Thursday, June 14, 2007

Burgwinkle vs. O'Reilly (a true story)

I was recently channel surfing when I happened across FOX News and the insightful commentary of Bill O’Reilly. It took O’Reilly less than a second to say something that made me want to chuck the remote control at his face.

Now we've done hundreds of Iraq reports on this program, as you know. But we don't do the carnage du jour. We don't highlight every terrorist attack because we learn nothing from that. And that's exactly what the terrorists want us to do. I mean, come on, does another bombing in Tikrit mean anything other than war is hell? No, it does not.
In my opinion, CNN and especially MSNBC delight in showing Iraqi violence because they want Americans to think badly of President Bush. And that strategy has succeeded.
So their Iraqi coverage is more political than informational, again in my opinion. Could be wrong about CNN. I'm not wrong about the committed left wing crew over at NBC.
(“Talking Points.” The O’Reilly Factor. Fox News Channel. 12 Jun 2007.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I promptly switched the channel in disgust after he said this. I re-checked the transcript on Lexis-Nexis to make sure Bill didn’t make a complete 180 and admit that what he just said was completely idiotic. He didn’t.

Now, this comment bugged the shit out of me so I’d like to take this opportunity to dissect what he said and discuss why it’s dumb as hell.

Bill’s first assertion, that his program does not do the “carnage du jour” (apparently we’re not boycotting France anymore, or at the very least, the language) is fair enough. Except that the day to day violence in Iraq which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis and multiple American soldiers that he so condescendingly refers to as “carnage du jour” is in fact news. I want to know that 34 Iraqis were blown up in a market in Baghdad. I want to know when another American soldier is killed by an IED in a humvee that wasn’t properly equipped. I want to know these things because I’m an engaged citizen of a country currently embroiled in the conflict there. It gives me a sense of whether or not the day to day life of Iraqis and American soldiers is improving. I can use this information to evaluate how my elected officials are handling the situation and whether or not they’re lying to me about progress made. This is news. It’s called the Fox News Channel. They report, I decide. How can I decide if they don’t report?

The sad truth is I can’t. If the news media doesn’t tell me what’s going on in Baghdad, I can’t go there tomorrow and see for myself. Even sadder, many Americans use 24 hour cable news as their only source of information. Saddest is the fact that Fox News is the highest rated of the three 24 hour news channels. Thus, many Americans remained dangerously uniformed about just how bad things are there.

Bill goes on to suggest that we don’t learn anything from the reporting of the day to day violence. Of course we do! We learn that on a daily basis, people get blown up. We learn that things are going badly. It’s important to know that every day people are dying there so that we don’t wake up one day and just assume things are better because we’re not hearing about it. Remember New Orleans? They’re still screwed. Remember Afghanistan? It’s still not secure. When the news media stop reporting on things, people assume that things are going well. They drop off the political agenda and that’s the most dangerous thing of all. Now, obviously Iraq coverage hasn’t and probably won’t suffer the same fate as those other two stories, but Bill’s suggestion that we don’t learn anything from day to day reporting of Iraqi violence is repugnant. I won’t even go into arguing why his completely Orwellian suggestion that the terrorists wanting us to report on the violence is why he chooses not to is idiotic. I will say that that comment alone is proof enough that he is a completely blind follower of the Bush-Cheney White House and that the fact that he hides this behind a false façade of independent political views is cowardly and dishonest.

Now comes the best part. Bill thinks CNN and MSNBC report on the violence in Iraq because they want Americans to think badly of President Bush. Is this man for real? People think badly of President Bush because of the violence in Iraq, not because of the way CNN and MSNBC present it. What is he suggesting? That we shouldn’t report on it and if the situation is really that bad, people will just hear about it on the street? Furthermore, people should think badly of President Bush when they see the violence. He wanted this war and he promised something completely different than what he has delivered. If anything, O’Reilly’s decision to not cover Iraq daily proves that he doesn’t want Americans to think badly of the president.

He concludes that Iraq coverage is “more political than informational.” First of all, the news inherently affects people’s political opinions. That’s the whole point of having an independent and free press, so that people can make informed political decisions. As far as it not being informational, I’ve said why I think it’s informational and as far as I can tell, the only non-informational Iraq coverage is the kind that doesn’t exist.

Now it’s clear that I hate Bill O’Reilly. I’m pretty sure he’d be an asshole in person, too. Also, since his show is not a news program, he actually has no responsibility to report anything. He could (and does) just sit there and spread the Gospel of Bill all night and the show would be exactly as advertised. However, his comments reveal the fundamentally dangerous ideology of keeping the public uninformed in order to serve a political agenda that pervades Fox News Channel. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, is now trying to buy the Wall Street Journal. I hope for everyone’s sake he doesn’t succeed. It would undoubtedly ruin one of the only legitimate, intelligent, and respected conservative voice in the American news market. The Journal towers above the usual conservative drivel found on talk radio and Fox News. For the sake of the country, Murdoch can’t get his hands on this paper.

-By Patrick Burgwinkle (and submitted by josh)