The ‘Fox Mole’ Should Change the Title of His Forthcoming Book

Joe Muto, an “an NPR-listening, Obama-loving liberal,” worked at FOX News Channel for years. Last month, he took on a role as the “Fox Mole,” reporting from the “inside” for Gawker. Not long after, he was caught, got fired, etc.

Now, Muto has sold a book proposal about his time there.

The tentative title: An Atheist in the Foxhole.

Which carries the unwelcome implication that atheists aren’t normally in foxholes…

(Unless he means there are actually *lots* of moles at FOX News just like there are lots of atheists in the military… but you know that’s not what he means.)

It’s not lost on me that the title is a bit of wordplay (Foxhole/FOX News), but still.

The suggestion that he’s an anomaly at FOX News may be true. The suggestion that atheists are anomalies in foxholes isn’t.

It’s not too late for his publishers (Dutton) to change the title. I hope they do.

Or maybe Muto is just trying to rile up atheist groups in the hopes that they’ll give his book additional exposure by complaining about it… thus starting a debate on FOX News over whether atheists are *really* in foxholes… which could ironically lead to Muto appearing on a segment where they talk about his book… Yep. I figured it out. Genius.

After working at FOX News, you figure one thing he *must* be good at is creating his own controversy.

***Update***: Just about all the commenters have said I’m misinterpreting the title and it’s not offensive. I’m still having a hard time understanding how this isn’t implying that there are usually no atheists in foxholes, but I’ll step away from it for a bit and look at it again soon. Maybe that’ll help. Right now, I feel like Kanye West and fishsticks…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    I like it. I don’t think it should be changed. I see it as an affront to the original phrase.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000681325976 Samantha Reynolds

      I like it too. 

  • Robin

    I don’t understand how the title of his book implies that there are not more (or many other) atheists in foxholes.  I think it’s clever and he should keep it.

  • Stev84

    According to documents found in Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, even he didn’t like Fox News.

  • http://twitter.com/nora_anne Nora

    I don’t think it implies that there aren’t usually atheists in foxholes. By using “an” he is just saying that he is one of the atheists in foxholes and he is going to talk about it in his book. If it was “The Atheist in the Foxhole,” I would think you had a point. In this case it’s just a clever use of the phrase, I think.

  • I_Claudia

    Wait, what???

    Hemant, you OK? Maybe you haven’t had your coffee yet?  In what way shape or form does AN atheist in the foxhole imply there are not usually atheists in foxholes?

    One of the most celebrated and respected atheist groups is “Foxhole Atheists”.

    Does the name  “Gay” for homosexual mean that straight people are sad?

    Don’t you remember how you specifically changed your tag from “The Friendly Atheist” because you didn’t want to imply there were no others. A friendly atheist or just “friendly atheist” is more inclusive. In what way is  “An atheist in the foxhole” any different from “a friendly atheist”?

    An atheist in the foxhole doesn’t imply the rarity of atheists in foxholes. In fact, if one were to take the phrase literally, it would imply the rarity of foxholes. I’m all for objecting to “no atheists in foxholes” when it’s used directly, but I really don’t see this little play on words to be an example of it.

    • Dan

      You said it. I also remember the brouhaha over “the friendly atheist”, and now Hemant is using the same attack used against him.

  • AJKamper

    I agree with the other commenters–I don’t get that this says atheists aren’t normally in foxholes at all. Like Nora and Thomas, it seems to actively disprove the idea that there are no atheists in foxholes.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I also like the title. Aside from the nice wordplay, it emphasizes the more literal concept of atheists in foxholes, which is a positive thing.

  • Stephen Cameron

    Count me among the other atheists who like the title just fine.

  • TheAnalogKid

    In the foxhole had me thinking of something else. 

    • Gus Snarp

      Me too.

  • NewEnglandBob

    The title should be “Atheist in the Fox Cesspool”

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m OK with it, but I’ve never been in a foxhole. The question is, what do the real foxhole atheists think of it?

  • http://twitter.com/gdeichen Gavin Deichen

    The myth about there being NO atheists in foxholes would be refuted if a single atheist was found in a foxhole, so it would be proving some religious rhetoric incorrect  just with that… The fact that the title says AN atheist could be read as implying that there are loads of them. And you do rather imagine Fox News as being jam-packed full of anti-science religious bigots, foaming at the mouth about awful left-wing ideas such as “facts” – so perhaps he was the odd one out.

    It’s a good title.

  • Recovering Agnostic

    It’s a play on a well-known phrase. No more, no less. Even squinting, I struggle to see it as any sort of slur on atheists. If a Christian was bothered by an equivalent perceived slight, I don’t think anyone would have any hesitation in prescribing a large dose of GetOverYourself.

    Sorry, I just can’t get worked up about this.

  • http://twitter.com/flamingwitch flamingwitch

    Doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it implies that there are no other atheists in foxholes.

  • Gordonsowner2

    I agree with the commenters… to me, the title meant that there was just someone working at fox news who hadn’t drunk the conservative kool-aid… an unbeliever of that ideology in an establishment it is a bastion of conservative ideology rather than a news organization.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I think Hemant might be reading too much into that. This guy probably just thought it was a witty bit of wordplay that intersected with a common notion about atheists. I for one think it’s a good title.

