Clueless FOX Talking Hairdos…

Clueless FOX Talking Hairdos… November 29, 2012

…utterly fail to grasp Anthony Esolen’s point:

So they cut him off and gave him the boot. Something the Thing That Used to be Conservatism’s Entertainment Disinformation Complex does a lot to Catholics who use their heads. Esolen, who is a fine Catholic writer, was seriously suggesting that happiness could be found outside the machine of the Xmas manufacturing system that drives Black Friday and similar expressions of American economic dementia. Waaaay off message. Go to commercial!

What’s equally hilarious is that Mediaite, while reveling in the chance to score off ideological enemy FOX, quite obviously has absolutely no clue what Esolen is doing either.  The man is a total enigma to left and right.  In other words, a sane Catholic.

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  • Marion

    Mr. Esolen was making some tremendously important points, and in his own charming, free associative, idiosyncratic manner of presentation that I rather enjoyed. The points he was making, however, I think, could not be conveyed in that particular manner, not within the sound-bite environment that is today’s talk-news TV. The hosts simply weren’t able to get it, and most likely, neither were many in the audience.

    A missed opportunity! A day or two long workshop in media training would be a thing that Catholics who anticipate being interviewed on television might consider undertaking. (Cardinal Dolan is a rock star at “media”. When it is his turn to talk, he engages the interviewer personally, circles around and engages again; circles around and engages a third time before engaging the question, which he does using the interviewer’s wordin. He then states his points one at a time, all precisely in answer to that question, referring back to the interviewer’s wording, and without extraneous info; he will then often engage the interviewer personally again; then circles back and engages the original question and enlarges his answer a bit, only now venturing into what may be unfamiliar terrain for interveiwer and audience, and he does all of these things quickly, deftly, and concisely, and all this, sometimes in under one minute. Media training!)

  • Claire

    I didn’t see it, but I’ll always make a point of reading anything Mr. Esolen writes. I really like his work.

  • I think it might have gone better if Mr. Esolen was in a different format, as Marion points out. He sounds as if he was trying to make some huge, sweeping point and tie it to a Vast Anti-Imagination Conspiracy. There are certainly some valid points, and I have long said that Madison Avenue and Hollywood don’t exactly encourage pastimes that build imagination. Trying to make his point in the format available, however, probably left anyone who doesn’t already know Mr. Esolen scratching their heads.

    As for the abrupt break, I would need to see what happened next to tell if it was Evil FOX Being Evil, or simply a scheduled commercial break, breaking news, or whatever. I’m the last to argue that FOX doesn’t go to bat for the 1%, but that doesn’t mean this is what happened here.

    • Yeah I’m… not seeing the point shea is trying to create here. A lot of shows (and their directors) have rather strict time tables so they may have only had a minute or two for him. (the few times I caught the morning show, their book discussions were usually quick unless it was part of a larger segment) I guess in Shea’s world Catholics should be above the rules and allows to monopolize all the time they want?

      I’m still reeling from the irony of the guy saying they need to stop watching TV… while talking on TV… (nah, j/k Esolen seems like a decent chap)

      • Nate

        If the segment was supposed to purposefully end this abruptly , awkwardly, and weirdly, then I guess I don’t understand how television works.
        Wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t understand something, though.

  • Looks like the hosts were too dumb to understand sarcasm.

    • Nina

      Not too dumb. Esolen’s segment wasn’t supposed to be a contentious political back-and-forth, yet he chose to turn it into a very negative, sarcastic spiel against his caricature of liberals. Wrong show. He should have had his publicist get him on O’Reilly or Hannity, not Fox & Friends. Esolen is solely to blame for the complete fail of this interview.

  • Andy

    I would like to think that FOX News was taking a break or something but I suspect it is deeper than that – here is Bill O. at his finest
    I know a not pure source but what do his comments about Christianity tell us about how he views religion?

    • I don’t have much regard for O’Reilly’s insights. Still, not sure what you mean about the break. The best thing to do is find a longer version of the FOX segment that includes what happened next (sort of ironic, if you think about it).

