Watch this, if you dare.
I have been using the phrase “Bias makes you stupid” for many years, but only recently learned that a Utah climate-change scientist has claimed the observation as his own. In fact, Barry Bickmore has a lot of useful, perceptive observations among “Bickmore’s Laws” ( Example: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions ), though they all were apparently devised to help him debunk the arguments of climates change skeptics. Most of them have general applicability. and that includes his version of what I once called “Marshall’s First Law”: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased: Bias makes you human. Unchecked bias makes you stupid.
Which brings us to Lauren Green, and Fox News.
I have no idea whether Ms. Green is really stupid or not. I do know she is a former beauty queen, and that Fox (other networks too, but Fox is blatant about it) clearly values pulchritude over journalistic acumen and skill when making their on-air talent decisions not involving Y chromosomes. This itself is stupid, unprofessional, sexist, insulting to women, unfair to better journalists with smaller bra cups and courser features, and I must admit, when it leads to an epic live embarrassment such as Green’s, I take some satisfaction that Roger Ailes is getting exactly what he deserves for such a cynical, reckless, ratings ploy.
If Lauren Green is not stupid, then her frantic efforts to play to the core Fox audience’s presumed bias in favor of Christianity of the literal variety and related bias against non-Christians, especially Muslims, sure caused her brain to take a holiday. Or, perhaps, her own unchecked Christian biases—she is Fox’s “religion correspondent” these days—triggered a classic display of Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased. In either case, I think her credibility is permanently shot, even at Fox. She might want to consider a different line of work.
What she did in the course of the disastrous and hostile interview with author and scholar Reza Aslan, who has written a controversial new tome challenging some traditional tropes of Christianity, has been pounced on with glee by the liberal media. I have seen almost as cringe-worthy performances from CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS talking heads…see, for example, here (Ann Curry), or here (John King), or here (Matt Lauer)….and MSNBC has equally horrible performances several times daily, but this was Fox, so naturally everyone is smugly piling on. It’s OK—Green deserves it, as does Fox. Green is not as far behind the low standard set by the rest, however, as their ridicule would make its seem.
But was this the bottom of the barrel? Yes.
In her interview with Aslan, Green decided to play investigative reporter, and to prove that the scholar had an agenda in writing the book, namely to discredit Christianity, because of his Muslim faith. She asked, “I want to be clear, you are a Muslim. So why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” He was relatively nice: I would have said, “You’re a black woman. So why are you working at Fox News?” Green’s world view, as she displayed it, appeared to be that everyone is driven by ideological biases, partisan agendas and nothing else, that nobody ever looks for the truth unless they think it will benefit them in some way, and that objective and honest scholarship is a myth. Being made box-of-rocks stupid by her own biases (or desperately trying to defend her employer’s bias), she naturally assumed that the author had to be motivated by his own. “But it begs the question, why you would be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Green asked. Wait—why wouldn’t he be? Why, for that matter, wouldn’t he be interested in bran flakes, the Ritz brothers, the works of P.G. Wodehouse, the agriculture policies of Benjamin Harrison, urban legends of Pocatello, Idaho, or the songwriting career of Orin Hatch?Who is Lauren Green to decide what is appropriate for anyone to study and have an interest in? Of course, her position is even sillier than that: she’s questioning why a religious scholar is interested in one of the towering figures of world religion. Hmmm...that’s a real head-scratcher, right, Roger?
“Because it’s my job as an academic; I am a professor of religion. It’s what I do for a living,” Aslan, answered, reasonable enough. “I’m not sure what my faith has to do with my twenty years of academic study… I think it’s strange that instead of debating the merits of the book, we’re actually discussing the right of the scholar to actually write it.”
It was strange, except that Lauren Green was in the deadly grip of Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased.
It goes with the territory.