Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

O'Reilly's War

FOX Mushroom Farm is probably not doing star manure-shoveler Bill O'Reilly any favors by not putting him on a bullshit short-term temporary suspension--just throwing that out there. At present count, he has about seven or eight former colleagues calling b.s. on his accounting of his experiences covering the Falklands War. He's gone so far as to threaten a NYT reporter with "everything I have" over the issue.  A time-out might defuse attention on this issue for the network and their star, but right now, he is totally being a story. Journalists (real or FOX News) tell stories--but it isn't helpful for them to become them.

Steve M. describes the wagon-circling that conservative media are engaging in--I think this is very awkward of them (and really--Alger Hiss?*) O'Reilly's fault in recounting his Argentinian experiences doesn't really have an ideological basis, and his reporting in the "No-Spin Zone" should certainly account for something if the byword of "Fair and Balanced" is to have any meaning at all, no? He's simply being called an inaccurate reporter who is exaggerating and got on everyone's nerves. That's not about politics. That's about their experience of working with him.

O'Reilly has a documented issue with "truthiness". People have argued over where he even grew up--a tiresome business involving zip codes and the kerning on a mortgage statement, his school athletic career, and whether the tabloid news program Inside Edition won a Peabody or a Polk Award (a Polk--after he left). He's fluffed up his closeness to tragedy regarding his investigation into the JFK murder. It's sort of like he's made a story that is better than reality that he wants everyone else to respect.

But journalists don't usually do that--their job is to root out the truth. Making a fictional self is kind of like brand-building. It's, to use the wrestling terms, a work, when he's trying to claim his business is a straight shoot.

I also don't think we can leave out that other journalists might be a little concerned with what an O'Reilly means to their profession when he is "that guy". The guy who sexually harasses producers. The guy who is a bully in his private life, and who threatens other reporters, like Emily Steele and Amanda Terkel as part of his public life. If anyone has ever worked with an abusive colleague, whom one has witnessed reaming out a subordinate employee, trainee or intern on a regular basis, and never being reprimanded, do you not think about literally or figuratively "socking them"? His kind of imprint probably doesn't leave a good taste and there is good cause to question his professionalism.

In other words--yes, people might be out to get O'Reilly. I don't see the left/right divide being necessary for that.

(If you ask me, Whittaker Chambers was a flake with a damn good story, and the jury is permanently out on Hiss. I'm just a punk-ass blogger, though, and I only advance that comment because McCarthy and Nixon made their bones on that shit, and the hell with them both.)


mikey said...

I honestly do not understand why anybody gives two shits and a whistle for what BillO says. He's the classic bloviator, on a deeply biased network pandering to an audience comprised entirely of fearful white retirees.

He's not speaking to you. He's not speaking to me. I'm pretty sure we can safely ignore him...

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I hope that the silly season has not started already. When everything becomes a flurry of dramatic denunciations, patriotic jingoism in right or left bromides, people referring to others with obscene prefixes, I quickly lose interest. If you have seen it for a week, you have seen it all.

Roughly, my understanding is that in the old days if a person wished to watch TV at 5 or 6 o'clock, they automatically had to watch the news.

With the advent of new flexibility and many channels, people no longer have to watch the news, so they don't. So the ill-informed popular culture becomes even less informed, if that is possible.

The demographics suggest that statistics show that a plurality of people who continue to watch the news watch Fox. Often Megyn Kelly or O'Reilly will have 2 to 5 million viewers. The top 5 or 6 billets will all go to Fox watchers.

CNN then usually gets a slot somewhere in the middle, with Anderson Cooper drawing in some viewers.

Then finally MSNBC's top draw is often less than half a million people. This is apparently one of the reasons a shuffle is going on at MSNBC as they try to figure out how they can somehow drag themselves off the bottom. They fired Frank Sinatra's relative. They shifted some slots around, and there is even talk about the security of Chris Hayes's job.

Now all of this would seemingly go to the advantage of the right. (Megyn Kelly is the one I like to watch. She reminds me of the perfect Any Rand heroine.)

Despite the fact that most news watchers watch Fox, the cultural predisposition of regular programming leans left. And so the low-hanging fruit basically spend their TV time watching programming with a leftist spin or bias. And of course there are a lot more of them than people who tune into the news. So that would seem to be an advantage for the left.

Bear in mind this left-right dichotomy is simply an intellectual abstraction that does not exist in the real world. Actually, people who make up pure left or right as it is defined by the small complement on either side don't exist outside of some flawed statistical models put together without reference to people's actual predispositions. If anything this is demonstrated by James Webb who represents the opinion of the vast number of conservative Democrats in the South. Conservative leaning Democrats have been voting with Republicans, but if Webb runs they might be encouraged to go back to the Democratic Party.

Statistical "truths" are almost always non-representative. For example, if you have a hundred pebbles and you determine by weighing them all that the average weight is 3 grams, it is entirely possible that you will not find one 3-gram pebble in the entire bunch, because the extremes have been cut off and the average does not take into consideration the individual pebble.

