TV Makes Us Look Stupid


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    FWIW, when I originally wrote about the article, my outrage was not about how intelligent Green was or wasn’t, but about the identity politics that Fox seemed dedicated to pursue. The idea that a Muslim writing about Christ is immediately suspect for bias and agenda, in a way that I’ve never seen Fox submit the many, many Christian writers who tackle Mohammed and Islam, was an absurd point of view and demonstrative of a flawed world view that permeates the network.

    I should also say that the portion of the anti-Green feedback that focused on her prior career as a beauty contestant was sexist and also appalling.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I think it’s reasonable to ask a Muslim why he is writing about Christ. Yes, it does smack of identity politics, but so what? It’s a legitimate question and being an academic doesn’t immunize you from having to answer it, which Aslan did. In the first minute.

      The problem is that once an answer was given, Green failed to pivot to ask about anything else.

      Regarding how Fox treats Christian writers, I think they should probably be asking them the same questions.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        But wasn’t the answer obvious? Is Aslan had no relationship to religion outside of his own faith, MAYBE you have something there. But Green should have known that he was a scholar of religion and all that jazz. She should have known what his response was. So unless she was trying to quiet such critics, as if to say, “Let’s put to bed all this silliness about your faith… tell everyone why you’re qualified to write this book,” which she certainly was NOT trying to do, it demonstrated exactly what I titled my post as: to FNC, Muslims are Muslims and nothing more. They aren’t academics or scholars or writers or intellectuals; they’re Muslims. Damn, dirty Muslims with secret, anti-Christian agendas.

        And now you’ve got FNC doubling down on the idiocy, defending Green and the line of question.

        See here:

        The assumption is that Muslims cannot be unbiased about Jesus. There is no such assumption about Christians reporting on Islam. How many of FNC’s anchors are Christian? How often do they talk about issues relating to Islam? Are they inherently biased? The fact that Fox couldn’t even consider these questions, didn’t even think about the double standard they were perpetuating, shows just how far up their asses they have their heads. This has nothing to do with live TV interviews and everything to do with an anti-Muslim bias on their part.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Yes, she should have known he was a scholar of religion, but prior to her asking and his answering the question, *I* didn’t know. So, it’s an appropriate question, if only to allow the man the opportunity to bring the audience up to speed.

        “Let’s put to bed all this silliness about your faith… tell everyone why you’re qualified to write this book,”

        Yes, that would have been preferable in my view. They were attempting a hatchet job though. Badly.

        We might have to disagree about the basic legitimacy of asking the question. I think she originally asked a question that a well-meaning, non-bigotted viewer might reasonably want an answer to. What I disapprove of is her continuing to ask the same damn question over and over again for the next 10 minutes.

        double standard

        I’m in agreement with you that if they ask a Muslim to justify his views on Jesus, they should ask Christians to justify themselves as well.

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        That’s fair.

        It was also quite evident she hadn’t read the book. Basically, the interview amounted to, “Some people don’t like this book. Let’s gin up a controversy.”

        I’d rather not see people reflexively questioned about their legitimacy in exploring a specific topic. Else, we’ll turn every conversation into a, “Show me your credentials,” fight, since anyone can be reasonably shown to be other than their subject. “You’re a man, why did you write about a woman?” “You’re gay, why did you write about a straight person?” “You live in 2013, why did you write about someone in 1850.” Etc.

        I think if the context of the book (or whatever form the work takes) raises question about bias, it would be fair to ask about that in a respectful. If Aslan portrayed his work as historic analysis and than parroted the Koran, he’d open the door for such questions. But the assumption should not be bias, which it clearly was in this case.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        she hadn’t read the book

        I agree that this was disappointing. In her defense, she never represented herself as having read the book–or the first chapter–or a synopsis–or anything at all.

        “You’re a man, why did you write about a woman?” “You’re gay, why did you write about a straight person?” “You live in 2013, why did you write about someone in 1850.”

        But I think all of those are good questions! Here is a review of a book written by a woman from a man’s perspective. I think it’s an interesting choice she made worth exploring.

        I think you are right to fear that fights will devolve into arguments about credentials. Aslan, however, bears the brunt of the responsibility for that in this particular interview. He could have chosen to explain that his claims are documented and verifiable by his peers in the field. That is probably what I would have said. He chose instead to bring up his academic pedigree.

        I agree that arguing credentials is a negative in general. Arguments should be judged based on the evidence at hand, not on how many years of research someone has done on the topic.Report

      • Vikram – I get what you’re saying that a non-bigoted viewer very well may be interested in a question like this. The problem I have in this instance, though, is that I do not at all believe that it was a question aimed at such viewers’ interests. Fox has, over the years, carefully and intentionally made its practice to be to cater to its viewers’ biases rather than their legitimate curiosities.

        Fox has no problem giving, for example, the openly bigoted – not to mention batshit crazy – Pam Geller a platform to spout all sorts of ill-supported theories about Islam without ever questioning why an Objectivist cultist might want/be qualified to write about the history or theology of Islam.

        If a news organization finds this an appropriate question to ask of a Muslim, it needs to first do it consistently with all guests, or at least with a representative sampling of guests. Otherwise, asking it of only Muslims not only smacks of bigotry, but is also just another example of seeking to appeal to its viewership’s most base prejudices rather than seeking to pique their curiosity. Put another way, asking it without a history of asking it of non-Muslims when the shoe is (more frequently by several orders of magnitude) on the other foot is effectively a declaration that “Muslims are Muslims and nothing more.” Actually, I’d take that a step further – it’s a declaration that Muslims are the Muslims of Pam Geller’s imagination, and nothing more.

