Slouched in his hardwood rocker chair in working-class Long Island, the contoured seat slipping down, a 65-year-old man (a die-hard traditionalist and registered “Independent”), glares contentiously at the “No Spin Zone” on Fox News until an epiphany catches his balance, “you know what, fuck Bill O’Reilly,” he shouts at the flat screen, slamming his brown ale on the side table.
For over a decade, the political provocateur Bill O’Reilly—who, on February 19th, 2015, had to immediately defend a collection of inconsistencies during his Falklands War coverage, an allegation supported by seven journalist/colleagues of O’Reilly who were in Buenos Aires at the time—was the man’s chicken soup for soul, his trusted conservative underdog navigating a colorful sea of unpatriotic liberal dominated media— black and homosexual loving, poverty uplifting, Muslim sympathizers.
He changed the channel, only to see reports of Sally Quinn (media friend of O’Reilly’s) defending Bill O’Reilly by saying, “O’Reilly is an entertainer and everything he does is totally subjective, including his memories,” she nonchalantly told The Daily Beast. “To attack him is simply to increase his ratings and the sales of his phenomenally popular books. Lighten up, everybody.”
There went the remote, and part of his sanity. He reclined back and clutched the little amount of hair he had in his head. “Where are the William F. Buckley’s,” he said to himself. “Today, we have opinions, ads, ratings, opinions, ads, ratings…shit, I’m not a consumer, I’m a human being.”
Although he never believed O’Reilly to be a perfect practitioner of the broadcast news profession, or a trustworthy source of corporate news information— or certainly the self-righteous judge that attempts to guide our partisan America and thwarts any alternative viewpoints that threatens to concede his moral power. No—he relied, fortunately, on independent news sources to verify TV news reports and commentary.
Yet he still watched the O’Reilly Factor.
It wasn’t the almost childish he say/she say narrative dominating the Falklands War coverage that ticked him off. It wasn’t even the possibility of the real story hidden beneath his war embellishment– the fact that Bill O’Reilly, as a foreign correspondent at that time, failed to report the El Mozote massacre. No— he still watched O’Reilly.
No matter how many times he stumbled across John Stewart’s satirical commentary that brilliantly interrogates the real caricature of Bill O’Reilly—the oft-criticized, ratings-loving Fox brand— he still watched the O’Reilly Factor.
No matter how many times he saw or heard O’Reilly bully his guests and co-hosts, (here, here, and here) shoot down facts, use false equivalencies, and give ISIS terrorists the “holy war” proclamation they so desperately wanted to hear, or lie about actually seeing the murder of American nuns in El Salvador– he still watched Bill O’Reilly.
But that was the last straw for the old man. On that specific day, O’Reilly’s antics brought back horrible memories of his time in private school– when all of the legacy students, teacher’s pets, and jocks would always escape punishment after misbehaving.
“This is school all over again,” he said, as he flipped the bird at the screen.
Where there exists a concerning pattern for others, controversy generates more power for Bill O’Reilly —it not only feeds his ego, it brings him more hate, and he and his supporters embrace it like soft, white feather pillows.
For the old man, things seem dangerously different this time. He was either never aware of or ignored the precedent that was set 14-years-ago when O’Reilly dethroned Larry King as the leader in cable news. He sat back in his wooden rocker, took a sloppy sip of his brown ale, and mumbled to himself, “sometimes, beer does taste the same.”
He started putting the jigsaw puzzle together: From Brian Williams “misremembering” to Hillary Clinton “mistaken” herself under sniper fire in Bosnia to Ronald Reagan’s lie about being at the liberation of Nazi death camps when, in fact, his Reaganomics ass was in California.
These were all students misbehaving in a political class but their lies never completely defined them.
The old man came to the realization that Bill O’Reilly trumps them all, because his divisiveness is his bankable shtick; he’s created a profitable niche market; it’s a market that sells an exploitative product; it’s a product that doesn’t attempt to unite America or contributes to the human condition—it deliberately shames, recklessly places blame, and perpetuates an “us verses them” dichotomy.
Divisiveness and combative personalities is a Fox News programming strategy, and no man has made more money for Fox and for himself than Bill O’Reilly. (Sean Hannity is the robot clone of O’Reilly that went horribly awry.)
From O’Reilly’s annual “War on Christmas” broadcasting to his “Killing” book series—everything for O’Reilly centers on his brand of combativeness.
His “war zone” faux pas was simply an attempt to get street cred. He may need to mend his differences with a few gangster rappers to learn how to get it the authentic way. But authenticity isn’t O’Reilly’s thing; it’s the self-aggrandizing skill of bending truth that is most self-serving for him.
Any man with a reputation is entertaining in and of itself. The quiet boy in the back of the class is cognizant of this, but he can’t figure out if it’s better to be feared than loved: O’Reilly knows it’s safer to be feared.
But if a principal were to say, “fuck Bill O’Reilly… that spoiled bully” then it would be self-evident that some reputations are simply counterproductive for the class and school.
No one man should have all that power and have his grades unchecked.