June 17, 2003

Bill O'Reilly In The Crosshairs

I Originally Found O'Reilly's Whine Via Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit, So I'm Sure Everyone Has Ripped On It By Now. . . But. . .

Okay, I'm probably not the first to give Bill O'Reilly a digital smack upside the head for his ridiculous whine about the Internet. The short version is that poor Mr. "In Your Face" O'Reilly is riled that, in his opinion, the Internet is awash in amateur character assassins intent on doing celebrities, including *gasp* himself, harm. Well, rather than spread falsehoods against poor Bill, thus angering him further, I figured I'd just opt to use his words against him. Shall we begin?

Sex, lies and videotape on the Internet, that's the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. Nearly everyday, there's something written on the Internet about me that's flat out untrue. And I'm not alone. Nearly every famous person in the country's under siege.

First off, Bill, let me just congratulate you on a shitty segue using the movie title "Sex, Lies and Videotape." It didn't do anything for me, but I'm sure you thought it was witty, and you're a big time talking head with your own show, so you must be right. So, you're mad that the Internet is a hotbed of nobodies needling famous people, eh? Well, you should get over it, because for every inconsequential barb out there, there are five truthful, fact-checked exposes that can rival anything the big media, and lesser cable media, machines can churn out.

Today's example comes from Web sites that picked up a false report from The San Francisco Chronicle that said a San Francisco radio station dropped The Radio Factor. If anyone had bothered to make even one phone call, they would have learned that Westwood One made a deal with another San Francisco radio station, weeks ago to move The Radio Factor. Thus the word "dropped" is obviously inaccurate and dishonest. We'll see if The Chronicle runs a correction, but you can bet you won't be seeing many corrections on the net.

Bill isn't mad because the item was 100% incorrect; he's mad because it was inaccurate and dishonest, and we all know that "The O'Reilly Factor" is a bastion of accuracy and honesty, and Bill will always own up to any statement he utters that may eventually be proven false. Bill is mad because someone posted something that was posted by The San Francisco Chronicle, and now he expects a retraction from the Web site that posted it. Really, though, let's say 1.5 million people read the Chronicle item, and then everyone went out and told five of their friends. Would Bill go out and demand that each individual make a personal retraction? Beyond all that, however, is the fact that Bill got so riled about something that he claims is false. Then, why make such a stink about it? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

The reason these net people get away with all kinds of stuff is that they work for no one. They put stuff up with no restraints. This, of course, is dangerous, but it symbolizes what the Internet is becoming.

To me, this is the money quote. They put stuff up with no restraints. Yeah, ain't free speech just a pain in the ass? I love this because, more or less, Bill is saying that free speech is "dangerous." How dare people speak their minds! Don't they know that only Bill O'Reilly is allowed to do that?

In truth, The Chronicle's story [is] small stuff compared to other Internet sins. The child molestation people have now figured out a way to chat about their crimes without being charged with obscenity. And the Supreme Court actually helped these people by ruling that virtual child porn, computerized images of kids being raped, are legal, an extension of free speech.

So all over the country, we have people posting the most vile stuff imaginable, hiding behind high tech capabilities. Sometimes the violators are punished, but most are not. We have now have teenagers ruining the reputations of their peers in schools on the Internet. Ideologues accusing public officials of the worst things imaginable. And creeps gossiping about celebrities in the crudest of ways.

Teenagers ruining the reputatioins of their peers in schools?! Oh, the horror! But, it still sounds better than getting a swirlie, of which I'm a veteran of many. Truthfully, I would have loved to have the Internet at my fingertips in high school because it would have given me a voice and find others too terrified to speak up in the hallways for fear of suffering atomic wedgies. Idealogues accusing public officials of the worst thing imaginable? Yeah, it's called "an election." Creeps gossiping about celebrities in the crudest of ways? Yeah, they're called "tabloids."

The Internet has become a sewer of slander and libel, an unpatrolled polluted waterway, where just about anything goes. For example, the guy who raped and murdered a 10-year old in Massachusetts says he got the idea from the NAMBLA Web site that he accessed from the Boston public library. The ACLU's defending NAMBLA in that civil lawsuit.

Unpatrolled? Hardly. I had a plagiarist called to my attention just last week. The Internet, or at least the bright side of the Internet (not the porn and hate and other yucks that make up the dark cyber underbelly) largely does a bang-up job of policing itself. Leave it to Bill to grasp at an anecdote that totally forgets that the Internet, and blogs in particular, were instrumental in exposing the journalistic cancer within the New York Times and debunking claims that the Pfc. Lynch rescue was faked. Bill's inflated and fragile ego was bruised, so now he's lashing out against an entity so large it could discredit and squash him in just a few short weeks. Tread carefully, Bill. The Internet is listening, and right now we don't like what we're hearing from you. You don't want to be sitting out on the curb trying to sell pencils alongside Jayson Blair now do you?

Talking Points noted with interest the hue and cry that went up from some quarters about the FCC changing the rules and allowing big corporations to own even more media properties. But big corporations are big targets. If they misbehave, they can be sued for big bucks. These small time hit and run operators on the net, however, can traffic in perversity and falsehoods all day long with impunity. It's almost impossible to rein them in.

This is another interesting excerpt, because I think it underscores something I've noticed about Big Media organizations and their condescending nose-thumbing at the Internet. Folks like O'Reilly, who don the make-up and have cameras pointed at them, tend to think they should be the authority on news and opinion. This is true from small town local weekly papers to NBC nightly news. They have this inflated feeling of entitlement because they're in print or on television. They can't wrap their heads around the concept that America, and the world, is populated with people that have just as much right to opinion and say as they do, whether they're an Iraqi blogger or a small personal voice that resonates with people trying to live a daily life.

The O'Reilly's of the world just can't grasp that us "small time hit and run operators on the net" are often professionals ourselves, sometimes lawyers like Glenn Reynolds and sometimes actual journalists by trade, like myself, or Andrew Sullivan or Michael Snider. And we all have just as much right to spout off as O'Reilly does during his beloved "O'Reilly Factor."

So which is the bigger threat to America? The big companies or the criminals at the computer? Interesting question.

Hmmmmm, big companies such as Enron and Arthur Anderson and WorldCom, which tank amid fudged bookkeeping and greed, sending America further into an economic tailspin, or "criminals" at computers who post daily thoughts and opinions, usually enriching public discourse? I don't know. . . I guess it seems like a no-brainer to me.

UPDATE: Yep, everyone is ripping O'Reilly a new one, including this gem here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and even James Lileks is getting in on the fun here. And, if you can't get enough O'Reilly bashing, I suggest you go here. All of these links come via the indispensible Instapundit.

UPDATE: What was I saying about O'Reilly sitting on the curb selling pencils alongside Jayson Blair? Oh, right:

I predict that this dumb piece of O'Reilly's, inconsequential as it is on its own, marks the beginning of the end. Not because, as Andrea Harris writes, "That sound you hear is the sound of thousands of "right-wing" bloggers changing their tv channel from Fox News to ... anything else." But because this embarrassing "who are these little people to criticize the likes of me" bit indicates that O'Reilly has lost touch with the common man, and started to identify with the "famous people." Hey, that was Donahue's schtick. And we all know what happened to him.

Ya'll get back on yah horse and ride yah'self outta Blogosphere-ville, Mr. O'Reilly. We don't take kindly to whiners and weenies here. Not even Teagan.

UPDATE: Nothing too important to add here, except for maybe. . . Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

UPDATE: This will probably be the only time you will see my name stacked alongside such notables as Lileks and Reynolds. *tears streaming down my face in happiness*

Posted by Ryan at June 17, 2003 11:13 AM
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