I mention this because when you look at news sources and blogs, you get a picture of the world that is not congruent with the world you find outside your door. Outside the door, only a few people fall into the categories you see proclaimed in the flame wars. An interesting proposition when you realize that the ruler does not actually measure the situation.

Vixen Strangely said...

I hope that the silly season has not started already.

I think we're getting there. I've seen an awful lot of stories about "some state legislator in West XXX said XXX..." type stories, and articles about polls that show how dumb and divided the country is. I try to resist *most* of that sort of thing: there are hundreds of state legislators all over the country, and statistically, some of them are just bound to be ignorant. We can talk about polls about what people "believe, but the thinkpieces about those polls never seem to make people more informed or less divided.

I think things were better in the old days--when I was a kid, my family took two daily newspapers, and watched the local and evening news with dinner--and that was it. There was no 24 hr news cycle. You couldn't gorge on opinion-based reporting and commentary. It was available, but in healthy doses.

I don't watch cable news, myself. I'm really hard on FOX, but MBNBC is not, for the most part, watchable, and CNN should just be called the Constantly Nervous Network. I started not liking what the idea of a 'news network" was in college. It just struck me that things like wars and earthquakes shouldn't have theme music and logos made up for the occasion.

This will sound weird from me, since what I do is opinion-based news and politics, but television opinion journalism is IMHO, a lot of what's killing political conversation. The camera likes "stimulation"--but that isn't informative. There's too much yelling. I think columns and blogs just do it better. I can read something at Red State or National Review, and not feel, for the most part, like I've been contacted by aliens. Fox News' The Five feels like a close encounter with ET to me.

Mikey makes a point about the demographics of who pays attention to cable news shows like O'Reilly's--it does skew older and somewhat less diverse, just like with talk radio and hard-copy newspaper subscriptions. I think MS NBC made the mistake of thinking leaning liberal would get them a younger, more diverse audience not represented by FOX or CNN, but I think what they were providing content for an audience that doesn't use television for news (the same kind of error was made by Air America with radio. Younger people use tv for entertainment almost exclusively--hence, The Daily Show is one of the biggest "liberal" news successes.

And it's a comedy show.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I agree with you that life was better before people had political opinion to gorge on in the 24-hour cycle.

My mother (who is still alive in Illinois believe it or not) was a deeply convicted follower of William F. Buckley, Jr. She also was an early subscriber to Nathaniel Brandon's newsletter, and as you know he was regarded as Ayn Rand's protege before a May-December romance eventually caused their split. Which is all simply to say there were opportunities for investigation into political opinion beyond the paper if one wanted to pursue them.

I also agree with you in reference to your dislike for news networks. I much prefer a news broadcast completely devoid of opinion and then with an editorial view specifically announced as such. As it is today, we have so much propaganda flying from all channels that Goebbels could only watch in dazed admiration.

You know, I refer to myself as a non-ideological conservative. What I basically mean by that is that I have come to the conclusion that the main pillars of conservative thought are best for society and best for me. That is, low taxes, strong defense, originalist constitutional interpretation, etc., etc. What I mean by non-ideological is that I fully realize that someone else could come to an entirely different conclusion. Because I have reached a point of view, that does not mean that everyone else should also see the world as I do.

One of my concerns is that as a country we politically seem to feel as if we come to a conclusion, then that de facto means everyone else has to come to the same conclusion, and the end justifies the means. So if others disagree with us they need to be shamed or ridiculed or diminished because the way they look at it is different.

As you know, this has even reached theological proportions. If x believes in God and y doesn't believe in God, today the idea seems to be that one of the two must be beaten into submission by the other. What a ridiculous notion when considering theology.

My view is that the Internet has exacerbated the debate and creates more derision and violence unjustifiably and unnecessarily.

Today I think what is conspicuous by its absence are people who try to move us away from the idea that every disagreement is antagonistic. The Internet has allowed us to exploit some foibles endemic to human beings and pour gasoline on the fire. I think it is perfectly fine for me to try and state my case persuasively, but not OK for me throw toxicity into an already toxin-saturated culture.

My hope is that the new realities presented by the computer will cause more people to begin to realize that a discussion of ideas does not have to diminish into sophomoric name calling. Especially when we have real enemies who present real threats to our safety as a culture and as a nation. Someone said something about blessing the peacemakers.. that would be a swell idea today because we're way too overbalanced in the opposite direction.

P.S. It occurs to me that I sound like a pacifist. And I want to assure you that I am no such thing. I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I taught boxing and hand to hand combat for 8 years, am a member of the NRA, and I will not hesitate to hurt maim or kill a declared enemy or someone who attacks me or my family. The point is you don't want to let anything ever come to that place. You want to minimize trouble before it ever happens. I imagine a lot of people in your family feel the same way.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

In other words--yes, people might be out to get O'Reilly. I don't see the left/right divide being necessary for that.

It's natural to want to knock the top dog off the pedestal, especially when it's such a bombastic, vindictive buffoon.