So I’ve been tossing around ideas on how to punch this blog up a little, make is more engaging for the reader and gain a wider base of regular readers. I don’t know if this the way to do that but it is definitely a departure from my normal fare. So anyone who follows me on any of my social networks knows that I can, at times, offer a little T.M.I. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, despite my attempts at stoicism, and now, via status update, I also broadcast my heart to network of people whom I may or may not know, at least well enough to talk politics. As I type this on May 12th 2011 I realize that my social network includes a wide array of people from all walks of life with a plethora of ideas, values, and opinions. I’ve made statements in status updates before about cable news pundits and the result has been a long thread of comments that undoubtedly flooded my friends time-lines and resolved nothing. This post is an attempt to avoid that situation because social networks are a valuable marketing tool for me and I’d hate to weaken my network on account of Bill O’Reiley.
I watch Fox News when I’m at the gym on the elliptical for two reasons: 1) it helps keep my heart rate up to the vigorous levels that I like to optimize my workout and 2) I’ve lived in the Southeast my entire adult life and Fox News is very popular thus watching it gives me an opportunity to attach context to the opinions I hear amongst my fellow Americans in my daily comings and goings. I am above all a populist. I consider myself a man of the people and try my best to be respectful of all views and opinions and since Fox News is the highest rated cable news channel–and therefore highly influential– I feel like it is important to expose my mind to that viewpoint. Plus it’s the only 24hr news channel my gym has and I’m addicted to the news. It is in this setting that upon watching the first 15 or so minutes of the May 11th airing of “The O’Reilly Factor” I took to my personal Facebook page to make this status update: “I try not to drink the pinko lib’rul kool-aid and give these pundits a fair shake but… Bill O’Reilly is a fascist bigot.” I was compelled to such action after watching a segment-and-a-half about the supposedly “controversial” invitation of rapper Common by the Obamas to the White House poetry night.
I’ll try my best to reconstruct what happened but fist allow me to preface that by addressing a few points that I feel will better frame my assertions going forward. First, I am, by no means, a “Pro-Obama” person. My feelings toward President Obama are much like my feelings toward any politician, I agree with some of what he does I disagree with some of what he does. I am not a Democrat and I consider myself political independent. I do– for the sake of full exposure–harbor a lot of ideals that would fall on the left side of the political spectrum.
Second, I don’t subscribe to the knee-jerk alarmism that some on the political left subscribe to pertaining to Fox News and it’s pundits. I don’t believe that it “needs to be stopped” as some like to say. In fact, I do at times agree, at least partially, with some assertions that Mr. O’Reilly makes. For instance on the May 10th airing of “The O’Reilly factor, I found myself in agreement with Billo on the notion that immigration reform must include securing our borders as well as a proactive and transparent process of nationalization and citizenship. Just to clarify, I’m not anti-immigrant and don’t think we should have snipers shooting illegal border-crossers but I do think secure borders are important to the process, plus it would create jobs, not just through increased border patrol personnel but also in the construction of the fences and through the support staff (admins, maintenance staff, ect.) that would be needed to facilitate a stronger presence along the border. I digress, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t reflexively disagree with Bill O’Reilly just because he’s a Fox News pundit.
Finally, I don’t harbor any delusions about the nature of cable news. I admit I prefer my propaganda left-leaning (or perhaps leaning forward) but I know that MSNBC is a subsidiary of GE and another thus in the employ of the corporatocracy and are merely the Pepsi to Fox News’ Coca-Cola. I watch “Hardball”– Chris Matthews is a chest-beating loudmouth. I watch “The Last Word,”– Lawrence O’Donnell is a pretentious Ivy-League ideologue. Let’s not even start with Ed Schultz. I excluded Rachael Maddow from my scathing indictment because, honestly, I find her show to be journalistic and intellectually sound and I find myself rabidly attracted to her (Some of you may think that’s weird, but I think smart is sexy.) I won’t even touch CNN because their brand of centrism is solely for the sake of widening market shares and aside from a few flourishes from Anderson Cooper and Fareed Zakaria I haven’t seen them as relevant for years.
