Weekly reads from CJR for September 23, 2021

Jon Allsop on Mehdi Hasan

When, in 2015, Mehdi Hasan’s wife, an American, told him that she wanted to move home from the United Kingdom, he wondered what “a lefty, Muslim, British journalist is gonna do in the United States.” The answer, it turned out, was importing tough British-style interviews to the American media—just as Donald Trump was rising to power. Now a host on MSNBC and Peacock, Hasan “can be seen as an explicit rebuke to outdated journalistic norms in general and complacent coverage of Trump in particular,” Jon Allsop writes. “In an era that has exposed the failings of triangulation and false equivalence, Hasan has shown that you can scrutinize ‘both sides’ from a place of unabashed moral clarity.”

At Christ Church College, Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics, or PPE—a rite of passage for the British political elite—Hasan was known as “the vicious debating king,” his classmate, the actor Riz Ahmed, told him, when he appeared on Hasan’s MSNBC show. “No one wanted to go toe to toe with you.” Early in his career, Hasan worked for Jonathan Dimbleby, a prominent British broadcaster; speaking with Allsop, Dimbleby recalled that, during preparation sessions for interviews, when Hasan was supposed to be role-playing as a guest, he would share his own opinions. “He wasn’t, as it were, trying to persuade me about what I should do so much as he was irrepressible,” Dimbleby said. On his own shows, Hasan carries a sharp spear; he has asked politicians how they sleep at night. “I am a disputatious person,” he told Allsop. “I enjoy going on a debate and rhetorically beating someone up, or taking apart bad arguments.” But in Hasan’s view, arguments only work if the participants operate within a shared reality—no guarantee these days. “I’m never going to interview Marjorie Taylor Greene,” he said. “Why? What would be the point?” —Betsy Morais, managing editor


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