Seven Rules for Media Interviews

Chris Matthews vs Ron Paul

by Walter Block by Walter Block Recently by Walter Block: Is Libertarianism a Part of the Right or the Left? Neither. WeAreUnique

I found it exceedingly difficult to watch Chris Matthews’ interview of Ron Paul. The former would hardly let the latter get a word in edgewise. Matthews kept interrupting the next President of the U.S. He would barely allow him to finish a sentence. But, that’s not what I want to write about. Instead, I want to discuss options for dealing with such boorish interviewers when we are next in Ron’s position. What should we do when we are faced with such a situation?

1. Talk faster. Here, an attempt is made to at least get in something of substance before the inevitable next interruption occurs. But there are problems with this technique. For one thing, the Matthews of the world will just cut you off even more quickly. For another, you lose your “presence” when you do this. The audience will tend to dismiss you because you are being speeded up by the interviewer. I recommend against this.

2. Talk more slowly. This attempt at passive aggressiveness has something to be said for it. It makeSSSSS it crystal clear to everyone concerned exactly what is going on. I was once interviewed on Canadian television by the talk show host and former premier of British Columbia, Dave Barrett, a bully of the Matthews stripe if ever there was one. I pulled this technique on him. I hardly spoke a word in the entire 30-minute (?) interview. The upshot: the producers apologized to me, and forced Barrett to have me on his show again. This time, chastened, he acted in a more civilized manner. I sometimes think I should have refused to go on with him again, the better to underscore his barbaric behavior.

3. Keep talking. Do not allow yourself to be interrupted. You don’t have to shout, although, if you have a booming voice (I don’t) this will help. In my soft voice, I just keep on going, even though the interviewer won’t shut up, either. It is like a chicken race: who will be the first to veer away? Don’t allow that to be you. Keep talking, even if what you are saying is, in extremis, reduced to nonsense syllables. Eventually, you will win, because this will make the interviewer look bad. It is his show. He is supposedly the professional. Trust me, you will win this chicken race if you persevere.

4. Change the subject. The next time the interviewer asks you a question, say something along the following lines: “That is a very interesting question. I’d really love to answer it. However, I fear, based on recent experience, that no sooner do I get 5 words out of my mouth, you’ll interrupt me, yet again. So, let’s talk, instead, about your compulsive need to hog the limelight. Don’t you think this interview would be more informative for your audience if you allowed me, oh, 10 full seconds to answer every question before you bully your way in, again?”

5. Counter-interrupt. When he is in the midst of asking you a question, interrupt him, to show him and the audience exactly what he is doing. I have never tried this, but, my thought is that if you engage in this behavior, your invitations to be on radio and television will decline.

6. When the Matthewses of the world interrupt your answer to a given question, and quickly pose another one, say, quietly and calmly, “I would like to fully finish my answer to your previous question.” (I owe this point to Dale Holmgren). How might Matthews respond to this? One possibility is surrender on his part; he could say, “Ok, please elaborate.” Then, you’ve won. But he might use another ploy, saying something along the following lines: “We don’t have time for in depth responses, due to time constraints.” How to reply to this? You could acquiesce. Or, you could be more assertive; claim that you’ll be brief, but insist that justice to the audience can’t be done with answers that are severely truncated.

7. Be a gentleman. Do exactly as Ron Paul did. Do not counter-interrupt. Allow yourself to be continually interrupted. Don’t speed up or slow down your normal rate of speaking. Do not give the interviewer a lecture on good manners.

Which is best? I’m not sure. I welcome discussion on this point. I think it is good to be armed with alternative techniques, responses. However, I’m not sure but think that Ron’s response is best. Be cool. Be a gentleman. Ron, after all, is by far our best spokesman. He has probably brought more ordinary people to libertarianism than any other person in the entire history of the known universe, with the possible exception of Ayn Rand. (Mises and Rothbard have undoubtedly brought more intellectuals to libertarianism than anyone else.) On the other hand, we learn methodological individualism from our study of Austrian economics. In this vein, it is possible that what works best for Ron will not be the ideal response for all of the rest of us who are trying to promote liberty and rational economics, in support of Ron.