        About the best you can say about it is that it’s infaux-tainment in its purest form.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I do agree with Kazzy, I think. His answer to the questions about why a Muslim is writing about Jesus, and why we should pay attention to a Muslim writing about Jesus, should have been, “Because I live in the world.”Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        It’s not my intent to defend Fox. I really have little idea of what their ordinary programming consists of. Almost everything I’ve seen of theres came to my attention specifically because it upset people, so I don’t have a good sample to judge what their typical behavior is.Report

      • “I agree that this was disappointing. In her defense, she never represented herself as having read the book–or the first chapter–or a synopsis–or anything at all.”

        I do think it’s a fair assumption that anyone interviewing an author on his or her book is presumed to have read it unless the interviewer discloses that he/she hasn’t.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think that the problem is that producers of tv news constantly underestimate the intelligence of their audience. Maybe there is a good reason for this, I don’t work in the tv industry. However, if you aim for the lowest common denomintor than you get something shallow.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Aslan said this about Green:

    Look, I feel really bad for Lauren Green. You know this, Alex, anybody on your show knows this that Lauren was sitting there being yelled at by some producer in her ear.”

    Which is yet another addition to the cognitive load Vikram described.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    By the way, I disagree with your premise. The interview became viral, not for how bad it makes Green look, but for how bigoted and contemptuous of its audience it makes Fox look. I see no reason to change my mind about that.Report

    • Avatar Russell M says:

      this right here. i dont care which of the “Anchors” they had do that interview, almost all of them would have had the same interview.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      The interview became viral, not for how bad it makes Green look, but for how bigoted and contemptuous of its audience it makes Fox look.

      I intended to communicate that the interview had no value in being an interview and was not shared to see what the author of a book had to say. The subject of the clip is Green and the network she works for. Aslan himself is not of the interest to sharers (of which I am now one).Report

  5. Vikram:

    Despite my comment above, I have some sympathy for your argument. The one time I was on television (a local TV reporter interviewed me about a tree that had fallen in front of my house/apartment), I was so nervous and, errh, unphotogenic and stuttering, that they didn’t use my interview. And yes, I can indeed see how the anchor in this case, if we assume good will on her and her network’s part, *might* have had a legitimate question in mind (e..g, “how has being a Muslim affected the way you approach this topic?” or “How do you think your being a Muslim might have presented challenges to you in writing about Christ?”).

    Still….still…still…This is the big leagues. Anchors are supposed to be professionals, and FOX is not exactly a novice when it comes to “interviewing,” and as someone pointed out above, the network has a history of (to put it mildly) getting things wrong or targeting certain lazy arguments and letting others slide.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Programming ought to be better than this. I was intending more to explain how such a thing could happen. I’m in total agreement though that it should not have been allowed to happen though.
      I think it’s worth noting as well that this interview was not live. Fox actually chose to put this up on the web rather than scuttle it. (And as @kazzy notes above, they continue to defend it.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The interview is getting a lot of favorable press in the places you’d expect. Lauren Green turned out to be a bonanza.Report

      • I do wonder if Mr. Aslan may have been trying to use FOX for his own purposes, to leverage what I see as that network’s bias to make himself look favorable (and thereby promote his book). That’s not necessarily a jibe against Aslan (whose name, for some reason, seems to evoke images of a transcendent lion for me….but that’s another set of stories), but just a speculation that maybe in this case, FOX is being played.

        Or perhaps, they’re each playing each other. As Mike Schilling points out, some circles might see the interview in a favorable light.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        @pierre-corneille , everything within the interview and has happened since seems consistent with the hypothesis that Aslan was expecting a hatchet job going in and realized that he could easily turn it to his benefit.

        Our default hypothesis should probably be that authors of books don’t know what they will be asked when they walk in. I think the speed and vigor with which he answered the first question though is evidence against this hypothesis.

        The segment is called “Spirited Debate”. Perhaps they do this every time?Report

      • Vikram,

        I think I pretty much agree. I don’t, however, watch enough FOX (I don’t have cable, and I saw the video clip at “Crooked Timber” for the first and only time a day or two before Kazzy posted it), to know if they do that style of “interviewing” most of the time. Frankly, it’s not the type of stuff that I’d like to go out of my way to watch.Report

  6. Avatar Dale Forguson says:

    The local news did several “news” pieces about a past employer of mine over a period of several years. In each case they got an important material fact wrong. In each case they had ample time to check their facts before broadcast. In each case the anchor used his most earnest serious tone of voice to report his story. I view most television news as at best highly suspect and superficial, at worst obviously slanted.Report

    • That’s probably a very healthy approach. And, I suggest, it’s not only a question of the media’s competence, although one would hope they adopt basic practices about fact checking. Sometimes, things are difficult for outsiders to know, and some things are difficult to believe. I have an acquaintance whose workplace several years ago became the focus of a local controversy, but based on a misunderstanding of the facts. The media were only partially implicated in all this, but I can see how the situation must have looked to the people who were suspicious of what went on. (Unfortunately, I can’t go into details here.)Report

  7. Avatar ScarletNumber says:

    Since Americans are woefully ignorant about Islam, I think the question was fair. Jesus is actually VERY important in Islam. Also, Jesus and Islam have a common enemy.Report

  8. Avatar The Sanity Inspector says:

    I have been on local TV before, and hated it. Onscreen I look like a zombie, and sound like a humpback whale.Report