Anyone looking for a case study in how not to interview an author can look no further than this painful encounter between Reza Aslan, the writer of a new book on Jesus, and Fox News host Lauren Green. Aslan, a scholar of religion, has written a new book called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and it has inspired some backlash, particularly on the right. Among many other condemnations and mockeries, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski suggested it might be the "most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done."
The video speaks for itself, but a few thoughts follow below.
1. Anyone who brags about their degrees is almost immediately laughed out of a room -- and for good reason. In this case, however, that's misguided. Greene's line of questioning is such that it's practically impossible for Aslan to do anything but list his credentials. I've seen the interview characterized as "anti-intellectual," but that's a misreading of the issue at stake here, which is that Green and others subscribe to a mistaken view of how academic research works. The nature of research is that scholars make arguments about the material they study. When that's about, say, William Makepeace Thackeray's views on marriage, it's not controversial enough to make cable news, but more politically contested fields like 20th century history or Jesus are no more immune to legitimate disagreements of interpretation and scholarship than comparative literature. But the root of this controversy seems to be an objection to Aslan making arguments about Jesus in the first place.