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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No, it was not the most excruciating thing ever seen on television. We’ve seen worse.

We’ve seen Roseanne singing the national anthem, Magic Johnson hosting a talk show and Paris Hilton… existing. But if it’s not number one on that list of godawful TV, author Reza Aslan’s recent interview with Lauren Green of Fox “News” is surely in the Top 10.

Google it if you haven’t seen it. Or just ask some woman to rake her fingernails down a chalkboard for 10 minutes. Same difference.

Over and over again, speaking in the honeyed, patient tone you’d use to instruct a slow child, Aslan answers the question that has been put to him by reciting his bona fides. He is a historian. He is an expert on the New Testament. He is fluent in Biblical Greek. He holds four degrees. He has spent 20 years researching the origins of Christianity. The study of religion is his job.

And over and over again, doing her best imitation of Mike Wallace pinning miscreants to the wall (if Mike Wallace had shilled for a company of right-wing propagandists playacting at journalism) Green keeps bringing him back to what she regards as the central issue: “You’re a Muslim,” she informs him, “so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

The book in question is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, a search for the historicity of the itinerant rabbi who founded the biggest religion on Earth. On that basis, you’d expect it to be controversial. Green, however, seems less vexed by the book’s content than by its author’s faith.

“Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” she asks.

And, “You’re not just writing about a religion from a point of view of an observer.”

And, “You’ve been on several programs and never disclosed that you’re a Muslim.” To which Aslan replies that his religion is disclosed on the second page of the book and in every media interview he’s ever done.

It goes on like that for 10 cringe-inducing minutes. At some point, you find yourself drifting in a stupor of disbelief, amusing yourself by imagining how Green might have interviewed other authors in history:

“John Steinbeck, you’re from California. Why did you write about people from Oklahoma?”

“Tom Wolfe, you’re no astronaut. Why did you write about astronauts?”

“Alexis de Tocqueville, you’re a Frenchman. Why did you write about the United States?”

  • Dominick Vila

    The treatment of Reza Asian during a FOX interview, and the immature justification (you are a Muslim) used to malign someone for having the audacity of challenging our medieval convictions, is the reason many Americans love FOX, and the reason many more don’t bother to watch that cesspool of indoctrinating garbage.

    • sigrid28

      What I like about your post, Dominick, is that you AVOID some of the misogyny that crept into a few of the other posts, below. Fellow liberals, it is the other “guys” who have it in for women: we count women among our most numerous constituencies, maybe even moderate Republican women who clearly have nowhere else to turn. So let’s criticize these interviews on their demerits, remembering that there are more attractive men reading the news these days than women. Handsome men have no more excuse for serving as spokespersons for religious bigots and xenophobes than their female counterparts. When it comes to Fox News, it’s equal opportunity failed journalism.

      • Allan Richardson

        Since Fox is trying to appeal to misogynistic male viewers, they hire very sexy looking women as “reporters” and have them “tease” the viewers. The misogyny is not in pointing this out, it is in their actions.

        • InsideEye

          Is it like Mohammed trying to Appeal to Men to come to the mosques and promising 69 virgins for a Christian kill. First of all where in the world are there that many virgins?

  • turtlewoman1039

    Fox ‘news’, the ‘tea party’, the reich wing. the talibangelists, etc.: the IQ of toilet paper.

    • mah101

      Toilet paper is actually useful. Fox News is dangerous.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Considering most female Faux reporters are selected for their cup size as opposed to any journalistic bona fides, I am not surprised at the nature of this interview. The only thing fair and balanced about Conrad is her bilateral symmetry.