Again I digress, I suppose what I am getting at is that I am an independent thinker and I don’t take to Facebook to spew out recycled opinions.
So back to my potentially incendiary status update. First I’ll address the fascist claim. Benito Mussolini defines fascism as follows: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” I think the definition speaks for itself, ideology aside, Fox News and O’Reilly are unabashed in their pro-corporate stances and repeatedly champion policies that promote Mussolini’s “merger of state and corporate power.”
As far as bigotry, there were three distinct instances on the show where O’Reilly asserts viewpoints that I can only define as bigoted. When addressing the issue of Common being invited to the White House’s poetry night by the Obamas, O’Reilly called it a “PR disaster.” This assertion was based, as best as I could gather, on the fact that Common has some controversial lyrics that cover controversial topics. In his “Talking Points Memo” segment, Billo stated that Barack Obama’s decision to invite Common showed the president’s lack of “understanding of the sensibilities of regular Americans” and then went on to state that Common’s audience was young, urban, minorities. I could only infer from this that it was O’Reilly’s opinion that young, urban, minorities are somehow not “normal Americans” since Obama’s decision to invite Common (an artist who, as Billo puts it appeals to young, urban minorities) to the White House was indicative of President Obama’s supposed lack of the aforementioned “understanding.” This assertion took an even more bigoted tone as O’Reilly interviewed his first guest (the head of a national police organization) and made repeated implications that President Obama was somehow not smart enough to know why people would think Common a controversial guest. The problem is, the controversy that Billo and his guest kept referring to was a fabrication of their own making. They both made multiple claims that Common promoted murdering police officers in his songs. This, however, is simply not the case. In the lyrics in question, Common expresses his skepticism about the guilty verdict leveled against Assata Shakur for the shooting of a police officer. He also expresses similar skepticism about the Mumia Abu Jamal case (another police shooting.) While Common’s views are not necessarily conventional they are not without precedent and they certainly don’t condone killing police officers. Questioning weather a guilty verdict was valid in a police murder trial is quite different than condoning killing police officers. O’Reilly’s attempt to paint Common as a cop-killing advocate seems a lot like a spin, which is interesting in the self-proclaimed “No Spin Zone” but neither this or his attack on Obama’s intelligence are outwardly bigoted. O’Reilly did fail to challenge his guest (to police officer) when he began to make personal attacks on Common calling him a “fraud” because his father was a professional athlete and Common himself had a college education. That reeked of bigotry from where I was standing. What it sounded like to me was that this pig was saying that a black man with an education and affluent roots is somehow not genuine and in fact a “fraud.”
All of the above still didn’t explicitly indicate bigotry. It was when Billo made his play achieving the coveted “fair and balanced” status that I saw the bigotry come to light. After the cop, O’Reilly brought on two supposedly liberal guests to provide a counter point to his assertions that Common’s invitation to the White House by Obama was a “PR disaster.” As the guests futilely attempted to illustrate why they didn’t agree with this statement one of them brought up the fact that Bill Clinton had invited Eric Clapton to the White House and caused no such controversy. Eric Clapton as you may know is famous for songs such as “Cocaine” and his rendition of “I Shot The Sheriff” a song that explicitly details the killing of a police officer. O’Reilly dismissed this out of hand and then proceeded to interrupt and insult his guests at which point I could no longer watch. I left the gym steaming at what I had just witnessed. O’Reilly’s dismissal of the Eric Clapton argument revealed clearly to me what the other questionable notions had been hinting at. All of the sudden the exclusion of young, urban minorities from the ranks of “normal Americans,” the repeated implications that President Obama was not intelligent or perceptive enough to see the controversy, and the failure to challenge the cop’s attack on Common’s character became unmistakable indicators of one thing:
“Bill O’Reilly is a fascist bigot”
take care of yourselves and each other