For any of you folks who've seen "Outfoxed", or for those of you poor devils who've actually sat through an entire show, you already know Bill O'Reilly's a guy who believes his emotions tell him more about the world than his intellect. Stephen Colbert, his professional doppelganger/satirizer (who has happily long since outgrown his impression of "Papa Bear"), cuts to the core of O'Reilly when he tells America how his "gut" makes pretty much all of his judgment calls.
I'd kind of forgotten about Bill O'Reilly in recent years. When compared to Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and Donald Rumsfeld, Bill O'Reilly is really more of a 3rd-tier villain. I think guys like Keith Olbermann and Al Franken have done a good job defanging O'Reilly in recent years, repeatedly exposing his lies (as well as the more unappealing aspects of the personality disorder). I think his impact on the zeitgeist is softer than it once was. Most of his audience, which skews elderly and conservative, are already inclined towards the right-wing point of view. I like to think that, these days, the blustery vacuity of Bill O'Reilly is traveling in a closed circuit, and not having much interaction with the larger national discussion.
But just because we all know O'Reilly's a punchline doesn't mean he does. He still believes he's "fighting the good fight," "talking truth to power" and "keeping 'em honest" and all sorts of megalomaniacal delusions like that. In his defense, I assume it's difficult to see yourself how everyone else sees you when everyone from President Bush to Barack Obama is willing to appear on your comedy show unironically and keep a straight face.
But, as I recently saw from a YouTube clip, O'Reilly's still dishing out the crazy self-righteousness that made him enemy #1 to people who've entertained thoughts.
This video from an "O'Reilly Factor" show last week, shocked me. Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank went on the "Factor" last week to talk about the financial meltdown. To some extent, it's Frank's own fault for encouraging O'Reilly and going on his show. But I have never seen television like this. I have never seen a pundit scream at and so casually disrespect a government representative like this. Not ever. Click here to see the bizarrity.
Clearly I believe our media needs to hold our elected officials more accountable for the things they do in our name. But when I think of "hold them accountable," I'm thinking more along the lines of asking politicians and policy makers tough questions and then actually making them answer those tough questions. Not this kind of childish, chest-thumping tantrum that lowers the level of discourse and makes everyone look diminished for participating. Hasn't Bill O'Reilly just become Morton Downey Jr, at this point? Albeit with better-quality guests? What a complete embarrasment.
To me, this is more like what "holding them accountable" looks like.