  • John Nevill

    Wouldn’t this be a bit like an African American man writing a book called “A Black Man in the Pool” about dealing with and pointing out racism while training to swim in the summer Olympics.  It brings the problem to light and makes it really sink in by using a common phrase or idea that is also unjust and wrong.

  • Chuck

    I just do not think it is a [articularly interesting or useful title. 
    The book is not about his or anyone’s religious veiws, and it is not a good pun.  So the word “fox” is there.  Big deal. 

  • Chupper

    There’s only one person here “creating his own controversy,” and his name is Hemant.  

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Hemant, I would like to complain about the title of your book.  By saying you sold your soul on E-Bay, aren’t you implying that souls exist?  Are you trying to rile up atheist groups in hopes of getting additional exposure?

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ nothierthanthou

    Yeah, I think this is a little bit overly sensitive. 

  • Zac

    He’s using the indefinite article “An” rather than the definite article “The”. Only “The” would imply there aren’t other atheists in foxholes.

  • Jippyhound

    I love your column, but now I think you’re splitting hairs. How hyper-sensitive do you we need to be? How over-reactionary?

    Personally, I took it as a positive statement. As if with hits title he is confirming the existence of atheists in foxholes, challenging those who deny their existence.

    It sounds defiant. So, I dunno, with all respect and admiration, relax a little, Hermant.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    Over reaction, we start to look silly & a bunch of whiners if we complain about everything. This is pretty innocuous so let it go, we have bigger battles to fight than the title of some silly book. Any kind of protest/boycott is likely to backfire, let’s leave this one alone.

  • OmniZ815

    Not only do I not have a problem with the title, I think it’s awesomely clever. To reiterate the other commenters: “An Atheist” not only doesn’t imply that there aren’t any, it actively implies that there are. It’s exposure in a way that could actually help rebut this myth.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      Aren’t there supposed to be a lot of these kind of “Atheists” working for Fox, anyway?

  • Babsva

    What? it’s a great title!

  • Tina in Houston

    I’m fine with it. Foxhole? I admit I was thinking something else too.

  • Onamission5

    I didn’t take it that way at all. I took it as he’s referring to himself as one of the atheists in the foxhole (by his use of an instead of the) with added punniness for kicks.

    I am not offended.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I think the title implies that Fox News is like bing in a hole.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  I’m not offended.   

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I don’t think the negative implication against atheists is really there.  I tend to be annoyed by the phrase “atheists in foxholes” simply because of its history of use by anti-atheist bigots when they include the word “no,” but it’s a sore spot that I can ignore when the phrase is not used with that intention.

    Even so, here’s an alternative title suggestion: 

    Outfoxing the FOX

  • Allan

    Hemant, the reading you’re getting for that title is definitely not the only reading nor is it the standard reading.

    The title is fine and, I thought, cute/clever.

  • Ndonnan

    Get over it,a tad hypersensative

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ nothierthanthou

    The question is how does it imply that such a thing is rare. It certainly isn’t a logical entailment. Perhaps some sort of conversational implicature. The only angle I can think is that the title gets more force if someone does think that atheists are rarely in Foxholes, but even then I think that force would only really come through if it was about danger and war. It isn’t. So, I think the only real implication is that you are aware that such is commonly the point behind that phrase. There just isn’t any particular reason to think that is the angle he is going for.

    …unless he has made additional comments to indicate that is his meaning, in which case we have a far bigger problem than just the title.

  • Marco Conti

    Sorry, I think the title of the book is OK. If we lived in a atheist society with plenty of atheist in the armed forces then, maybe I would see the point. 
    But the bulk of the public is still convinced that there are no atheists in foxholes. I’d consider giving them the perception there is even just one a small victory.

    The play of words is also clever and would not work if different than the current title. 

    By the way, I’ll buy the book for sure. 

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Right now, I feel like Kanye West and fishsticks…

    We love ya, Hemant. You tell truth fearlessly and tirelessly, and I couldn’t keep up with you even with the help of an Acme Rocket Sled.
     

  • jjramsey

    If an atheist soldier or ex-soldier were to write an autobiography about his/her war experiences and entitled it “An Atheist in a Foxhole,” would that still imply that atheists in foxholes are rare?

  • dantresomi

    I love the title.. i get that working at Fox News is like being in a fox hole… 

  • http://twitter.com/tkmlac Katie

    The title of the book is “An Atheist in the Foxhole,” not, “The Only Atheist in Any Foxholes.” 

  • http://profiles.google.com/mattand08 Matt Andrews

    Hemant: I get your point, but geez, lighten up. You know that tired old story about the atheist who gets upset when someone says “God bless you” to them after they sneeze? That’s you on this issue.

  • thebigJ_A

    Well, since all the commentors (not even ‘just about’, all the ones who weighed in) don’t see the supposed implication, I think it’s on you to explain how it is implying that there aren’t usually atheists in fox holes.

    Honestly, I don’t see it, at all. I can’t even get my brain to look at it from an angle where it MIGHT imply that.

    If it was “THE Atheist…” you might have an argument. Even then it would be petty and weak, though.


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