Sunday, March 15, 2009
Bill O' the Belt
For obvious reasons, I don't pay much attention to anything Bill O'Reilly says.
He's little more than a puffy buffoon doing a nightly Vaudeville routine and I've always sort of felt that to rage against his silly shtick would be to give his opinions validation they don't deserve. O'Reilly's a comedian, nothing more -- and his bombastic sense of self-importance just makes him all that much funnier and renders his views that much more inconsequential.
Admittedly, though, over the past couple of months an interesting thing has happened: Bill O'Reilly has become something of a kitschy comfort. The far-right, which once hijacked run-of-the-mill conservatism, has itself been hijacked by farther-right splinter cells pushing anti-Obama-themed lunacy so outrageous and unhinged that, by comparison, O'Reilly looks like the voice of reason -- a harmless relic of a bygone era when all it took to get a spiteful mention in Media Matters was a little fact-twisting and interview intimidation. I mean, think about it: Compared to the laugh-out-loud ridiculousness of the "Tea Bag Revolution" and "Going Galt," Rush Limbaugh's hostile takeover of the GOP, and Glenn Beck's Hyde Park-style paranoid ravings about the impending collapse of civilization, O'Reilly seems positively timid -- like William F. Buckley hopped up on Red Bull.
Bill O'Reilly was never very dangerous to begin with; now he's seen himself outnumbered and thoroughly outgunned a host of Crazy Come Latlies willing to go the extra mile and tread delusional ground even he wouldn't dare set foot on. It's getting really fucking insane out there and, quite frankly, O'Reilly just isn't detached enough from reality to keep up.
But like any burlesquian hack worth his salt, O'Reilly still has the ability to entertain on occasion.
Take last Friday night, when, during the always amusing "Talking Points" segment of his show on Fox News Channel, O'Reilly warned of a "vast left-wing conspiracy" of "organized zealots" participating in a "daily morning conference call" designed to coordinate their pinko communist message and, more nefariously, dole out punishment to any media outlet not expressing full support for President Obama's plan to subvert our freedoms and turn America into an Islamo-socialist amusement park called "Jihadland." This little exhort -- delivered, as usual, with just enough false modesty and contrived acquiescence to be able to claim a lack of bias -- was pretty good stuff on its own (regardless of the fact that it had been cribbed wholesale from the Politico's resident silver spoon-fed douchebag, Ben Smith, who broke the "conference call cabal" story three days earlier). But then O'Reilly turned his ire on the actual individuals supposedly behind the call -- and that's when things really got interesting.
See, one of the occasional hosts of the morning conference call O'Reilly was talking about -- the 8:45AM teleconference of largely Democratic labor, health care, and environmental lobbies -- is none other than my good friend Jacki Schechner. Or as O'Reilly put it, in the kind of repulsed tone usually reserved for phrases like "Nazi sympathizer" or "registered sex offender": "Former CNN reporter Jacki Schechner." He repeated this ostensible epithet twice -- "Once again, a former CNN reporter" -- just to make sure the point was sufficiently hammered home that Fox's competition was and is a corrupt hive of gutless liberalism.
The icing on the cake, though -- really, the admittedly ballsy pièce de résistance of low blow pseudo-journalism -- was the picture of Jacki that O'Reilly's producers had chosen for the segment. Let this be a warning to anyone even tangentially involved in partisan politics these days: Your Facebook photos can be used by your enemies as a weapon against you. In Jacki's case, The O'Reilly Factor nabbed a picture off the internet of her at her birthday a couple of months back -- wearing a big hat covered in pink fur. So what you essentially had was a stern and serious Bill O'Reilly talking about some left-wing elitist who spends her days mounting attacks on freedom of speech from a K-street office, while onscreen was a photo of that very woman, looking like the grand marshal of a gay pride parade. As underhanded agit-prop, the kind of thing Fox just excels at, it was tough to beat.
I've since talked to Jacki -- who incidentally works for an obviously commie front organization called "Health Care for America Now" -- and she needless to say is shocked to have drawn the wrath of O'Reilly. Her response to the use of the pimped-out photo is mostly casual defiance. "Screw it -- it's a good picture," she laughs. But what she's not laughing at is the hate e-mail, Facebook messages, and phone calls she's been deluged with since the segment ran two days ago; all from O'Reilly's little myrmidons; all telling her in no uncertain terms that she should move to Cuba if she feels that health care is something everybody is entitled to.
The reason Jacki Schechner was specifically targeted by O'Reilly shouldn't confound anyone; it has everything to do with her former affiliation with CNN. There's a gargantuan amount of irony in the fact that someone who was fucked so royally by the network can now be impugned for ever having worked there in the first place. You'd think it would be harder for Fox to paint Jacki as being representative of some kind of liberal agenda at CNN considering that CNN let her go. But then again, this is Fox we're talking about. Logic and reason don't seem to be very big buzzwords with those folks.
If this is merely the first shot in a protracted battle between O'Reilly and "former CNN reporter Jacki Schechner," then Jacki will probably be called on to issue some kind of official statement about the whole stupid mess. For the record, I've already offered her a suggestion.
"O'Reilly, that's the sexual harassment guy from YouTube, right?"
I mean, you don't really think Bill O'Reilly deserves to be taken seriously, do you?