I really tried not to pay attention to what was being said at this asinine “debate” between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly tonight, but seeing as I partied a little too hard last night and thus have been relegated to sitting on my bed and refreshing the same 5 websites over and over again this evening, I have failed.
Most of what I’ve seen was exactly what I expected — Jon Stewart doing his very best, most reductive zingers (funny how that kind of thing is celebrated when some people do it, and mocked with others, eh?) and Bill O’Reilly doing his whole I-guess-I’m-the-only-one-with-common-sense schtick. Two lowest common denominators going at it. Check, please!
But something did catch my eye. Apparently, Bill O’Reilly said that the US should not have invaded Iraq, and then Jon Stewart was all “you better livetweet that, motherfuckers!” I’m not exactly surprised that he’d flip-flop about Iraq, but it sure does make me angry!
Now, in the early ’00s I watched quite a bit of Fox News. These days, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Arianna Huffington, I no longer have to actually watch TV, but I was a frequent visitor to the No Spin Zone, and I can tell you that Fox News used to be a really different beast, certainly not ideologically, but in style. In those days, Fox was an amusingly shameless mouthpiece for the Bush Administration. “The President is right about this,” doesn’t really fill up 16 hours of programming, however, and all the “Fox News Contributors” of today had actual jobs back then, so they would pass the time running segments about people being liberal. O’Reilly himself was a huge fan of this, especially when it had to do with people being against the Iraq war! He was angry that they were showing anti-war documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival. Cindy Sheehan took years off his life. And he seriously devoted entire episodes to Rosie O’Donnell on The View.
So obviously, I find his little admission tonight to be quite galling — that he’s gone from playing jingoist thought police to admitting that Susan Sarandon and Janeane Garofalo and all the people he devoted some of the most base, irrelevant television to were actually kinda right. One might wonder if in admitting that he was so awesomely wrong on such a colossally important issue, he might want to turn his platform over to one of the correct people he vilified, considering “being right about important stuff” is his entire job description. But no, that’s a scenario for some alternate, logical universe. Of course, his admission is no mea culpa, but rather a cutesy “aw shucks” moment in a for-profit “debate” with a comedian. And of course, Jon “Reductive” Stewart reduced it to “this should be a viral moment!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Bill O’Reilly, at heart, is a rube, and his opinions on things don’t actually bother me. But he’s influential! If he’d spoken up about this sooner (I seriously doubt that he came to this conclusion in 2012) it could’ve been somewhat helpful at least. I never stop being amazed at the Iraq war and the utter lack of any accountability from anyone at all. Here’s a guy who used his platform to slander people just because they weren’t down with a shock-and-awe invasion of a sovereign nation with the (failed) purpose of turning that nation into a free market paradise for the West, in the heart of the Middle East, and then he turns around and basically says “oops.” And he’ll continue to be employed and have a following and pretend to know what he’s talking about. It’s all very American, isn’t it? Or maybe just human? I don’t know.
But yeah, like, suck my dick, Bill O’Reilly, basically.
A great way to combat criticism is to reveal that the most credible journalist in your organization writes like a third grader.