    • idamag

      The greatest put down one of those ditzy blondes suffered publically: In the thick of Hurricane Sandy, the president did what presidents are supposed to do. He went to New Jersey and he and Chris Christie were walking the beaches assessing the horrific damage. The ditzy blonde calls Chris Christie and asks if he is going to give equal time to Mitt Romney. Chris Christie snapped, he didn’t give a damn about politics he had four million people without electricity. I would agree with you that they are not hired for their I.Q.s,

  • disqus_LcxpBv2uzz

    Lauren Green is emphatically NOT a journalist! (Not that anyone else at Fox is either). A real bona-fide journalist would have taken the time to research Reza Aslan’s background and presented it to the viewing audience. Aslan, a writing teacher at UC-Riverside, whose previous book “No God But God” explained Islam for Americans, was a secular Muslim who moved to America, became an evangelical Christian, and as an adult, returned to the faith of his youth. As one who has observed both Islam AND Christianity, he should be rather uniquely qualified to write about either, or both. Oh, and he happens to be an educator with multiple degrees. For Green to question Aslan’s qualifications is absolutely ludicrous! But silly me, she works for Fox, the bastion of Fair and Balanced! What a cosmic joke!

  • idamag

    Fox news people are forever showing their ignorance. What does that say for the people who watch them religiously. We have Sunday School teachers and parents who tell their children about Jesus, but they didn’t know Jesus. We have a religion (that is not Christian) who gets baptized in the Christian Churches and claim to be Christians while they overtly practice their religion – Republicanism.

  • charleo1

    Well, it’s FOX, what can one expect? Wouldn’t things start to improve almost
    immediately, if the bigots, corporate shills, and so called financial, and
    economic experts, lost their propaganda venue, and had to answer some real
    questions for a change? The thing I believe FOX saw in this article, was the
    opportunity to bash a Muslim, and an academic, for the entertainment of their
    followers. Great, they thought. A Muslim who claims to be an expert on Christianity.
    In the world of their audience, that’s as absurd as a Black President getting any
    respect, cooperation, or allowing any accomplishments of that President to stand
    beyond the next GOP opportunity to obliterate them. Buy his book? Right! Most of
    them would jail, then deport him. A citizen? No problem, just question his birth
    certificate, and work up from there. S.O.S.? Of course!

    • jointerjohn

      You came to a very important element of this story. The Fox News crowd and their followers hate Muslims, but they also like to bash intellectuals. The fact that this author has an advanced education scares them just as much as his being Muslim! They have chosen to identify themselves as the dumb-ass party and the only way to avoid being made fools of by literate people is to discredit them right up front based upon their educations. We watched them do this with President Obama. When you want people to believe that the earth is only six thousand years old, that global warming is a hoax, and that women can stop their own egg fertilization when raped, you sure don’t want other people in the room who’ve gone, “plumb through the sixth grade”!

      • sigrid28

        What discourages me, is a return to the world described by xxxxx in his landmark sociological study, “Anti-Intellectualism and American Life” (xxxx). I am one of those who lived through the era he defined, went “plumb through the sixth grade” to a doctorate in English from an Ivy league university, teaching certification, twenty years of experience and distinguished publications, raised my children and–now–no possibility of work, because I am over-qualified, compared to less well educated individuals with shinier new degrees (doctorates need not apply) and recent references. I am not alone. Among the unemployed and under-employed people like me are legion.

        But it is not only a corporate model seeking low-cost workers that exemplifies this new anti-intellectualism. It is a return to local, state, and even federal government controlled by nepotism and cronyism, because that impulse is the true basis of the Citizens United world of current election politics. Nepotism and cronyism are as old as the world, but for a shining moment in some democracies the ideal of a meritocracy flourished. This is not one of those moments.

        • jointerjohn

          Good points all. Curious that those same elements who believe that unrestrained free-market capitalism is best for everyone, ignore those corrupting influences. According to them placing a societal thumb onto the scale to balance on behalf of those less fortunate corrupts the genius of the system, but unlimited influence-peddling from the private sector is somehow holy and blameless. Meritocracy and unfettered free enterprise cannot survive together, the latter despises the former. May your own circumstances improve soon.

          • sigrid28

            So astute–and so kind. The harsh truth I have had to face, and I’m afraid others as well, is that employment in our fields of expertise is COMPLETELY closed to us for the foreseeable future. In our small town, even volunteer opportunities are divvied out on the basis of nepotism and cronysim, even membership in the local Democratic National Committee, which is by invitation only. The president will not talk to me, but allows his wife to do so (I suppose because she once sat next to Joe Biden at a political dinner). During the 2012 election, the OFA also excluded locals, even those of college age who might have helped register voters on the five college campuses in our town.

