Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mid-Week Rant: Dawkins Interviews US vs UK

This is going to be a bit of a different Mid-Week Rant. Basically it is more of a rant from me.
I just wanted to point out a few things about these two interviews with Richard Dawkins from the past week. Both videos had been making the rounds on social media sites and I ended up watching them back to back so something struck me. Go ahead and watch them (or skip it) and read my commentary below. Thanks. 


In the first interview Richard Dawkins is on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. Keep in mind that Dawkins is there promoting his book ‘The Magic of Reality’ which is a book about science for young people. Having not the read the book myself, but based on the title, I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t at least an implicit hint of a “science is right and other explanations are rubbish” tone. However, this is far from an atheist/antitheist book for kids.  Even if that were true, what would it matter? A science book promoting scientific and rational thought over supernaturalism is not offensive. Entire books of the Bible are offensive, provably incorrect and potentially damaging in instilling that worldview on kids and adults. In any event, the level of discourse with Bill O’Reilly is idiotic, in no small surprise due to the host. O’Reilly doesn’t care about anything other than confronting Dawkins based on previous arguments and Bill’s personal disdain for atheism. His objective is not to facilitate a discussion about the book or the author. It’s Fox News. There is a predetermined agenda all the way. His condescension towards Professor Dawkins is only overshadowed by his sheer arrogance and ignorance. His “gotcha” moment is so pathetic that it hurts to watch. I watched this video twice in order to write this post and I can barely function from the mind-numbing stupidity of it all and the my absolute disdain for this man, his network, its viewers and anyone that thinks like him. I must move on.

Conversely, in the BBC Newsnight interview (forgive me, but I do not know the host’s name) there is a much more civil, inquisitive tone and set of questions. The question of science and  atheism versus myth and religion is handled without being petty, threatening, angry or stupid. All the things Bill O’Reilly perfectly represents. The BBC Newsnight program’s objective is to provide the audience with Dawkins' motivations for writing it. The BBC is actually concerned with getting the details of the book right because someone in his audience may actually read it.

Fox News has no such responsibility, nor does it care to, since few in their audience would consider reading a book that might create cognitive dissonance. Fox viewers have no desire to challenge their preconceived notions and deeply held beliefs that reading a science book may accomplish.  And yes I am well aware that I am saying that about a children’s book.

The problem I wish to express here is that the discourse in America is no longer civil or rational. It is all agenda driven which, inherently, requires that facts are ignored from argument to argument and talking point to talking point. Fox News, as the most watched “news” program in the U.S. can no longer criticize the “mainstream media.” They are the mainstream media and none of us are better for it.


Jason said...

3:29 mark of the O'Reilly video. Clearly edited.

Steve said...

I can't view it at work, but I'll check later to see if it alters anything significant and try to find an unedited version.

Thanks for catching that. I guess I was too agitated at Bill and missed it upon two veiwings.

Paul said...

"If you believe in the teachings of Jesus (edited) who wants people to be peaceful..."

all that was edited out was:
"...or Buddha, or someone like that..."

Also edited out was about 2 words earlier on, where Uncle Bill says that it is good to teach science.

No major content edits, just a few words to make it more pro-jesus and anti-atheist.

And to respond to the rant--I hope somewhere (I'll look later) there is another interviewer of Dawkins who can better represent Americans. Billy-O hasn't said anything relevant since his "do it live!" outtakes.

Jason said...

There was also an edit at the 29 second mark. Or is that where he said it was good to teach science?

Paul said...

@ jason: yes

Andrew said...

The BBC interviewer is Jeremy Paxman. Newsnight (along with channel 4 news) are two of the more intelligent news programmed in the UK.

I think many Americans believe things unquestioningly as they are a (relatively) young country.

In the UK, because of 2000 years of being invaded, fighting back, changing official religions and trying various forms of democracy, we have developed, as a nation, a certain cynicism that hasn't emerged yet in the US.

Steve said...

@ Andrew Thank you for informing us of the interviewer's name.

I agree with you comment that (we) Americans tend to believe what we are told, but I think it has more to do with what authority is speaking rather than the age of our country. Is the speaker in your "in-group" or not? Democrats/liberals hated Bush and Republicans/conservatives loved him. Obama gets elected and the roles are reversed. Regardless of the fact tht the policies are only superficially different in some areas. It's a very culturally fragmented society and differences are amplified by modern media.