Christians that Jesus was God whereas Muslims believe that he was a Prophet.He is mentioned as such in the Koran.The idea that God could be killed is anathema to Muslims.If indeed Jesus ( God ) had indeed been killed religion would have died with him.The Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem the third most Holy site for Muslims contains a Niche dedicated to Jesus.I believe that there is a truth in every religion and even in atheism.

10:12PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

"But attacking his credibility, instead of his arguments, was easier. That is lazy thinking at best."

That's all Green did --- attack him as a scholar because he is a Muslim. There are many scholars who happen to be Christian that write about Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc etc. Why isn't she attacking them? The whole point of research and interpretation is to present cogent ideas and accept refutations and questions etc. There is no "perfect score". It is an exchange of ideas.

I am a liberal Christian, who in my 20's had a poster of 4 faces of Jesus --- revolutionary, rabble-rouser, liberator and 1 other. Jesus was a man of his times and would be constrained to a degree by the customs and mores of the time. We now use 21st century eyes and too often take Jesus out of history.

Unfortunately, the other videos are not available because of copyrights. How unfortunate. But I do want to read Aslan's book.

In my opinion, Green and many evangelical pseudo Christians are afraid to read, to look deeper because they might actually have to think. Not only that, they might have to face up to the fact that they claim Jesus but they do not follow his teachings. That is Faux Noise --- pabulum for the uneducated and intellectually lazy.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

11:52AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Quite fascinating, according to Tamara H:

“Fox News and BBC are still the only news stations that even approach a balanced viewpoint, offering opposing sides, IMHO. Other stations are too P.C. or e-news focused.”


BBC News:

World-renowned for precise facts, objectivity.

11:51AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Fox Faux UnNews:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVkR0iXPQhU


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/15/brian-kilmeade-all-terror_n_764472.html

Tamara H. The BBC, unreservedly, yes! A splendid news source.

The BBC: Vintage Wine. Fox Faux News: Sour grapes, angular, backward, barnyard with an aggressive bitter right wing aftertaste, brawny, closed, dumb, flabby, flawed, green, harsh, hollow, hot, musty, off, overripe, pruney, raisiny, shallow, sharp, stale, stalky, tart, vegetal, volatile and woody. Pass the spittoon! I accidently swallowed the Sour Grapes of Wrath! Plonk!

11:50AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Lona G, no doubt Fox Faux News won’t be allowed to air in the Netherlands because of the insurmountable dangers. If Fox is allowed to run and roam freely where you live the dangers of a rabies pandemic would be unrelenting. I’m talking about foaming at the mouth here and Fox Faux UnNews does that so very well. It’s far too late for the American right wing, but your country can certainly save herself from the ravages of the rabid fox.

9:00PM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

Feel better now?

6:14PM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

I had to see it with my own eyes “Kevin Christianity was not spread by the sword”

Guess Cyan forgot I told her [on a different thread] my Grandparents were taken from their parents and forced into an Indian school. There they were beaten if they spoke their tongue or mentioned tribal beliefs. There were a whole lot of graves in the back filled with kids who couldn’t make it being “good white Christians.”

3:23PM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

Lol, "pointy sticks"...I love it, Linda!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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