Check out this interview from Fox News in which Lauren Green interviews author and historian Reza Aslan about his new book, Zealot. Given that Aslan is a Muslim and the book is about the historical life of Jesus, you can imagine how this is going to go.
There’s very little of value to be learned about the book itself from the interview, since Green never actually gets around to talking about it and instead keeps circling back around to Aslan’s motives for writing the book in the first place. To which Aslan, in a performance that should be studied by anyone considering venturing into the viper’s den, keeps responding that he is a historian who happens to be a Muslim. It’s a distinction that is clearly lost on Green.
And this is where the interview gets interesting, especially when Green asks Aslan whether a Democrat could write a book about Reagan. What becomes clear in that instant is that, for Green and for whomever is feeding her prompts through her earpiece and for all of Fox News and indeed for the entire Right Wing Noise Machine, there is no such thing as scholarship. There is no quest for truth. There is only partisanship: books and blogs and TV networks exist only to drive a predetermined narrative. As an interviewer, one’s job is to show your side in a good light and show the other side in a bad light. There is nothing to be learned from someone with whom you disagree, there is no common ground, there is only scorched earth. One hammers away at that narrative, day after day, never deviating from the message, never allowing contrary information to penetrate the ideological shieldwall. You must, in the words of our greatest president, keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.
What a sad and truncated world these people live in.
Update: By complete coincidence, shortly after I posted this I read Boris Strugatsky’s afterward to a new translation of his classic SF novel Roadside Picnic (the basis for Tarkovsky’s Stalker). The novel was originally published in the Soviet Union in 1972, and his story of dealing with the Soviet censors at the time reminded me that Fox News shares a mindset with the Politburo as far as artistic expression is concerned. He also reminds us of the inevitable fate of such organizations:
“At first, I was looking forward to using this afterward to tell the story of publishing the Picnic; naming once-hated names; jeering to my heart’s content at the cowards, idiots, informers, and scoundrels; astounding the reader with the absurdity, idiocy, and meanness of the world we’re all from; being ironic and instructive, deliberately objective and ruthless, benevolent and caustic all at once. And now I’m sitting her, looking at these folders, and realizing I’m hopelessly late and that no one needs me — not my irony, not my generosity, and not my burnt-out hatred. They have ceased to exist, those once-powerful organizations with almost unlimited right to allow and to hinder; they have ceased to exist and are forgotten to such an extent that it would be tedious and dull to explain to the present-day reader who is who . . .”