Opinion: The curious case of Bill O'Reilly

Bill O’Reilly: Fox News personality.  Accomplished author. Self-proclaimed “culture warrior”. Love him or hate him, it is clearly safe to say O’Reilly is one of the most polarizing media figures of our time.

Thanks to the power of YouTube, we have at our fingertips the hilarious clip of his off-air meltdown from his days at Inside Edition, when he yells, “We’ll do it live! F--- it! F---king thing sucks!” to some poor bloke off air, thus entering a new catchphrase into popular lexicon overnight.

That raging temper has become a trademark on his show “The O’Reilly Factor.” Although to my knowledge coarse language hasn’t been uttered on the show (or at least some off-air clip hasn’t been released yet that I am aware of), O’Reilly has been known for berating his guests when he disagrees with them, interrupting them when he gets hot under the collar, and cutting segments short if he feels that he’s losing the argument.

Sure, O’Reilly does this under the guise of “the no-spin zone” and getting to the point, but many times the truth requires a long explanation and a brief foray into history to fully understand the context of the topic at hand. That’s not to say that O’Reilly needs to cut someone off if the discussion is getting too far off-topic, but you be the judge on the video below.

O’Reilly has also proven himself to be a hypocrite on many an occasion, especially since Obama has been in office. Watch below as MSNBC’s Ed Schultz takes O’Reilly to task for his laissez-faire outlook on high gas prices under Bush, and then his complete 180 degree reversal under Obama.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o98_PfST8DQ

For a far more recent example of hypocrisy, check out Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks dismantle O’Reilly’s stance on the NSA surveillance controversy below:

But despite all this, I do have a grudging respect for O’Reilly. Why, might you ask? First, the guy is educated. He holds a BA in history from Marist, earned his Masters of Broadcast Journalism at BU (boo), and then received a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard. The same cannot be said of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, all college dropouts.

Second, O’Reilly is a Long Island boy like me. He’s from a town called Westbury, which coincidentally an uncle of mine was the mayor of way back in the day. But that's besides the point: I understand where O'Reilly is coming from. Not that I agree with what O’Reilly stands for, but I know many people, mostly older, who were brought up in similar fashion and are able to identify with him, for not only ideological reasons but also for generational ones as well.

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The group that I speak of is the target market of “The O’Reilly Factor”. In a nutshell, his audience is the 21st Century version of what Richard Nixon dubbed “The Silent Majority.” Although they may not be silent or in the majority anymore, the ideology still remains. They are the Baby Boomers, and perhaps those a little older, that have come from a strong Catholic or Protestant background. This shapes their culturally conservative social views, especially when it comes to abortion, gay marriage, and even divorce.

This also means that they are more likely to think that organized prayer should be allowed in public schools, and prone to believing in false concepts pushed by O’Reilly and the rest of his Fox News cohorts, such as the “War on Christmas.”  O’Reilly’s persona as a right-wing populist also leads his viewers to spurn intellectualism and higher education, and to distrust the so-called “liberal elites.”

When it comes to foreign policy, they are mostly hawks and supported the Iraq War, just as how their parents most likely supported the Vietnam War fifty years ago. This position, neo-conservatism, fosters a strong belief that America is “ordained” to spread democracy around the world through military intervention and nation-building and fight against some sort “existential” threat, whether it be Communism, radical Islam, or whatever’s the flavor of the month. However, this also tends to create the “us vs. them” mentality, and the dangerous belief that America is always in the right, no matter what. Ultimately, as we saw in the prelude to the Iraq War, any form of political opposition or questioning of authority is shouted down as being “un-American” and “unpatriotic,” not only by the O’Reilly crowd, but also by the mainstream media as well.

Economically speaking, O’Reilly viewers support free enterprise, but due to most being either in retirement or approaching it, vehemently oppose cuts to earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. Some are deficit hawks, while others do not care about the budget as much, if at all. Regardless, it is a Republican dominated audience, and probably have voted Republican since 1968, the year Nixon was elected president.

But I will give O’Reilly some credit as of late. While he labels himself a “traditionalist,” nevertheless he recognizes, at least since last November when Obama was re-elected, that America is changing. This stance puts him at odds with many on the far right such as Laura Ingraham and Alex Jones. Watch below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTctoDBOgCQ

Not to mention O'Reilly took the time on his show to call out Michelle Bachmann and her lies (not exactly a hard thing to do).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWRw30TQtpM

Bill O’Reilly is indeed a curious case. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and ruffle some feathers on either side, and does his fair share of double talk. Yet, he has shown to be both stubborn and pragmatic at the same time, and even his signature temper has mellowed out a bit over the years.

I will say, to close, that he is intelligent and thought-provoking, because I just wrote this entire article on him, and that what he espouses will continue to hold significant weight.

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