According to Wikipedia: “Benjamin Aaron Shapiro (born January 15, 1984) is an American conservative political commentator, writer, and lawyer. Aged 17, he became the youngest nationally syndicated columnist in the United States. He writes columns for Creators Syndicate and Newsweek, serves as editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire, which he founded, and hosts The Ben Shapiro Show, a daily political podcast and radio show. An editor-at-large of Breitbart News between 2012 and 2016, he has written ten books, the first being Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004).”
According to Wikipedia: “Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a British journalist and broadcaster. Neil was appointed editor of The Sunday Times by Rupert Murdoch, and served in this position from 1983 to 1994. After this he became a contributor to the Daily Mail. He was formerly chief executive and editor-in-chief of the Press Holdings group. In 1988 he became founding chairman of Sky TV, also part of Murdoch’s News Corporation. He is the current chairman of Press Holdings Media Group, whose titles include The Spectator, and the ITP Media Group. As of 2019, Neil presents live political programmes This Week on BBC One and Politics Live on BBC Two”.
But first I need to nail my colours to the mast … when recently I was told about Shapiro, I was taken with his ability to articulate his point and provide deep insights into matters pertaining to the culture wars, offering opinions which more often than not I agreed with, notwithstanding a certain brashness and know it all mentality. Neil I have been aware of for some time given he often appears on British TV, hosting political type shows and pontificating over the issues of the day. While I recognize he is knowledgeable and able I tend to find him irritatingly smug and even pompous and when it comes to interviewing people, especially those with controversial views he is not altogether sympathetic to, rather than let them speak he gives them an unnecessarily hard time. So when the two met, over a transatlantic interview, and given the chemistry I was intrigued to discover what transpired. Interestingly, it was a BBC interview (see here). The commentary titled “Ben Shapiro, Darling Of The American Right, Was Just Demolished By BBC’s Andrew NeilI” I refer to below was by Huffpost. Interestingly, I learned about this by the conservative leaning “Drudge Report”.
The commentary begins: “Ben Shapiro has over two million followers on Twitter, a New York Times bestselling book and a degree from Harvard – but all of that counted for nothing during a grilling from Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics show this afternoon. The American was hoping for a chance to promote his book but stumbled when asked some basic questions on his views. Shapiro, who supports a ban on abortion even in cases of incest and rape, was asked if such laws would be “taking us back to the Middle Ages”. He replied: “You purport to be an objective journalist. The BBC purports to be an objective, down the middle network. It obviously is not and it never has been. “And you as a journalist are proceeding to call one side of the political spectrum ignorant, barbaric and sending us back to the dark ages. “Why don’t you just say that you’re on the left? Why can’t you just be honest” adding several comments and reactions.”
Before moving on, I decided to revisit the interview and if this were a contest as to who comes out better I would have to declare Neil the winner. While I understand Shapiro’s disappointment (along with his own disappointing ineptitude when it comes to answering questions he was not prepared for or welcomed) that interview took the course he did, he came across as ungracious and needlessly defensive, unable to recognise that Neil may have been taking a devil’s advocate position rather than being the sort of aggressive agenda led, right baiting leftie he was no doubt used to. Moreover, I see it as a lost opportunity and reckon he could have answered the loaded abortion question and come out on top. In the end he terminated the interview with a huff (no pun intended) having lost points when it came to his credibility rating.
It did get me thinking how I might approach an interview if I were to find myself in a similar situation and even whether I would participate if I knew the interviewer would be antagonistic such that I could not respond. I suppose my answer is it depends and I go back to my not casting pearls before swine position when it becomes obvious the person asking the question is out to get me and to respond would be an unnecessary waste of time and effort. This then brings me to a completely different interview I had watched earlier, coincidentally reported by Huffpost: “Russell Brand Invites ‘God Hates Fags’ Westboro Baptist Church On To Show (VIDEO)”. I could not think of two completely opposite in outlook protagonists than Russell Brand (who quite clearly is no Andrew Neil) and his two guests representing the much reviled, due to their rabid anti gay etc. stance, Westborough Baptist Church. While I will continue to have qualms over his irreverent yet keeping in character approach, he consistently treated his guests with respect without glossing over what many would see as their bigotry and hatred. Besides entertaining, Brand did superbly well, but I wouldn’t demean what went on by saying who the winners were, yet when it comes to the outcome of that interview it provided viewers with many helpful insights, a point Neil and Shapiro might care to note.