What would have been an otherwise unremarkable and unremarked interview on American television has, thanks to the plague physics of the interwebs, come to my attention. I confess I have not actually sat through said interview but I don’t really need to (yes, that’s unfair of me but I have a tiny reserve of ‘care’ and it has prior commitments). The gist is this: An academic wrote a book about the historical Jesus of Nazareth and dutifully made the rounds deemed necessary by his colossal publisher (the new Penguin-House, or Random Penguin which now owns about 25% of the entire publishing world). One of his interviewers was hung up on an apparent contradiction in that a Muslim was writing about a Christian figure. The author, who displayed the patience of a saint (and I am aware of the humour in that), was accused of defending his ‘right’ to write on this topic by arguing from authority. This is a common counter when someone exhibits their credentials as a specialist or because they have some formal qualification in the field. Of course this is one of those times when an argument sounds like a fallacy but isn’t.


It’s also a nice example of how the news is rarely about ‘news’ and tells us more about the economic or political basis of any media source. It is also a case-study in controversy selling things, even when some of the buyers are those most offended by the product. The author’s book came out in mid-July and while it has only 2 reviews on the Canadian Amazon site it has over 200 on the American one and it is already at the #1 spot on several non-fiction bestseller lists. That is never a mark of quality but it is proof of an investment well made by the publisher (and publicist).

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