Last week, Reza Aslan became something of an internet sensation because of an interview he did on Fox News [video below]. Aslan is an academic and the author of a new book about Jesus Christ called "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."
But the reason people keep talking about his interview is because Aslan beat Fox News at their own game.
And by their own game, I mean their shameless attempt to reduce every complex civic issue to an idiotic binary pitting seditious liberal elites against heroic Christian patriots.
All Aslan did, actually, was to refuse to be mischaracterized by the host, a woman named Lauren Green, who introduced Aslan simply as “Muslim,” conveniently neglecting to mention that he’s a renowned religious scholar who has studied Christianity for two decades.
See, because if he’s just a Muslim, then he obviously has it in for Jesus, and thus Fox News and their loyal viewers, rather than engaging in any of the nuanced arguments raised in his book, can just write him off as a Christ-bashing extremist.
As Aslan eventually notes, Green clearly has never read his book. But then why bother when she already knows what’s in it?
For me, this interview is yet another example of what happens when the for-profit demagogues at Fox News invite someone from outside their little propaganda bubble onto one of their shows.
Reza Aslan beat Fox News at their own game. And by their own game, I mean their shameless attempt to reduce every complex civic issue to an idiotic binary pitting seditious liberal elites against heroic Christian patriots.
In fact, what’s amazing to me about Fox News is how incredibly dim-witted most of their hosts appear to be, and how easy they are to humiliate. Like all bullies, their essential weapon is aggression. When it comes to getting their facts straight, or responding to cogent arguments, they go to pieces.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
Back in 2006, I was invited to appear on "Hannity & Colmes" to discuss my decision to resign from teaching at Boston College, which I made to protest the school for inviting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be its commencement speaker.
I won’t go into the whole crazy experience, but my basic argument was that Rice had lied repeatedly in the run up to the Iraq war.
I suspected Hannity would try to take this argument apart. But, of course, I’d overestimated his ambitions. All he wanted to do was establish that I was a Democrat, which automatically meant that anything I said about Condoleezza Rice was false. Remember: It’s all binary to a Fox host and his/her viewers.
When I refused to go along, things got ugly fast; They cut the interview off after less than three minutes. (I had been promised 10 to 15 minutes.)
The truth is almost anyone with a functioning conscience and intellect can outfox Fox News. Just check out this clip, in which a high school student takes Bill O’Reilly to school simply by revealing his bald-faced lies.
You almost feel sorry for Papa Bear.
Or check out this clip, in which a comedian — a comedian, people! — shatters the glass jaw of some poor Fox & Friends wannabe.
Or this clip in which Gretchen Carlson of Fox & Friends gets utterly punked by some guy who acts like he just set down his bong to do the interview. (If anyone believes that the folks at Fox are vetting their guests, this clip should dispel that myth.)
It’s no surprise to most of us that Fox News watchers are among the least informed of all Americans.
What’s important to realize is that Fox News is never going to change from within, or above. It makes a healthy profit by peddling paranoia, mostly to angry old white people.
The truth is almost anyone with a functioning conscience and intellect can outfox Fox News ... One little prick of truth and they’re done for.
But it’s also important to realize that the bubble of ignorance in which Fox News and their viewers travel is incredibly fragile. One little prick of truth and they’re done for.
To anyone who might ever appear on Fox News: remember this. And to anyone who’s had to listen to an aggrieved uncle ranting about Obama’s passport, or death panels, consider calmly serving them a dose of the truth.
You might not win them over, but you’ll take some of the hot air out of their sails.
This program aired on August 2, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.