Where are those Decent Journalists, Trained and Skilled?

A few days ago we ran a disgraceful vid of an “Interview” between Fox and Reza Aslan.  This cartoon sort of sums that up nicely, especially with the precious petals of our own media getting all hot and bothered about privacy when they go through other people’s stuff every. single. day in the name of “freedom” and “public interest”.

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  • johnbronkhorst

    Only saw part of the interview.
    But I have a question:
    If all he had to say was how qualified he was, and that he had written a book. Then refuse to answer questions, about his qualifications to write the book, or on the content of the book……Why the fuck did he go on Fox News for an interview? Couldn’t get an interview on any other network or cable show???
    Fox has overtly Christian views!!

    • He was on Fox to promote his book. Fox decided to do a hit piece on him by saying that he wasn’t qualified to talk about Jesus as a Moslim. As she kept repeating the allegation, he kept repeating he is a learned scholar in religious studies, not just Christianity, not just Islam. Same question got the same answer.

      • johnbronkhorst

        SO…..Why did he ONLY go on Fox News??
        He started aggressively, in an attempt to belittle the interviewer. Dum move, especially when you are there to SELL copies of your book to her viewers!
        Just BRAGGING about your “qualifications”, in an attempt to belittle the interviewer, is NOT going to get the job done.
        Again, why CHOOSE Fox News as a platform to sell your book?
        EDIT: Many people have gone on Fox News and had their integrity and even honesty questioned, most didn’t behave like this and many of them were NOT trying to sell a book!

        • Marketing. That’s why.

          http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/fox-news-dont-come-to-jesus-moment.html

          Meanwhile, there was, yes, also that other, more predictable incident in which Fox News’s Lauren Green, in an interview with Reza Aslan, wondered how he, as a Muslim, could have had what in the first-century Temple would have been called the chutzpah to write a scholarly book about Jesus. Aslan, to his credit, kept his patience and his equilibrium, and tried to remind Green that scholars generally try to avoid bias by consulting sources, examining texts, submitting to the rigors of critical inquiry, etc. She looked singularly unimpressed, as if he had been trying to sell her on the idea that Obamacare didn’t involve supplying government-made pillows with which to smother Grandmom.

          Being attacked for insufficient Jesus-ness by a Fox News anchor is apparently (well worth keeping this in mind) a way to drive your book up to No. 1 on Amazon

          • johnbronkhorst

            His book has been No.1 on Amazon for 21 days, he went on Fox News Wednesday before last!
            He was criticised for content and reacted badly and petulantly.
            He might as well have said,” don’t you know who I am”!!!! Well I don’t and now I don’t care!!!

          • tspoon

            It appears to be a very successful piece of guerrilla marketing. Aslan was clearly not there to be interviewed, but to court controversy by making a tv presenter look dumb(not exactly hard to do). Similar to the way some semi famous people ‘accidentally’ release sex tapes, this is a fast growing trend in how to draw attention to something you’ve done. Unfortunately, it detracts from the matter at hand somewhat. I find history interesting, especially on this subject matter. Now, instead of being curious about his book I just think he’s a douche, and won’t bother.

          • Kimbo

            Because it is a book based on the technical tools of biblical scholarship – textual criticism, source, form, and redaction criticism.

            When it suits conservative or orthodox Christians to bolster their case, they will appeal to those sorts of facts and arguments – and cite their scholars. e.g, FF Bruce, DA Carson, Leon Morris, etc.

            Which means that it is a valid and necessary means of the scholarly process that their assumptions and findings are challenged by others with similar technical skills. Reza Aslan was simply answering a stupid question (which wasn’t much different to “Have you stopped beating your wife?”), with a valid explanation of his CV that established…

            1. Why he wrote the book and

            2. (answering the hidden implication behind the question) his qualifications to be considered an “expert in the field” that meant his controversial views had a right to a scholarly hearing.

            Which is how scholarship, including biblical studies if it truly desrves a place in Universities, should function.

            I don’t agree was Reza Aslan’s findings – although if Christians and others avaiaed themselves of some of the information he uses, the general standard of theological, religious and secular vs faith politics debate would probably improve.

            However, the question put to him about his Muslim faith was especially dumb as Jesus is an important prophet (but not the Son of God) in Islam. But even if he was an agnostic, Buddhist, or communist, it is irrelevant, as it is his expertise and vocation that establish beyond question his right to published, and be given “scholarly peer review” and wider-public consideration that comes with being a scholar. This isn’t a case of “worship my big academic dick you ignorant peons”, even if some folks like to play the “ignorant uneducatwed snobbery routine”. If Reza Aslan was arguing he is a better person that others becuase of his education qualification, then he deserves a bitch-slapping. In this context, he was doing nothing of the sort – just establishing his valid right to be considered an expert in the field.

