In today’s world, few people can actually remember the time when the terms “fair” and “balanced” existed independently of one another and actually referred to some form of unbiased justice. Now the term “fair and balanced” has become the battle cry of the Republican Party’s permanent cheerleading squad, the Fox News network. The clear spokesman of this partisan spirit squad is “Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly, who prides himself on maintaining what he calls the “No Spin Zone.” Unfortunately for the O’Reilly faithful, Papa Bear’s news can hardly be considered fair or balanced and has been spun more times than a Celine Dion record at the annual Quebec City Summer Music Festival.
Some of you loyal “culture warriors” out there might object, citing the fact that Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor” has won two Emmys for its commentary on social and political issues. These people should remember that “South Park,” despite it being one of the most offensive shows on television, has also won an Emmy. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a growing trend, because if there is one thing neither of these two shows lack, it’s the ability to offend.
Just look at the recent Indiana University study which shows that O’Reilly uses some form of derogatory language every 6.8 seconds in the talking points that open “The O’Reilly Factor.” This translates to some form of degradation at least nine times every minute of the so-called “fair and balanced” news program. The majority of this language targets the so-called “secular-progressive” liberals, whose views tend to differ from O’Reilly’s. Doesn’t sound too balanced, does it?
In one of O’Reilly’s newspaper columns titled “Here Comes the Left,” he discusses three current political issues: San Francisco high schools banning Junior ROTC programs, Massachusetts not holding a vote to ban gay marriage and a Vermont judge handing out a light sentence to a reported child molester. He ends this column by making sweeping statements about the political left based solely upon these three isolated incidents, stating, “Let’s recap: No tolerance for the military, no voting on controversial issues, and let’s ease up on those adults sexually brutalizing children. Welcome to the land of the secular-progressive.” The logic demonstrated by O’Reilly in this column seems obviously flawed and could be used to take the most outrageous circumstances and apply the resulting traits to an entire collective of people. Doesn’t seem very fair either, does it?
Using this same logic, one could take former Senate Majority leader Trent Lott’s allegedly racist comments at Strom Thurman’s birthday and apply them to the GOP as a whole. A widely published article suggesting all Republicans were still in favor of a segregated America probably wouldn’t sit well with a few people. In fact, pulling a stunt like that would probably get you sued (or even worse, an invitation to go hunting with Cheney).
So if O’Reilly’s program is neither fair nor balanced, then what exactly is it? Some say it’s simply mindless entertainment, and others insist that it’s conservative propaganda, while the intelligent few realize “The O’Reilly Factor” is just one man with an inflated sense of self spouting his views on the political world, however offensive or ignorant they may be. Now, “Papa Bear” is well within his rights to do this, so more power to him, but he needs to realize that all he’s accomplishing is giving conservatives a bad name in the media and giving people like me something to write about.
The above column, by James Noonan, appeared in The California Aggie