In case anyone missed it, Bill O'Reilly opened his show, yesterday, with a smear of JetBlue for sponsoring the YearlyKos convention. O'Reilly accused JetBlue of supporting "hate," defined by O'Reilly as the presence of 9/11 conspiracy theories and occasionally caustic...
In case anyone missed it, Bill O'Reilly opened his show, yesterday, with a smear of JetBlue for sponsoring the YearlyKos convention. O'Reilly accused JetBlue of supporting "hate," defined by O'Reilly as the presence of 9/11 conspiracy theories and occasionally caustic language--not by the YearlyKos staff, but on The DailyKos website--a blog that shares philosophical roots with the YearlyKos, but is a separate organization.
Because Bill O'Reilly is a make-believe journalist with the research skills of a Pop-Tart, everything he discussed in his gotcha piece on JetBlue was false and misleading.
Moreover--and this is something everyone should note--Bill O'Reilly not only supports a 9/11 conspiracy theory, but as recently as January 2007, he used his TV show to hype the violent language and ideas of one such theory.
oOn The DailyKos, 9/11 Conspiracy Gets Banned, Foul Language Gets Bleeped
Stepping past the obvious point that YearlyKos and DailyKos are two different things, the first think O'Reilly got wrong was the place o f 9/11 conspiracy theories on The DailyKos. According too O'Reilly, the site promotes them. In truth, 9/11 conspiracy theories are strictly forbidden on The DailyKos.
According to the FAQ free and open for every human being and Bill O'Reilly to read, The DailyKos adheres to a strict editorial policy whereby posting a 9/11 conspiracy diaries results not only in the deletion of the diary, but the banning of the offending writers from the site. Write a 9/11 conspiracy diary on DailyKos and within hours, your diary,and every other diary you ever wrote, is deleted and your a free account is canceled.
More importantly, O'Reilly failed to report how a volunteer team of DailyKos "trusted users" constantly sifts through every diary posted to make sure the site does not step across that murky line dividing civil debate from violent rhetoric. They accomplish this through a combination of requests to writers to clean up foul language and--occasionally--by "bleeping out" offensive words (e.g., O'Reilly is full of ***t). If nasty words do make are kept in a post, it is typically because they are a key to the story (e.g., the story of Bill O'Reilly's viewers sending death threats to the owner of The DailyKos). These trusted users do not get paid, they simply believe in DailyKos's patriotic mission of fostering free and open debate. In the end, then, even though YearlyKos is distinct from DailyKos, JetBlue should be proud of any perceived ties this gives them to The DailyKos--a blog that historians will someday credit with helping to revive deliberative democracy in America.
As one might imagine, enforcing an editorial policy with a volunteer team becomes more and more difficult as the quantity of writing increases. As a result, editorial violations occasionally slip into the comment threads on the site--the ongoing conversation that unfolds beneath a DailyKos diary and that results in--literally--millions of individual posts in a given week. Most comments that violate the site's editorial policy are found and deleted, but occasionally a few rotten eggs slip through. And since people sleep, but internet search engines do not, even comments deleted by DailyKos can live on in the ghostly world of Google memory cache.
On The O'Reilly Factor: Write a 9/11 Conspiracy Book Full Of Violent Language, Get Invited On the Show
As for The O'Reilly Factor, while O'Reilly has taken on some 9/11 conspiracy theorists, he has given others a seat on The O'Reilly Factor and an open opportunity to hurl violent language and false accusation at the American people.
On February 16, 2007, O'Reilly's gave author Dinesh D'Souza free range on the show to promote his book length 9/11 conspiracy theory The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11.
D'Souza's thesis in The Enemy at Home is simple: Americans liberals caused the mass murder that happened on 9/11. This quote is the first page of D'Souza's book:
In this book I make a claim that will seem startling at the outset. The cultural left in this couintry is responsible for causing 9/11...In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause f the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world...without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.
(Dinesh D'Souza, The Enemy at Home, p. 269)
D'Souza fancies himself a clever writer, so rather than using the active verb "caused," he says "are responsible" to claim that he is not really blaming liberals for 9/11. He is. And let us be clear on one point: this is a 9/11 conspiracy theory in full bloom.
