Why I agreed to appear, and what was cut from the 3-hour taping.
On March 1st of this past year, “The Daily Show” aired a prerecorded segment that I taped with them a few weeks earlier. During the segment I was interviewed by Aasif Mandvi, the show’s “liberal Muslim” correspondent. The main topic discussed was the “Muslim” Batman, but we also spent a significant amount of time discussing my own creation, a counter-jihad superhero named Pigman. Based on what was filmed during the 3-hour shoot, the segment had the potential to be humorous, controversial and informative. How it actually turned out was the product of some pretty crafty editing. And, unfortunately, I had no control over that. It was still humorous, but it was gutted of almost all significant substance, and some of the good humorous bits were left out as well.
First, I need to explain why I agreed to do it at all. I’ve been working on my graphic novel, The Infidel featuring Pigman, for years. After trying with dozens of agents, editors, and publishers to get someone to take on the project, and finding that not even those who were sympathetic were willing to do so (some cited Muslim reprisal as a reason,) I needed to get publicity however I could. In this context, one day I received an e-mail from one of “The Daily Show” producers, asking me to appear and discuss my views on Nightrunner, the “Muslim” Batman, which I had discussed in this post here at NewsRealBlog.com. After having long conversations with two different producers, and realizing their interest in having me on was real, and included an interest in discussing Pigman, I decided, for better or worse, to go ahead with it.
When I arrived at the shoot, I learned that my interviewer would be Aasif Mandvi, the show’s “liberal” Muslim correspondent. When I commented on this to the producer (he had actually mentioned a different correspondent in one of the e-mails leading up to the shoot), he played dumb (of course.) I smelled a rat, but proceeded anyway. During my interactions with them on the set, the producer, Aasif, and the crew were professional and friendly, which was to be expected. (The producer was also friendly to me in correspondence via e-mail both before and after the shoot. This was also to be expected.)
Then came time for the sit-down interview. It was wide-ranging, going from serious to funny to silly to blasphemous. Here are some of the things I recall that were left out of the edited segment:
The most egregious omission/dropping-of-context was with respect to my answer to the question that was supposed to be the focus of the piece: “What is wrong with a Muslim Batman?” The aired segment makes it appear as if my answer was “Nightrunner could be a Jihadist.” During the actual shooting, I was prompted to state that as a complete sentence, after responding “yes” to Aasif’s question, “Could Nighrunner be a Jihadist?” That statement was NOT given as an answer to the question, “What is wrong with a Muslim Batman?” My answer to that question is and was a lot more involved. The short answer, which I stated immediately after being asked the question, and which was edited out, was, “What’s wrong with Batman, during WWII, recruiting a German Batman with no mention of Nazis?” During a significant portion of the interview, Aasif was emphasizing that comics aren’t real and was asking, in essence: Why can’t comics just take a piece of reality, out of context, if they want? My point was, you can’t peer into reality just a little bit, and pick-and-choose in this way. The only reason Nightrunner exists (and probably the reason Aasif is on “The Daily Show” although he seems to be a nice guy who does a good job) is because Muslim terrorists attacked us on September 11, 2001, and they did it in the name of Islam. (I made a similar point during the interview.) In my view, it is irresponsible for any cultural medium to include Muslims while dropping the larger context that is the reason for including them at all. (At least “The Daily Show” sometimes includes some of this larger context, and often does a good job of it.)
Another noteworthy instance of my being taken out of context was with respect to my view of the propensity of Muslims to become Jihadists, and how one should deal with self-described Muslims. Yes, I did say that I think it is possible for a Muslim to become a Jihadist. This is because, as I have learned in the research I did leading up to writing and drawing The Infidel, Islam prescribes Jihad as something its true believers should engage in, in order to spread Islam. What I discussed in the interview, which didn’t make it into the final segment, was my own attitude towards individual Muslims. I have family members who consider themselves Muslims with whom I am friendly, and I would certainly not conclude that your average Muslim is likely to become a Jihadist. They cut from the segment the following statement, which clearly distinguishes average Muslims from Islam’s consistent practitioners: “Your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammed. They are individuals who may or may not be a problem. It’s Islam’s consistent practitioners, it’s organized Islam, that is the problem.” Obviously, this statement made me seem too reasonable (or maybe they thought it was too blasphemous) for it to be included in the segment.
Another significant point that was omitted was my view that, while most Muslims are relatively harmless, there are still aspects of Islam that are detrimental to even more passive Mulsims: the casual misogyny, anti-Semitism, and the idea that everyone outside the clan is, essentially, worthless. I was brought up surrounded by all of this.
Some less significant, but genuinely funny things were omitted. For example, when I was discussing the Islamization of the West by Muslims and Islamophiles — e.g., DC Comics featuring JLA/99 and Nightrunner — Aasif humorously tried to correct me, saying, “You mean Islamicizing.” And I replied, “No, Islamization.” He repeated, “Islamicizing?” I answered “Islamization.” This went on a few times until Aasif said, as if conceding, “Oh, Islamicizing, yeah, right, that’s the Muslim exercise,” to which I quipped, “Five times a day.” And then he said, “Ohhhh, Islamophobic humor.” I immediately dismissed this as “Islamophonia,” because fear of Islam is not irrational. And we had a little back-and-forth on that as well.
One unfortunate omission was something that was silly, but fun. They quoted my term, “IslamiCrap,” which I used in my post about Nightrunner. Aasif said only, “IslamiCrap.” And I replied, “Yeah, that’s right, ‘Islam means peace,’ the Muslim Batman, IslamiCrap.” And he responded, “How about Islami$#!+?” and I said, “No, IslamiCrap.” To which he responded, “How about IslamiDooDoo?” And I held my ground, “No, IslamiCrap,” saying it rolls off the tongue better. Perfectly silly, fun. Too bad it was left out.
Another thing you don’t see in the aired segment is Aasif conducting part of the interview in his superhero suit, which you see at the end of the aired segment. During that part of the sit-down interview, he asked me what I thought about him and his suit and, echoing Howard Roark’s response to a similar question from Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead, I said, “I don’t.” The premise of that part of the segment, the producer told me on set, was that Aasif wanted to be a superhero and I, by ruling out the possibility of a Muslim superhero, was ruining his chances. So we had a back-and-forth during which I said that, if he was willing to go after Jihadists, then that was fine with me, and he agreed to do so. Fairly funny stuff, not as good as some of the other omitted material.
Perhaps the funniest bit that was omitted from the aired segment was Aasif and I, supposedly traveling to my “psteudio” in a car. The premise was that, because of the nature of my work, I would take precautions with respect to who could come to my studio and I would not let visitors learn its location. So, like Batman did in the 1960′s TV show, we put a blindfold on Aasif. The difference being that here, Aasif was actually doing the driving, while blindfolded, getting directions from me, sitting in the passenger seat next to him.
To their credit, the editors did not take advantage of two instances where I misspoke. In one instance, when speaking about the English Batman, I mentioned London and England interchangeably, as if both were cities. In another, I was referring to Pigman’s super strength and I said, as a throwaway, that he’s as strong as 40 men, or 20 jihadists, when I meant the converse (i.e., I meant jihadists were weaker than the average man, not stronger). But in any event, that could have worked to Pigman’s benefit, to make him seem even tougher.
One final thing that shows how they really tried to make me look bad, down to the last detail: they gave Aasif both our rations of pre-camera make-up. :)
Despite my experience, I want to give kudos to “The Daily Show” for having the nerve to showcase Pigman, even if only to make fun of him and me for a couple minutes.