A few weeks ago, film critic, occasional political columnist and living legend Roger Ebert wrote a scathing piece about social commentator and Fox news broadcaster Bill O’Reilly and Bill’s insistence to be given the esteem of a serious journalist without the objective reasoning necessary to warrant that distinction.
In the article titled, “Thoughts on Bill O’Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse,” Ebert writes, “Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?” and that O’Reilly’s column, which appeared within the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times a few years ago, a paper he recently placed on his “Hall of Shame,” was missed less than an old comic strip.
Ebert also adds that he is shocked that some newspapers still run O’Reilly’s columns “since [they are] composed of knee-jerk frothings and ravings,” and that no real journalist would ever “cheer for a newspaper to fail.”
I think Ebert is right on the money but, for better or worse, guys like Bill O’Reilly make a living creating a one-sided view of the news and playing to an already biased and narrow audience.
Bill is living the life of O’Reilly, not by delivering the news, but giving “commentary” on the evils of contemporary political liberalism and “exposing the hypocrisy” in others while ignoring his own.
For example, in 2007 O’Reilly engaged in a war of words with rapper Nas.
The rapper offered to perform a free concert at Virginia Tech shortly after the tragic shootings at the school, and O’Reilly mocked his appearance saying, “any man who makes money off songs like Shoot ‘Em Up,” “Got Urself A Gun,” and “Made You Look,” has no right speaking to any crowd about gang violence. [Nas] is part of the problem.”
However, in 2006, O’Reilly, while speaking on the radio about 18-year-old rape and murder victim Jennifer Moore, sadistically sneered, “that girl was moronic.” He added: “She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning.”
However, it didn’t stop O’Reilly from speaking at a luncheon for the Alexa Foundation for rape victims this year. This hypocrisy was curiously absent from O’Reilly’s “pinhead” segment on his show.
These contradictions give him a severe credibility problem that few have taken him to task on. If there is one thing that those in the media are expected to have in order to be taken seriously is credibility.
O’Reilly has none.
He is a right-wing smear merchant, barely noticing what he says from one week to the next.
In March, he criticized the Democrats for creating a “culture war” between themselves and conservatives, forgetting that in his first book he called himself a “culture warrior.”
He has serious short-term memory when it comes to what he says, suggesting that even he doesn’t watch his own show.
However, somebody does. And in all likelihood they would probably consider the president a socialist as well.
Last week, O’Reilly attacked the president for everything from bowing to Saudi King Abdullah (“how low can he go”) to releasing the memos regarding the torture techniques that occurred during the previous administration.
The message is: The president is always wrong, and his opponents are always right, even if they are supportive of torturing suspected terror captives.
It is a message of incredible narrow-mindedness.
The one thing that Ebert is overlooking though is what O’Reilly represents. His job is not to report news, but to declare opposition to the Obama administration and create controversies that keep his viewers tuned in. What he does has nothing to do with journalism.
Though O’Reilly’s methods amount to journalistic prostitution, I acknowledge the sobering fact that he will have the last word over myself and Mr. Ebert. This is because the medium that we both have used will soon become moot, while the sensationalism passing for objective journalism will continue well into the next decade.
There will always be an audience out there who, rather than picking up a newspaper or reading an online article and forming their own opinion, simply want someone to play into their own anger and paranoia about where the country is heading.
This is what O’Reilly does, and he is not the last of his kind.