But it gets worse.
In this quote from the end of the book, D'Souza sent his 9/11 conspiracy theory a careening over the cliff of violent language and logic, making an argument plain and simple enough for even Bill O'Reilly to understand (emphasis mine):
In reality, the left already has a foreign policy and a strategy, and it is called working in tandem with bin Laden to defeat Bush. As we have seen, the left and the Islamic radicals operate like the two sides of a scissors, each prong working separately, but toward the same end. Conservatives need to identify the enemy at home and show its tacit relationship with the foreign enemy. Not only is there a close parallel between the rhetoric of the two groups, but they have the same goal of defeating Bush in Iraq, and they need each other to accomplish this goal. In short the left is the domestic insurgency that provides a counterpart to the Iraq insurgency. It is at least as dangerous as any of bin Laden's American sleeper cells.
(Dinesh D'Souza, The Enemy at Home, p. 269)
Now, at this point--most Americans would read this passage and think: Oh, my, god. This book accuses the "cultural left" of being "at least as dangerous" as terrorists plotting to kill Americans with poison gas and nuclear bombs. Yep. That is exactly what D'Souza argued in the book. Not satisfied with floating a crackpot theory about liberals causing 9/11, D'Souza drives right into crazy town--redefining liberals as terrorists. The result, for those who actually take D'Souza seriously, is the idea that America should be hunting down liberals in the same way that they are hunting down terrorists--to be a liberal is to be a violent enemy of America, the only rightful end for which is death. Although wrapped up in the niceties of academic language, D'Souza's book is essentially a 300-page call for the death penalty against anyone identified with the left in America.
The official release date for D'Souza's book was January 2007, which meant that O'Reilly not only had ample time to read the book and decide, based on the content, if an author who espoused a 9/11 conspiracy theory that defined liberals as terrorists should be invited onto the show. He decided he should be.
Here is how the conversation between D'Souza and O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor went down:
BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now Dinesh, what is the cultural left in America?
DINESH D'SOUZA, HOOVER INSTITUTION FELLOW: I think by the cultural left, I'm referring to the left wing of the Democratic party. There are some activists, Michael Moore. There are a bunch of organizations, the ACLU, some of the so-called human rights groups.
And then there are some people who are now in the Democratic leadership. Howard Dean would be someone.
D'SOUZA: And then you have people who in a sense accommodate the cultural left. What's interesting is that people like Pelosi now, even Harry Reid, has been leaning in the direction of the cultural left, allowing the left to set the agenda.
O'REILLY: See, I call it the far left. You call it the cultural left, but it's the same.
D'SOUZA: There are the people who oppose Bush in the war in Iraq. And then, there are the people who push a cultural agenda, which is to say radical feminism, gay rights. And all of this is producing an incredible moral backlash.
O'REILLY: Why would that lead to 9/11?
D'SOUZA: The radical Muslims were initially in the minority. They were on the outside of power. Jimmy Carter came into power, and he said, "I'm a good guy. I believe in human rights. We can't support the shah of Iran."
So America pulled the Persian rug out from under the shah and who did we get? Khomeini. So in trying to get rid of the bad guy, we got the worst guy. And American foreign policy had a role in giving radical Islam control of their first major state.
O'REILLY: Because that's the same struggle today. We got rid of Saddam, but we may get somebody worse than Saddam if they can't stabilize that situation over there.
D'SOUZA: Look at what's going on in Iraq. It's a bad situation over there. But it seems to me that would be what I call the enemy at home, which is the people fighting the war against the war.
This is the shocking thing. Even though the left doesn't like bin Laden, it hates Bush more.
O'REILLY: They deny it.
D'SOUZA: They'll deny it, but here's the point. Bin Laden is threatening to have Sharia in Baghdad. But as the left sees it, Bush wants to have Sharia in Boston.
So Bush is a greater threat to the leftwing agenda at home. Bush is the enemy at home.
O'REILLY: There's no question, you know. The New York Times, where that paper came down, NBC News, these kinds of things that have really made a living out of Bush bashing. Where do they come down in this?
D'SOUZA: Bill, if you think the culture left wants Bush to win the war on terror nothing that they say and do makes any sense.