            Finally, the question of Reza Aslam’s muslim faith is especially irrelevant to his decison to write the book, and the conclusions he reasched, because it would appear he concludes that Jesus WAS crucified. Quick fact check: His conclusions might have conservative Christians up in arms, but it also makes him liable to be labelled a blasphemer by fundamentalist muslims, who hold, as a tenet of their faith, that God would never have allowed his exalted prophets, including Jesus, to suffer in such a shameful and ignominious way.

            If Fox is “Christian” then they should be prepared to have the assumptions of the Christian faith considered, challenged, and debated. That is what most people consider “fair and balanced”. Leading off with a subtle ad hominem attack closes the door right from the beginning

  • johnbronkhorst

    Now this I would agree with.

    Updates on Reza Aslan

    August 1, 2013 By vorjack 4 Comments

    A few points on the Reza Aslan/Zealot issue that I wrote about previously.

    1. Lauren Green pushed Aslan to the point where he had to cite his credentials. In doing so, he overstated them, or stated them misleadingly. Aslan is not an accredited historian; he teaches creative writing and he has a Ph.D. in sociology of religion. Objectively, he is not qualified to write in this field.

    That said, he’s not a complete amateur either. He has published on the history of Islam, fundamentalism and other religious topics, so he’s not a complete stranger to the field. His bibliography and notes look decent, so he’s not just pulling things out of his ass.

    If he were expanding the field or making novel suggestions we’d want much more in the way of qualifications, but this is closer to a work of popularization than cutting edge history. I’m willing to give him a pass. But I should admit that I see Historical Jesus studies as a field cluttered with dilettantes and as a result I don’t take it very seriously, so the bar is set pretty low.

    2. I don’t agree with Get Religion or Daniel Silliman in their defense of Lauren Green. Perhaps because I’m viewing her performance in tandem with the John Dickinson article, but I saw her as a hostile interviewer who knew only that Aslan was trying to hide the fact that he’s a Muslim. It really was that bad, and also hypocritical.

    Both blogs, along with folks like Kyle Roberts, have brought up questions they would have liked to have seen addressed. I completely agree.

    3. Having poked at the book and read some reviews, it looks like Aslan’s thesis is that Jesus was a (small z) zealot opposed to the Roman occupation and passionate for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not a new theory, and it’s one of a dozen or so historical Jesus theories that have been kicked around.

    Robert Price discusses the theory and mentions a half dozen scholars engaged in the debate. Price has in the past admitted that he finds some of the arguments compelling, although his primary stance is still agnosticism on the existence of Jesus.

    For better or worse, the controversy has made the book very popular. At least many people will now be exposed to an aspect of Biblical history that doesn’t often get covered in Sunday school. But I could wish that Aslan was more cautious in his history.

    4. Hemant has pointed out that Aslan has previously taken a shot at the new atheists. I hadn’t made the connection, but it doesn’t surprise me. Aslan is a favorite on NPR, like Karen Armstrong and other progressive believers. We’re never going to be moderate enough for those folks.

    Aslan would like us to be the descendants of philosophers like Feuerbach or Schopenhauer, but we’re the descendants of Robert Ingersoll and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. He needs to deal with it.

    • Kimbo

      Yep. And sorry, I didn’t notice this really good follow up source you quoted when I replied to an earlier post you had made.

      Those are some good conclusions. Reza Aslan is basically recycling Albert Schweitser’s quest for the historical Jesus that was published in about 1905.

      But I would consider his qualifications as sufficient to be write scholarly works in history and/or biblical scholarship and/or history of religion. A lot of the skills and issues are inter-changeable across disciplines – indeed biblical scholarship draws on a whole truck load of other disciplines – history, philosophy, anthro, archaeology, etc.

      That said, even though we would both, it would appear, defend his right to publish as an “expert in the field”, I think you are right on the money when the source you quote writes,

      “Historical Jesus studies as a field cluttered with dilettantes and as a result I don’t take it very seriously, so the bar is set pretty low”.

      Remember Barbara Theiring who cashed in about 20 years ago with a load of publicity for stuff scholars would tell you was complete crap? She’s now just a footnote. Reza Aslan will likely be just the same. But he has to be allowed his chance to make a buck, because that is what scholarly freedom entails.

  • Ronnie Chow

    Armstrong has lost the plot . Just to be off topic.

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