I spend a lot of time saying that media bias is less important than we all like to say it is, considering how much more diversified media is with the internet, blogging and more. Then I watch two viral news clips such as these, from Fox News Network and MSNBC, respectively, and I lose faith in humanity for just a second.
First, Fox News did a segment on their online show “Spirited Debate” wherein they were supposed to interview Reza Aslan, a religions scholar, on his new book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” In it, Lauren Green kicks off the interview by saying, “Just want to clarify, you’re a Muslim, so why did you want to write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
It gets worse. In fact, it gets downright offensive pretty quickly. The quote “an educated Muslim’s opinion about Jesus” is thrown in, referring to Aslan, who happens to be a scholar with a Ph.D. in religious studies, has published several books on other religions, and is fluent in Biblical Greek.
Over and over again, the interviewer portrayed a rhetorical illegitimacy and unwillingness to engage in arguments (instead, she favored the ill-concealed ad hominem attack). Some of her cites were from anonymous commenters on the FOX News blog – hardly worthy critiques of a well-researched work of academia. In general, the tone was not editorial – it was downright mean-spirited. Kudos to Aslan for keeping his cool and showing her up several times.
The other is the “analysis” favored by Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC. In a discussion on Detroit, Harris-Perry makes her point about Detroit, saying, “This lack of tax base is also exactly the thing that many Republicans would impose on us even when our cities have sufficient populations. … This is what it looks like when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub and it is not a pretty picture.”
This opinion is offensive. How can she project blame onto people leaving a city in which the property taxes are the highest in the nation, income taxes are the highest in the state of Michigan, the crime rate is always among the highest in the nation, phone calls to the police in Detroit take an hour average to garner response (national average is 11 minutes), houses that were worth close to one million dollars 40 years ago can be sold for 35 dollars, public pension debt is in the billions, 61 percent of people who work in the city don’t live in the city because city services are so abysmal, illiteracy is at 47 percent…
Detroit is in dire need of a fresh start – a focus on people instead of the past failed city policies. Harris-Perry’s statements are offensive for being able to think that blame rests with the citizens who fled, simply because they outweighed their quality of life to keeping the tax base to pay for corruption and a failed progressive “greater good.”
So newsflash, mainstream media: you’ll never get that great new story if you won’t look past your own biases and listen to the people you’re talking about.