O'REILLY: Is it just the war on terror, or is it just the Iraq war?
D'SOUZA: It's more than that. These are the guys -- these are the guys -- first of all, they want to shut down Guantanamo. They want to repudiate the Patriot Act. They want Bush to lose for a domestic political reason. And that is that foreign policy has been a winning issue for the Republicans for a generation.
If the left can turn that around, if they can, in a sense, saddle Bush with a humiliating defeat, this will pave the way for a return to the left wing dominance of American politics that we had for most of the 20th Century.
O'REILLY: Who does bin Laden hate more: the Bush people who want to kill him and wage an aggressive war to get him, or the radical left, which you know, obviously is permissive and does all kinds of things that bin Laden would cut your head off for?
D'SOUZA: Bin Laden used to attack America as the generic enemy. In the last few years he's been doing something very strange. He's praising specific leftists in America and offering them a kind of truce.
Basically, what he is saying is I will supply the terror, and you use the terror to demoralize the American people so that they will pull out of not only Iraq but the entire Middle East.
O'REILLY: What about Hillary Clinton? She puts herself up as a pretty tough terror warrior.
D'SOUZA: She has been on the culture left but so far not on the foreign policy left. But I think what you have now is that there is a tremendous campaign -- you're going see it over the next weeks and months - - to take the people who have been moderates and even on the conservative side of the Democratic Party and pull them into the agenda of the left.
O'REILLY: I don't understand why the radical left wants to pull away from the war on terror. I never got that. I can understand the Iraq war. But the overall war on terror?
D'SOUZA: Here's why. Think about the Vietnam War. We say America lost the Vietnam War. But I would say that the left won the Vietnam War. Why? The left wanted America to retreat in humiliation, and we did.
O'REILLY: There is survival at stake after 9/11. And even the far left know these people are coming.
All right, Dinesh D'Souza, thanks very much. Very interesting book. We appreciate you coming in.
D'SOUZA: Thank you.
(Source: LexisNexis, The O'Reilly Factor, 16 Feb 2007)
This was an alarming conversation to watch on TV. Not only does O'Reilly agree with D'Souza's 9/11 conspiracy theory that the left "is responsible" for the attacks, but he invites him to explain it on the air. Furthermore, O'Reilly helps D'Souza make the larger, more violent point that after 9/11, America's survival depends defeating the double threat of terrorism and liberalism--that America should not not only fighting a war on terrorism, but also a war against the left.
O'Reilly Promotes Violence and Conspiracy, But Condemns Deliberative Debate
O'Reilly's choice to have D'Souza promote Enemy at Home on air is at best an endorsement of a 9/11 conspiracy theory, at worst an amplification of the violent theme from the right that liberals are not just political rivals, but are enemies of the state worthy of the same fate as terrorists. Readers will have to decide for themselves how far O'Reilly went in this particular instance, but there is no question that the D'Souza interview brought The Factor across the line from journalism to the promotion of violent speech.
Americans, of course, should be free to publish and read whatever books they want. Dinesh D'Souza has the right to spend the rest of his life writing books that accuse the left of causing 9/11 and calling for Americans to fight liberalism the same as they fight terrorism. But there is a difference between writing and reading a book and inviting an author to be a guest on a TV broadcast.
The difference is not just the presence of sponsors on The O'Reilly Factor, most of whom would be shocked to learn that O'Reilly endorsed an author of a book describing liberals and terrorists as allies, but the role broadcast TV plays in defining the nature of public debate.
Unlike an author, broadcast TV goes a long way in determining how we talk about political issues in this country. When Dinesh D'Souza writes that the American left is as dangerous as al Qaeda, it is a hurtful, dishonest and violent thought--no doubt. But when O'Reilly has him as a guest on his show, that same violent thought suddenly becomes common sense when it reaches millions of viewers simultaneously across America. It is for that reason that broadcasters have a responsibility to not give legitimacy to violent conspiracy theories. If they air them, they should put them in context rather than promote them.
How different public debate would be if The O'Reilly Factor took their responsibility to maintain civil debate half as seriously as The DailyKos.
Meanwhile, the next time I get the chance, I plan to fly JetBlue.
© 2007 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop