Oprah gives Bill O'Reilly another spotlight
Reported by Chrish - October 29, 2006 -
Oprah graciously hosted Bill O'Reilly for a "town hall" type program yesterday and allowed the audience members to question and compliment O'Reilly on his assertions in his latest book. As expected, he overtalked and shouted down challenges to his black-white view of the world, denying that there is a middle ground - you're either with him or against him. He doesn't want to unite the country, it turns out - he intends for "his side", the so-called "traditionalists", to conquer progressives and force them to submit to the will of the righteous.
Up front, O'Reilly joked with Oprah about how people in his town would rather casually say "good job" or some such about his interview with Bush last week, but would get very excited and impressed when they heard he was going to be on Oprah. She expressed surprise that he agreed to come on and he responded "are you kidding? I'm going to sell 100,000 books! I may be obnoxious but I'm not a moron!" The nickname "Shill O'Biley" fit better than usual yesterday.
O'Reilly explains to Oprah that he isn't making up this "war" to be divisive - it exists, and it's (blah blah blah) traditionalists think the country is flawed but noble, secular progressives think the country is deeply flawed and needs changes socially, economically and in foreign policy. (By the way, he thinks Oprah is a traditionalist.) He asserts that "according to all the polls" "traditionalists" outnumber "SP"s 3 to 1, but the dreaded SPs have two advantages - unlimited money and the sympathetic liberal media. George Soros and Peter Lewis were named and accused of pumping money into progressive websites, but Richard Mellon Scaife and Thomas Friedman are given a pass for their support of conservative views. Oh, and the entertainment industry, they're all SPs - you know, like Mel Gibson and Patricia Heaton and Gary Sinise and Toby Keith and Britney Spears, etc. And when you have all that money and exposure, why, it's hard for the right to get a fair shake.
Note: I am done going along with his "traditionalist" and "secular progressive" frames - he's talking about good old liberal vs. conservative, Democrats vs. Republicans, left vs. right, even though he denies it. You'll see more of his rigid stereotyping later. But I'm not using these ridiculous terms, as it will only lend them legitimacy.
When Oprah confronted that very issue, asking if progressives can't also believe that the country is noble, he responded "not really, because the fundamental change that they want, structural change - let me give you a big, here, let's get specific..." and then (in my opinion patronizing Oprah by asking if he could "get down") brought up the example of the parental notification law that's on the ballot in California, Prop. 85.
Picking this one item and ascribing labels to the two sides did not give viewers the promised "fundamental, structural change" that would explain exactly who gets the label and why. Exactly the opposite: this argument says to viewers if you support mandatory parental notification, you're one box; if not, you're the other. Except, and it was noted by a man in the audience later who supports notification (this is for girls under 14) but also supports marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, most people are in different boxes on different issues.
Oprah challenged him, saying that people can be against parental notification and still think America is a noble country. O'Reilly said that person can "be sincere - I'm not saying secular progressives are bad," he just doesn't want to live in a country where parents don't know. Oprah called him on it - they're not bad? I thought thaty's what you were saying? And O'Reilly said he just wants to "expose" them as they're "dangerous to the country" - they're not evil, he just don't want to live in that country.
O'Reilly says he wrote the book to let people know this war is going on - instead of watching Dancing with Stars 80 hours a week, people should be fighting for their country. Our soldiers are fighting overseas, and we at home have to fight for our country.
This made me ill. Instead of urging people to get involved with civics and government and election mechanisms and social services, he is using his considerable editorial platform to suggest that liberals will be the downfall of this country and basically instigating civil war. His refusal to shine light on the corruption and incompetence of the people in Washington makes him complicit and his failure to rally people to demand accountability from these so-called leaders is self-serving and anti-American.
Using examples from popular culture (music and movies) and how they've changed, from the Temptations and The Blob to "hos, glocks, and drugs" and guys with chainsaws, O'Reilly sarcastically (and angrily) said we've come a long way. Oprah pointed out that we allow both the Blob and the chainsaw guy because this is America, which drew applause from the audience. O'Reilly says he's not advocating a ban, just telling us it's bad. From there he goes off the deep end, saying unsupervised 9-year-olds are selling crack because there's no counter-influence and progressives don't want to make judgments - anything goes.
After a commercial break the audience got involved. O'Reilly had appealed for supporters to attend and they were there but some called him to task.
The first man objected to the two (too) broad categories, the whacko extremist on the left and the silent majority (oh puhleeze, don't you have a radio? Silent??? Maybe he meant to say strident...) and said he falls in the middle, which elicited more applause from the audience. O'Reilly suggested he take the quiz on his website, where he'll find "there is no middle." This man objected, saying he doesn't agree with O'Reilly on every issue, yet O'Reilly dubbed him a "T-warrior" and, over the man's objections, said "whether you like it or not, you're a T-warrior." Well now we know where he gets that 3:1 nonsense.
Backed into the corner O'Reilly said it isn't a party line, but there's usually a trend. Pressured by the audience member to admit there is "a middle ground'" O'Reilly winced and said "I don't like the word (sic) 'middle ground' - you have to make a decision" (You're either with us or against us.) about what kind of country you want, but you don't have to agree all the time.
What a mass of contradictions. People can disagree on individual issues yet still fall into O'Reilly's camp (whether they like it or not, lol) but if he says you're far-left because you disagree on an issue - say, parental notification - you are automatically the enemy. He says there's no middle ground, black or white, make a decision.
Huh? Here's my hypothesis: this is just one more way for the conservative media to create the impression that the country is more conservative than it really is. Why? So when faux conservatives run roughshod over the Constitution and the country and the election process, people will be more reluctant to stand up and say "something's not kosher here." If you're told over and over that you're in the minority BY the true minority, who has the megaphone and the echo chamber, it becomes the "common knowledge" that the country is trending conservative. But it isn't.
O'Reilly and Oprah bonded for a while over how great and unique America is - both from "working class" families, though Oprah interjects that her family wasn't even working class - and now she's "the most powerful woman in the world" and "O'Reilly maybe 5th powerful guy, I don't know" (per himself).
O'Reilly bemoaned the fact that 50% of people - "mall zombies" - don't know who Dennis Hastert is because they don't pay attention. This country, he says, is obviously in a "war on terror" and obviously we could be killed at any moment, and we're fighting at home for what kind of country we want to be. Looking for someon who agreed, oprah found a woman who (jabbing her finger, lol) said her daughter is the only one in school who knows what's going on because she (mom) is a FOX News junkie. Oprah asked her what her point was, and she replied that people don't know what's going on unless someone else tells them - they see it on the newsstand, People Magazine or National Enquirer, or somewhere else.
Another woman was appalled that the media mob outside the studio the day of taping, which she thought was there for BOR, was actually there because Madonna was at the studios.
Another man stood up and pointed out that the media is in business to make money, and Madonna sells - that's why O'Reilly and Oprah have a responsibility to not be demagogues. This man doesn't like vulgar music either and doesn't permit his minor children to listen to it and says at some point there's family responsibility. He gets applause, and O'Reilly says that not all kids have a good father like him. The man says we can't legislate what freedom of speech allows - freedom means freedom (more applause) - say what you want to say and somebody else can decide. O'Reilly overtalked, saying "Baloney. This is important. That's bull."
"Freedom is bull?" asked the man, incredulously. "It's not about freedom. You can hide behind freedom all day long - there's a responsibility that goes along with freedom. Sir. With all due respect" (a phrase he regularly tacks on after insulting someone).
Now it became personal, Bill sneering, leaning, becoming loud, and the audience member going after FOX. O'Reilly said that the man should be angry that big corporations are promoting garbage to fatherless children with working mothers (eyeroll, please) instead of defending their right to make it, and if everybody condemned it they wouldn't do it. The man said he is angry about it but what really gets him mad is a news organization that has to say it's "fair and balanced" which usually means they're not. As he sat down O'Reilly said "you're just a FOX-hater, sure you are, that's all you are" which was meant to dismiss him but the man denied it, saying he watches FOX all the time.
Another man stood up, I'm just going to say he was a FOX plant because the first thing he said was that when you have an issue like this you have to take a stand and all the New York Times and the LA Times want to do is go after Bush. A value is either right, or wrong, period. O'Reilly annoints him a "T-warrior." The first guy agreed that people have to take a stand. There's "a guy on MSNBC" (KEITH, who shall not be named in front of Bill lest he sic security on you) who he thinks is far left, and he thinks BOR has moved even farther to the right than when he started, but he wants to listen to both and decide for himself and not have rap or anything else banned. The second guy, cementing his FOX-loyalty, said neither the LA Times nor MSNBC askes "the correct questions" from both sides; only FOX does that. Guy1 disagreed, but it was time for a commercial.
OK, this is only the first 20 minutes. The rest of the show continued in this vein and there was no resolution. Oprah moderated it well and stayed out of it personally (much to my regret - I would love to have heard her opinions). O'Reilly explained the Bush geopolitical strategies in invading Iraq, denied that anyone lied, and said that if the Iraq war had gone well, Bush's approval rating would now be 65%. He just gave Bush a fictitious boost in his fictitious ratings! Earlier this week he said they would be at 60%.
We tried to do a noble thing and it's turned into a disaster, but O'Reilly gets really steamed when he hears the "far-left" say that we caused the terrorism in Iraq. Oprah could've held up the CIA report from January 2005 and the recent NIA report that confirmed their findings, that Iraq has become the breeding ground for terrorism, but she didn't. No wonder O'Reilly called it the best interview ever.
There was another man who said it doesn''t matter why we went into Iraq, we're there and it's a terrorism magnet so we don't have to fight them here, and half the population just wants to bring down Bush (actually, it's more like 2/3 these days). This guy (another plant?) gave O'Reilly the opportunity to claim he thinks we have to hold them accountable, but there's no evidence to call Bush a liar etc.
The next guest questioned O'Reilly's characterization of Martin Luther King as a traditionalist (on The View last week) and pointed out that at the time he was revolutionary and calling for great social change. O'Reilly said he was a T-warrior yet liberal, which happens; the opposite, conservative SPs, not so much. (Lordy that puts my teeth on edge,) . She said that O'Reilly (and Al Franken, and other authors) are making immense money by polarizing the country. He of course denied it, saying he's just telling us what's going on. She said she sees that there is a tug of war inside the country, but until both sides put down their rope, nothing gets better. That's when O'Reilly proclaimed "the traditionalists are going to win" because there's many more of "us" and as soon as the "T-people" understand what's going on, understand what the ACLU is trying to do..." The woman interjected that the ACLU is very important to her, as she works with gay youth, and O'Reilly told her she was very misguided. A brouhaha ensued over the ACLU - I don't need to tell you "whose side" BOR thinks the ACLU is on, even though they've defended Rush Limbaugh's privacy and Sean Hannity's right to free speech. (My local station lost video for a while so I don't know who was speaking, but someone said the ACLU defended child molesters and would not defend Christians.)
All O'Reilly needs to know is that the ACLU is defending NAMBLA in a case filed by the family of a murdered young boy, indicating once again that he is unforgiving of any trespass against what he thinks is right - one strike and you're out of his tribe.
The first man, reasonable man, was speaking when my video came back and said that no one reasonable wpuld say that an organization like that should be supported or encouraged (unsaid was that as despicable as they are, they get equal protection under the Constitution - at least for a while longer.) However, the ACLU has been defended by Presidents of both parties dating back to Eisenhower. When Oprah jumped in to say that the ACLU said something like they have to protect the creeps in order to protect everyone, former (thank god) History teacher O'Reilly said "that's bull." He proclaims it's no longer a an advocacy group but a political one. Bill has spoken.
The next two persons supported O'Reilly and conveniently provided him a springboard for his next points, relativism and Gitmo. He related a story of waterboarding, referring to it as "dunking." Other gruesome extremes of torture are not OK by O'Reilly (mutilations) but dunking? To save 5,000 lives? "I'm dunking that guy all day long."
Next bashing victim was the media. Most of the print media, he won't talk to because they'll misquote him. Television people are a bunch of phonies, in make-up for three hours and reading what's put in front of them. The have to manitain their "cocktail party cred" - if someone went into work at the New York Times tomorrow and said they liked him (BOR) nobody would talk to you! (He was very animated and emotional here - almost pitiful. Almost.) Why, when he walks past their building, crosses come out (and he held his pointers out in the sign of a cross.) Poor (rich) Bill, nobody likes him - he got the wealth and the trappings but he's still shunned. In NY and LA, they're all zombies and he's the barbarian at the gate. He picked up his book and pointed at it, bragging "Number one on the NYTimes bestseller list, not reviewed by the NYTimes - somehow they forgot to review it!" (Very shrill at this point.)
According to O'Reilly, it is un-American for someone to not like you because of your beliefs and values. HE doesn't dislike people who disagree with him, he says, and he leaned back and let David Letterman go after him because he's not going to engage on that level. Apparently he doesn't watch his own show, because I've seen him practically spitting at people who anger him merely by arguing with him.
Well, he counsels this sweet suburban mom to be calm and firm and the woman who works with gay youth spoke up and said "you're not calm." He went off for a bit about how he's not calm because he's on television, lady, and he has to get people to watch - aha! - he's got to sell something here. Well, the mom and the counselor are best friends - polar opposites but love each other - and the counselor chided him to have the courage to not do this for entertainment, but do it to make our country better.
At the end of the program O'Reilly said he thinks Bush caught a bad break with 9/11 , and he doesn't blame Clinton for terrorism - he's not a blame guy! - but to prevail we have to wise up, see the danger and think about it without emotion or ideology. In the very next breath he said he thinks Iran is very dangerous - they" want to wipe every Jew off the face of the earth." North Korea can be contained by China, but Iran (you know, the ones who don't have nukes) worries him very much, because they will get the WMDs, they will give them to the terrorists, and Cleveland can go up like that (snaps fingers).
He really wished the country could be more united! Of course, what he means by that, as we've heard in several forms, is that everyone needs to come around to his way of thinking and behaving, because once we're all united (in locksrep), nobody's going to beat America.
More spin, more belligerence, more victimhood.
We'll put some video snips up asap. The whole thing is posted at FoxNews Follies.