Who should represent atheists on television?
There’s no one right answer to that question, but when you see an atheist on TV news, it tends to be for a short time and there’s a lot of arguing. Not always, but often. And that doesn’t bode well for us.
Usually, newspeople are going to go to leaders of atheist organizations, a person filing a lawsuit, or an author when they need a person to discuss the “atheist side” on some topic.
Sullivan’s entire line of questioning revolves around the “who cares?” argument, insisting that atheists should just “cover their ears.” Meanwhile, Newdow is not the most compelling, telegenic presence on TV. Newdow tries to make a comparison between atheists’ second class status and that of African-Americans under Jim Crow. Whether you think that comparison is apt or not, rather than helping to make the point, such rhetorical choices usually only serve to induce eye rolls from already condescending interviewers.
I always flinch when I hear an atheist making comments that I think could come back to hurt us. It happens too often — especially when you’re trying to speak in soundbytes. Even when our reps do a good job, the interview can be edited or simply be in a tough format to make any solid points that make sense to a casual viewer. When the rep is a good one, the person can also have a notoriety that makes the casual viewer not want to watch (e.g. Richard Dawkins).
Paul says that Sam Harris always seems to do a good job when he’s on air (just check out the great clip of him on Bill O’Reilly‘s show). Certainly, he’s calm and smart. That helps.
But I don’t think he has the personality/presence that really *grabs* a viewer’s attention, though. He’s very monotone and doesn’t use a lot of facial gestures. He may make great points, but we know people aren’t always swayed by logic.
We need someone who is interesting to watch (eye candy, perhaps?), comfortable in front of a live camera, makes good points, and who doesn’t turn off viewers.
Who would you like to see representing atheists on TV?