Those of you both of you who read Combat! blog regularly know that we grapple with a perennial question around here: do demagogues like Michele Bachmann or Bill O’Reilly actually believe what they say? It’s an unanswerable question, like the exact velocity and location of an electron. To know whether a Bill O’Reilly’s insane falsehoods are delusions or lies is, first, to know whether they are actually false, or if we are the ones who are deluded. Even if we mustered the certainty for that, we would have to further parse whether his audience believes him, or if they view the O’Reilly Factor as an ideologically thrilling romp along the lines of Taken—and if we think we’ve pinned that down, we incur the sub-question of whether O’Reilly is participating in the joke or trying to deceive them. Uncertainty of uncertainties—all is uncertainty. Then I saw this.
Buzzfeed, which is to news as Reader’s Digest “Humor in Uniform” is to war, neatly encapsulates O’Reilly’s stunning thesis in a nine-second clip at the beginning of the post. If you can bear O’Reilly’s speaking style—which inexplicably makes his prepared analyses sound like he is reading a story to children—you can watch the whole segment here:
Please, please tell me that Bill O’Reilly’s new thing is that “we are now living in a dishonest culture.” It will be such a refreshing change from his annual warning against the war on Christmas.
The wellspring of his righteous anger is the left-wing media’s response to his election night complaint that the “establishment” candidate was no longer guaranteed victory over a black man in this country. “The white establishment is now the minority,” he said—by which he presumably meant that the white majority no longer exceeds all other ethnic groups combined, in some places. According to O’Reilly, who is perhaps the only person in America paying attention to John Leguizamo, the liberal media used the word “lament” to describe his remarks, unfairly implying that the disappearance of the white establishment made him sad.
First of all—and I want to make this absolutely clear for when some bro at the bar is complaining about how he didn’t get into the University of Michigan—white people are still the majority in the United States. Surely even Bill O’Reilly knows that, and when he says “white establishment” he means not people who are merely white, but also those who are committed to whatever conservative values he associates with “the establishment. He is perhaps the only person who uses that phrase to refer to something he likes, but that is another topic; the important thing here is that MoveOn.org, unions, and the other “far-left groups” he mentioned at the beginning of the segment are not what he considers the “white establishment.”
So yes, O’Reilly appears to be lamenting the loss of majority power for the majority he has defined in terms of people who agree with him. His claim that he was merely stating the facts is truthful in the same way that Fox News is fair and balanced. Which brings us to the sheer audacity of his segment—last week, O’Reilly indignantly protested that “there are entire media operations that exist solely to promote ideology.”
In other news, Jill Kelly can’t believe what some women will do for money. It seems impossible to me that O’Reilly could present this argument with his tongue completely removed from his cheek. In the insoluble three-body problem of who does not approach these words according to their literal meaning—O’Reilly, his audience, both—these nine minutes appear to zero out one of the terms. He has to know that there are ideologically biased media organizations, and he must know that the largest among them is not liberal. He works there.
This segment provides the strongest evidence yet that The O’Reilly Factor is a sort of mendacious camp act, in which neither the host nor the audience believes the pretension to objectivity. It’s a conceit, like Red Green living in the woods. Claiming to be fair and balanced, to be an island of open-mindedness in sea of liberal bias, is an in-joke that strengthens O’Reilly’s community of viewers and occasionally, thrillingly angers some scold who doesn’t get it. The Factor is claims to be honest the way The Onion claims to be America’s finest news source.
I hope that’s it, at least. If O’Reilly’s comments in the video above are sincere, he is maybe the highest-functioning crazy person in the United States of America. And if that’s what’s happening, it’s only a matter of time before we elect him to something.