            If the OFA as it now exists could stop sending emails begging us for money (that we don’t have) and harness the expertise we DO have that no one else wants, recent college grads and unemployable experts might form a powerful coalition to elect Democrats to office nationwide. But not while OFA and other Democratic organizations put better people in local offices, make better use of social media in elections (which this coalition uses masterfully), and purges itself of xenophobia within its own ranks.

        • charleo1

          I would only add to your honestly brilliant post. That you have
          many, many friends here, that are pulling for you, and wishing
          for you, to get the break you so greatly deserve.
          “Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”
          ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

      • Dana Es

        Sadly, it was one of the problems John Kerry ran into in the past. Intelligent and intellectual is apparently just plain scary to some people and a lot of those easy-to-scare people are faithful viewers of FOX. There are people who were drawn to Bush because he didn’t seem smarter than they were. Me? I want a President that’s WAY smarter than I am!

        • jointerjohn

          We share that desire because we haven’t staked our lives on belief systems that lack evidence, and politics based on loads of revisionist history. The right wingers would rather be stranded on a desert island with Gilligan, me, I want the Professor.

  • JDavidS

    Faux Noise…a monument to misinformation, bigotry, sleaze journalism, prejudice and outright lies.
    Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

  • JD Mulvey

    It’s incredibly important that there be resources on religious history that are NOT written by believers. A book about Jesus written by a Christian is nine time out of ten going to be garbage.

    • sigrid28

      The first lesson of Western Civilization 101 on every college campus, Christian and secular alike, is that Judaeo-Christian philosophy PERMEATES western culture–and I don’t mean cowboys and Indians. Even nonbelievers cannot disentangle themselves from the religious concepts that underlie every aspect of our civilization. Take law and order, for example. Some would argue that our current court system and means of processing criminals represents our version of the “lex talionis.”

      “The law of the talion . . . provides for the right of retaliation, has its origins in the Old Testament and in Hammurabi’s Code, and sets forth the basic formulation of reciprocity in response to moral injury–measure for measure

      • InsideEye

        No one knows anything about the whys of religion , even Karen Armstrong , well learned , ended up trying to explain through philosophical prose, the reasons for Godly happening, Greeks, Romans , Buddhists, at least they found this guys body…, Jews, post Jews , Islamists all trying to explain through some mythology . We are here as stewards of our universe left here as representative creations of a creator, left on a garden and have each other to attend. Let us enjoy and kill the uninformed. AMEN.

        • sigrid28

          Someone doesn’t know “anything about the whys of religion” because he or she did not even LOOK at Karen Armstrong’s book or Reza Azlan’s. So why would he or she want to advocate killing people who the uninformed? I don’t understand this impulse any better than I understand low-information Republicans living in poverty who keep voting against their own self interest.

    • InsideEye

      Evidently Asian is searching and can not find. Does any religion have the answers, seems religionshas been studied for longer than it took to write the works. Not surprising since Shorter pieces of legislation , as Obama care , are just as confusing. We should have to wait till all of the expected Redeemers appear. God must be laughing.

  • FT66

    You can not understand/know someone is stupid until they show their stupidity. This woman acted like a layman on streets taking interview while no one is watching. She works with the somehow called News Network and still she is not even aware that the past two Popes (as far as I know), went inside the Mosque, left their shoes outside and walked barefoot inside the mosque. These were two major leaders of Catholics in the entire world. If this didn’t astonish her (anyway she is not aware of it), how come she was puzzled a muslim scholar (Reza Aslan) wrote a book on christianity! Fox News workers at their best.

    • Charlie McKenna

      It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  • LotusJoan

    What was so cringe worthy was that once
    he had answered the one question she had prepared for a lengthy (by Fox
    standards) interview, she had literally nowhere else to go. This
    is what passes for professional journalism?
    It is not only the faux reporters fault but everyone who was involved in
    the decision to air the interview that no one had prepared for.