      • Andy

        Taking a break – tired fingers and mind – I think that FOX has its goal as supporting the commercialization of Christmas, to make money for various monied interests, while saying that it is being destroyed by the secularists. The break that I was referring to was above – was it a commercial break or something of that nature. I realize that many stations have hard breaks, but they usually announce them so the guest is not cut off abruptly. I linked to Bill’s comments to point out that in my mind FOX has an agenda to remove the Social Conservatives from the Republican mix, since that seems to be a desire expressed by Republicans – since most Social Conservatives are Christian in some fashion, claiming that Christianity is not a religion but a philosophy allows them to support the Republican party, by equating the the Christian philosophy with other economic philosophies.

        • Oh, I’m the first to say that FOX enjoys going to bat for the corporate interest. Still, I will withhold judgement until I know more. I’ve seen some go to breaks abruptly – even when interviewing someone they clearly like (the conversation gets away from them). In this case, I do think they were a bit befuddled – but then, so was I. But I just don’t know if that had anything to do with the break, or if it did, was it anything other than them being confused by what he was trying to say, versus some vast pro-Wall Street agenda on their part?

          • Rosemarie


            I watched the entire segment last night. I was disappointed that the discussion devolved into a particularly ugly shouting match, since it started out so polite. O’Reilly doesn’t always get that worked up, but he did last night and so did his guest. I really wished Bill would have let the man speak instead of constantly interrupting him, since I was really interested in what the atheist would say. You’ve got to listen to opposing views so you know how to answer them.

            Anyway, here’s what I got from the exchange. O’Reilly believes that Christianity is a philosophy, not a religion, but also that individual Christian Churches and denominations are “religions.” He was saying something to the effect that the Methodist church is a religion, the Roman Catholic Church is a religion, etc. I think I get where he’s coming from, but I don’t really agree. I think he also said that Judaism is a religion, but by his standards wouldn’t we have to argue that Judaism in general is a philosophy while Reform Judaism is a religion, Conservative Judaism is a religion, etc.? Ditto any world religion that is divided into sects, which is almost all, if not all, of them.

            Also, if Christianity isn’t a religion, then some might argue that Christianity isn’t protected under freedom of religion. Unless the latter covers philosophies, I guess. But if a philosophy is effectively a religion then O’Reilly’s argument is rendered moot, is it not?

            He also tried to argue that a Christmas tree is a secular symbol of Christmas. Well, maybe. I guess if all the decorations are secular then one can make that argument. But religious decorations and a Nativity scene beneath it would render it religious. It’s origin in the paradise tree of the medieval mystery plays is religious, but I guess it’s not hard to secularize it if you just hang lights and snowmen and nutcrackers on it.

            The atheist, on his part, quoted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment but then proceeded to misinterpret it, claiming that the U.S. government’s acknowledgment of Christmas as a national holiday somehow constitutes an establishment of religion. Actually, “establishment of religion” means declaring a particular church to be the official Church of the United States, which all loyal Americans must join, with the president as the head, etc. The Founding Fathers had the C of E in mind when they penned those words. Having Christmas as a national holiday does not constitute an establishment of religion.

            The atheist even claimed that the gov’t “prevents” people from working on Christmas by making it a national holiday. I imagine that would be news to Jews who work in a Judaica shop which is open on December 25. I could be wrong, but I don’t know of any laws that say no one is allowed to work on Christmas. Toward the end of the segment, the atheist even stated that his organization (I think it’s American Atheists) will be open on Christmas, thus contradicting his earlier claim that the gov’t won’t let people work on December 25.

            So that’s my take in it, FWIW. O’Reilly’s ideas about religion do often leave something to be desired. I guess he is struggling for a way to defend Christmas’s status as a national holiday in the face of secular attacks, which is good as far as it goes. I’m just not sure he’s coming up with the best arguments.

            • Rosemarie


              The more I think about the “Christianity is a philosophy, not a religion” argument, the more it bothers me. We currently have an administration trying to shrink the definition of “religious organization” to apply only to houses of worship, not parochial schools, religious charities or hospitals. This seems related to the reduction of “religion” to “worship;” consider how Obama and Sec’y of State Clinton spoke much more about “freedom of worship” than “religious freedom” during his first term.

              Wouldn’t O’Reilly’s insistence that Christianity is “not a religion” dovetail neatly with this? “Sorry, St Mary’s Medical Center. You may insist that you run your hospital according to Christian principles, but Christianity is just a philosophy, not a religion. Lots of people have a philosophy about life, so that doesn’t make you a religious organization in the eyes of the government. You must still comply with the HHS mandate”

              I think O’Reilly’s problem is that he accepts unquestioningly the secular assertion that recognition of a religious holiday as a national holiday constitutes an establishment of religion and thus violates the First Amendment. So he twists himself into a pretzel trying to argue that Christmas isn’t a religious holiday. Maybe he should question their interpretation of the Establishment Clause instead.

