WAYS TO DIVIDE: Through zealotry!


Part 2—Baiting the Romans: When Salon interviewed Reza Aslan, we thought we saw some good news and we thought we saw some bad.

Aslan is the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which was published last year. Lauren Green, who normally isn’t crazy, conducted a ridiculous interview with him for a Fox News webcast, repeatedly asking why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus.

Needless to say, the ridiculous session went viral. In an interview this week for Salon, Michael Schulson asked Aslan about the mess.

We would say some good news was lurking here:
SCHULSON (4/20/14): Your interview on Fox News was painful to watch, but it also pushed you to the top of the bestseller lists. How do you come to terms with that kind of bittersweet PR boost? Do you ask for an apology? Do you write a thank you note?

ASLAN: [Laughs] Well, just to set the record straight, the book was already a massive bestseller. But you’re absolutely right: the Fox News interview shoved it to No. 1. Obviously, I’m grateful for that, but mostly what I’m grateful for is the way that the interview launched a much-needed public conversation about who gets to speak for Jesus. I think Fox News watchers, conservative Christians, were outraged by that interview, as many of them have emailed me to say. This idea that there are only these gatekeepers who get to speak for Jesus—that’s something that’s obviously absurd, and a lot of people reject that.
For the record, the book was not “a massive bestseller” at that point. But you can’t exactly blame an author for overstating a tad.

Aslan said that many Fox watchers, conservative Christians, have emailed him to say they didn’t agree with the tone of the interview.

To the extent that’s true, we’d call that very good news. Schulson followed up on the comment:
SCHULSON (continuing directly): So you’ve gotten a lot of support from regular Fox News viewers?

ASLAN: Of the thousands of emails I’ve gotten about that interview, I think 99 percent of them were positive, and many of them were from regular Fox News watchers who said they would never watch Fox News again. Many of them were from conservative Christians who said that, while they disagree with my interpretation of Jesus, they were horrified by the blatant bigotry that was shown in the interview.
Aslan may still be overstating, of course. But to the extent that he isn’t, we would call his report good news.

We think it’s good when people from the other tribe find ways to agree with our own tribe’s approaches. Getting people to agree with your point of view is what politics and other forms of persuasion are all about.

To the extent that Aslan was telling the truth, we would call his comments good news. On the other hand, we thought there was something like bad news lurking in these later comments, where Aslan tilts toward division and ultimate conquest:
SCHULSON: On your Twitter feed, the background picture is of Glenn Beck looking distressed. I have to ask: Do you enjoy being the bane of these right-wing media personalities?

ASLAN: Am I allowed to say yes? I mean, look, when someone like Glenn Beck puts you on his chalkboard of crazy, I think it’s a moment to be proud of. When designated hate-group leaders like Robert Spencer or Pamela Geller spend all of their days Googling you and writing articles about things you’ve said or written, I think you should be proud of that, because these guys are clowns. They are racist, bigoted individuals, and you want people like that to hate you.

So, listen, I’m guilty of baiting these guys sometimes; it’s not a professional thing to do, I’m not proud of it, to be honest with you. At the same time, there is something to be proud of when Glenn Beck and Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer and magazines like First Things hate you.
Really? On his Twitter feed, Aslan features a picture of Glenn Beck? Aslan says he sometimes “baits” such figures, though “it’s not a professional thing to do” and he isn’t “proud of it.”

(Aslan wants people like Beck to hate him? Really? Why? What’s the point?)

In our view, Aslan should possibly listen to the inner voice which is saying his instincts may be wrong here.

In our highly tribalized culture, we’re constantly rewarded for name-calling the other tribe+for heightening the contradiction. Unfortunately, there are three million ways to define and locate The Other—three million ways to divide the public against itself.

Sometimes, Salon seems devoted to helping us pursue each one.

Yesterday, we noted the way Salon enjoys urging generational division. As the week proceeds, we’ll look at one or two more.

In our view, every time we divide the 99 percent without need, we’re just helping the one percent win. Divide and conquer! It’s the oldest play in the plutocrat play book!

The liberal world was asleep for decades. Today, it’s alive and snarling, not necessarily in completely constructive ways.

This revived liberal world loaded for bear. On a political basis, is that the best route to success?

If Aslan can be believed, many conservatives took his side after Green’s unfortunate, uncharacteristic interview. Helping others learn to see things your way—mightn’t that be the route to success?

Tomorrow: Good morning, Tuscaloosa!

Thursday: Name-calling Mr. O


  1. OK, we begin by destroying the myth that Azlan's book was a best seller before his Fox interview.

    Next, we move on to how Tuscaloosa schools have re-segregated over the last decade or so. Then we continue with a totally silly race-baiting interview O'Reilly did with a basketball coach who proceeds to hand Mr. O his hindquarters.

    Brilliant, Bob.

    1. The point about whether his book was a massive bestseller or not is information that can be used to evaluate whether his claim about how many emails he received (and the perceptage that were positive) is accurate or not. We can verify the bestseller standing. The emails are not available to us. Good critical thinking uses verifiable information to check the accuracy of unverifiable information from the same source.

  2. OMB (Uncovering Truths According to the OTB)

    BOB can see and think. He can see good and bad, he thinks.

    Lauren Green is crazy at times.

    Exaggeration by authors in moderation is sort of forgiveable.

    Some news from exaggerators, dpending on how true, is very good. Of course since it is an exaggerator, if true it is just good.

    BOB claims tribe membership.

    To the extent the exaggerator is telling the truth his truth is still good news. On the other hand he has bad news which BOB does not question. Well, after stating the bad news he might question it and ask why.

    BOB believes in inner voices.

    BOB, who counts pages and words, now counts three million ways to divide. That is seven million less than the number of cars coming from Ft. Lee.

    BOB doesn't like Salon. BOB still doesn't read comments since he still blames Salon for a headline he didn't blame the author of an article for. BOB doesn't like the 1% either.


  3. People have become more savvy over time. They are better at hiding how nutty they are, so baiting can be necessary to expose their true nature.

    1. Is that why Salon put in the click bait headlines on Boomers
      that got Somerby's attention yesterday?