    • disqus_LcxpBv2uzz

      And the truly sad thing is that the vast (or maybe half-vast) majority of those poor souls who regularly watch this unadulterated crap think that it is cutting-edge journalism. As Sigrid28 points out, this is the result of the far right glorifying ignorance (and they do it by excoriating intellectual attainment).

  • latebloomingrandma

    I wonder if Ms. Green will be demoted or promoted?

  • Allan Richardson

    This so-called interviewer should have read more about Islam as well as Christianity. Jesus is as important to Muslims as to Christians, but only as a prophet leading up to Mohammed. The Koran affirms the Virgin Birth of Jesus, although only as an example of Allah’s miracles to show the greatness of the prophet Jesus. It also states that Jesus himself will stand up at Judgement Day and condemn Christians as idolaters for calling him God. However, until then, the Koran admonishes true Muslims not to bother or persecute Jews and Christians because they are People of the Book.

    The more Christians learn about the history of Islam, the more we realize that the terrorists are a MINORITY of Muslims, and the only reason they have the armament that they have is that it benefits oil-rich Muslim rulers to deflect the attention of their own people from complaining about their rulers to complaining about “infidels” and supporting terrorists, in THE SAME WAY that certain “Christian” rulers in America try to deflect attention away from their OWN treatment of other Americans to the “foreign” Muslim terrorists.

    • InsideEye

      Certainly Jesus and theReturning Majdi are to come together on judgement day. It is news to many of these facts since we are all indoctrinated by our own teachings. If Jesus and the Mahdi are considered such buddies, they are in effect Christian believers…..so why do Islamists get pissed off and behead Christians???? And others. These are not cringe questions. The Koran is a nicely, simply written book…..sort of a ” college outline series ” rehash of the Old and New Testament written for desert folks, easy to memorize. This keeps them busy several times a day ….keeps them out of mischief . Mohammed was fairly smart about this….this work was completed after the biblical writings of antiquity, and màny Christians certainly do not know the details of the Koran nor of the original Bible. Ms Green is well educated….and was trying to get a credibility check for the listeners. Islamists mock the existence of the Deity of Jesus, while some scoff at the idea of a Mahdi . Jews as well as Christians have a myriad of sub types . Some are kosher , some eat stuffed lobster, some eat fish on Fridays . Is it not interesting to find the story behind the story.

  • Charlie McKenna

    I have tried to watch it on occasion but O’reilly and Hannity are so full of hate and oppression that I just can’t stand it for more than a few minutes. Both O’Reilly and Hannity lie to suit their purposes. No one ever calls them on it.

    • InsideEye

      Make a call on one hateful statement .

  • FredAppell

    She was trying to goad him, pure and simple. FOX probably informed her to antagonize him in order to make him lose control and say and act in an undignified manner in order to satisfy their blood thirsty audience. It must have been a real disappointment when he didn’t take the bait.

    • InsideEye

      He answered the questions, so where is the goading? He should be able to support his thesis, and he did.

      • FredAppell

        You apparently did not read the article. You make it sound as if it were a friendly interview, It was not, it was an ambush and Asian saw through the ruse and stayed calm and respectful. I don’t watch any cable news networks because their m.o. is all the same, only the politics change.
        I don’t have any patience for “gotcha t.v.”.

  • DezJimmar

    Poor Lauren Green. I got the impression that she really didn’t want to do that interview and that she clearly didn’t believe the crap spewing from her own lips. I believe it’s all about keeping herself employed… even if it’s Faux Noise.

  • howa4x

    One fact missing. Jesus didn’t start the Christian faith Paul did

  • howa4x

    Faux news is a machine for republican dogma. At a time when we in the west should be reaching out to people in the Mid East, FOX tries to discredit a scholar simply because of his religion, and not the content of his work. It is a station that tries to gear itself to only older white Christians and forget other demographics. This station better wake up. Glee is not going to hold young viewers past the age of 18, and a vast cohort of young people is being turned off every day by its other programing.
    I’m waiting for the day that for business reasons Fox dumps the republican party