erik lundegaard

Reza Aslan and FOX-News' Projection Problem

This viral video has been making the rounds for a couple of days. I saw a truncated version earlier but it's worth it to watch the full monty:

Here's what's happening and it's startling in its obviousness: projection. FOX-News and its anchor are projecting onto the interviewee, religious scholar Reza Aslan, their own narrow tendencies. They can't believe that someone, anyone, and particularly someone on the other side (of the religious question), couldn't be partisan, because they themselves are so partisan.

These are the questions the FOX-News anchor asks Aslan. The beauty is in his responses, so watch for that, but just look at the questions:

  • You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about Christianity?
  • Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?
  • How are your findings different from what Islam actually believes about Jesus? <-- This is a real follow-up question.
  • What do you say to [this criticism from Dr. William Lane Craig]?
  • What are your conclusions about Jesus? <-- This is where an unbiased interview would have started.
  • What do you say to [the comparison that your book is like a Democrat writing about Reagan]?
  • But why would a Democrat want to promote democracy by writing about a Republican?

After that last fumbled question, she merely makes statements. Most are attacks. “To say that your information is different from theirs is really not being honest here” is one. “I believe you've been on several programs and have never disclosed you're a Muslim” is another. Both of her statements are incorrect.

Aslan (and how beautiful is it that he shares the name of C.S. Lewis' lion?) nails it in the end:

I think that the fundamental problem here is that you're assuming that I have some sort of faith-based bias in this work that I write ... My job as a scholar of religions, with a Ph.D. in the subject, is to write about religions, and one of the religions that I write about is one that was launched by Jesus. ...

I think it's unfair to simply assume that because of my faith background that there is some agenda on this book ...

But they assume that because they know their own mind. It's what they do. They have bias; they have an agenda. It not only permeate the network, it's the point of the network.

The truly awful thing? Apparently there's a discussion to be had about this book, and it would've fit right into FOX-News' actual political agenda, since Aslan is basically calling Jesus a revolutionary for the poor and oppressed. That's hardly a new thought but it's not FOX-News' interpretation. Put another way: That interpretation of Jesus doesn't work for FOX-News or the GOP. So that's the discussion they could've had. Instead we got this. Because the network couldn't get past “Muslim.”

In the end, I actually learned something here. I learned that those weren't thieves being crucified alongside Jesus. At least according to this one scholar with a Ph.D. in religions.

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Posted at 08:42 AM on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 in category Religion  


Reed wrote:

I think you may have buried the lede, Erik. (Did I use that phrase correctly? I am never sure on this one.) When you wrote “Aslan is basically calling Jesus a revolutionary for the poor and oppressed. That's hardly a new thought but it's not FOX-News' interpretation. Put another way: That interpretation of Jesus doesn't work for FOX-News or the GOP.” Isn't this part of the reason to have this guy on in the first place? To bait him into a discussion about “what Muslims think” so that any real discussion of Jesus' principles is left by the wayside.

While the GOP and Fox in particular do projection as a vocation, I wonder if this case was more strategically considered. The worst thing that could happen is letting this guy or anyone else talk about Jesus.

Imagine if Pop Francisco was on Fox News hoping to send his message about defending the poorest among us...
“You, as an Argentinian - you stood idly by as Diego Maradona CHEATED by using his hand in the 1986 world cup against England. What makes you think you have the right to comment about religious topics?”
“Bueno, primero es que soy el Pap-”
“AND DID DIEGO MARADONA not then say, and I'm quoting the Argentinian soccer player here - he said the goal was scored with 'a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God?' That is your countryman, a national hero who said such a blasphemous thing to the entire world, and you have the temerity to lecture the rest of us about religion?”

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Reed wrote:

POPE Francisco. Pop Francisco sounds like a North End little league coach...

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Erik L. wrote:

Very nice, Reed. And that could have been their plan. But that involves its own set of assumptions and I wanted to deal with what was said.

But you're right. Just look at the line of questioning. They tried to to discredit him before he could talk about anything. Of course, attacking the messenger rather than message is as old as ... oh, I'm sure a time period will come to me. I mean, it's like THOUSANDS of years old.

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Been Her wrote:

Contrast this atrocity from someone who prepped by just googling for hostile reviews with a thoughtful interview by someone who actually read the book and who tries to shed a little light on the book and its author. (From a comedy show, of course, because this is America.)

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 at 03:11 PM

Erik wrote:

You know the old saying: the news is harder but comedy is harder.

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 30, 2013 at 04:15 PM
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