Michael Lucas on Bad Journalism
BY Michael Lucas
September 23 2010 3:10 PM ET
COMMENTARY: I rarely watch television. Time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it. But I have tuned in several times to watch Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who denies, among many other things, the existence of gay people in his country.
These have been depressing experiences. I can’t help but ask myself, What happened to American journalism? What happened to the art of the interview?
Maybe Larry King, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour should have read Oriana Fallaci’s book Interview With History. Oriana Fallaci perfected the art of the interview. The book is a collection of her conversations with some of the most famous politicians in recent history, from towering figures like Golda Meir and Henry Kissinger to bloody murderers like Yasser Arafat and the shah of Iran. Fallaci’s interviews were always direct and uncompromising. She would never let her target escape. She would bombard her interviewees with questions without ever allowing them to change the topic. When an interviewee would try to become evasive and talk around a question, the conversation would turn almost into an interrogation — until the interviewee would surrender and answer the question. Sometimes repeating the same question more than 10 times, Fallaci would immediately confront any lie or half-truth.
In order to interview the shah, Fallaci went to Iran. She was not intimidated, not afraid (or maybe she was, but it never showed it in her questioning). Fallaci was fearless. She didn’t ask questions a la Barbara Walters: “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?” Christopher Hitchens once said that her interviews with heads of state “make today’s big-name interviewers look like powder puffs.” Henry Kissinger said that his interview with Fallaci was the most disastrous conversation he ever had — she exposed him as a self-righteous, pompous egomaniac.
But Ahmadinejad’s conversations with Larry King and Katie Couric were definitely not a disaster for him.