              • Peggy R

                That’s an interesting point. For example, AA says it is NOT a religion, but some courts have called it a religion for certain purposes, ie, confidentiality between a sponsor and sponsee.

  • Brian

    I’m afraid I must respectfully disagree about Esolen. For one thing, he builds the most virulent straw-men caricatures of liberals possible and swings at them wildly.

    • tz

      There is at least one redundancy in “Clueless Fox Talking Hairdo’s”. Probably more than one.

      When one’s opponents are made of straw – not unlike the first little piggy’s house – it is unnecessary to construct a straw man. Ray Bolger is singing in my mind… How about a little fire, as the WWotW would say.

      The difficulty with Catholic sanity today is that to open one’s front door is to enter the padded cell (or not! – given the self-inflicted harm) where the insane are kept, although you enter the hallucination of a Matrix-like “real world”. Where is my “red-pill”? Since the fall it has been thus, but our Lord has provided the medicine with his body, blood, soul, and divinity.

      • Brian

        Liberals are not vampires. They are not hate-filled, demonic destroyers of everything. They are well-intentioned human beings trying to secure freedoms for human beings (no, I have never said that they were perfectly consistently, only that they were real).

  • I’m not so sure he was cut off for ideological reasons, but more because (to state in a different way what a couple others are I think pointing to) the producers felt like it was bad television. His fidgeting, his his stuttering, his answers that were both coming slow and would require delving into in a way neither the hosts nor the format lended itself to… while not inherently wrong, it made it difficult to watch. So they cut him off to go to something more entertaining.

    While that still leaves an important point to be made: don’t watch this sort of TV if you’re interested in any meaningful discussions, I don’t think it reflects a bias against his work. (although that case against Fox is likely makeable from other sources.)

  • Arnold

    If you want to get your points across in an interview format like that one, you need to make them concise and quickly. For a longer and more random discussion, choose Charlie Rose as your interviewer instead. It is frustrating and irritating at times to witness interesting interviews being cut short, but that is the format of commercial TV.

    I too am puzzled by Bill O’Reilly’s insistence that Christianity is a philosophy while Catholicism, for instance, is a religion. Where he got that weird idea I have no idea but I wish someone would challenge him on air about it.

    • Rosemarie


      I assumed he made it up himself, but I’m not sure. It’s absurd to try to divorce religious practice from a religion’s beliefs and worldview, claiming that the latter isn’t “religion,” but that’s what he’s doing. At least as bad as divorcing worship from charitable work, claiming the former is religious while the latter isn’t.

      When I studies world religions in college, they talked about the various elements of a religion. Every religion has its own doctrine, moral teachings, communal worship, festivals, art, music, etc. These are all part of a religion. We can’t reduce religion to one thing (communal worship, in this case); it’s all of these elements and more: how one dresses, how one lives ones life, etc.

  • jimby

    Looks like the producers made the call that sarcasm doesn’t play well on an AM show where people are only paying partial attention. Dr. E overestimates the audience. The producers may have been right, alas.

    That is assuming he was in fact cut off. Is that so painfully clear? I leave it to the media-types to sort out, I suppose.

  • Fr. Frank

    What John Beeler said.

    It was apparent from both interviewers’ facial expressions that neither of them had any idea that Esolen was being ironic.

  • Wills

    Sadly Dr Esolen—whose work I adore— is a dreaful interview. I love what he writes about but he came across as vague, suprcilious and off point.. With the easiest softball lead in ever! Media training indeed is needed. Just because one is smart, writes well and in sightful does not mean he can get his point across on TV….

  • Nina

    Honestly, Esolen set the tone by beginning with poorly communicated sarcasm, and by making the book into a political diatribe against liberals. Very bad interview, not the the Fox people’s fault at all — actually, he barely let them get a word in edgewise. He blew it, not them.

  • obpoet

    A good book makes a bad movie, and apparently a bad sound bite. It was painfully boring.

  • William R.

    Fox… News… is the channel that aired Esolen in the first place… is there some liberal station that would’ve given him time at all, Mark Shea?