February 4, 2003
By Mike McArdle
O’Reilly once made his living on one of those celebrity-worship
shows that provide America with much-needed coverage of the
cleavage that adorns the red carpet at awards shows. But Bill
apparently felt that he had more important things to give
to America than reporting on low cut gowns and which celebrities
had hit the police blotter.
So O’Reilly enrolled in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
where he got a Masters degree in Public Policy. While in Cambridge
he came up with idea for the "O’Reilly Factor,"
a talk-show show devoted to having Bill spout right-wing views
and then crudely shouting down anyone who dares to disagree
with him. This stunning innovation prompted Roger Ailes to
make O’Reilly a feature on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network.
So the right-wing-thug-with-a-microphone concept migrated
from AM radio to a TV news channel in the person of Mr. O.
who regularly uses his show to viciously berate immigrants,
academics or politicians who don’t agree with him and even
the same celebrities that made him a nice living when he hosted
Times of war (even unprovoked, unnecessary war) tend to turn
the O’Reillys of the world into the patriotism police. So
last week with predictable arrogance O’Reilly turned on Susan
Sarandon and others in Hollywood and academia who object to
the coming war on Iraq.
Goons like O’Reilly, of course, have to pay lip service to
the concept of free speech and the American tradition of allowing
dissent before launching a full scale assault on those who
have the nerve to exercise those rights. So while he intones
that “Dissent is always welcome on 'The Factor'” he then goes
on to say that the group “Not in Our Name” is un-American
because they mention the death and destruction of September
11 in the context of the similar carnage of Vietnam and Gulf
War I and the Panama invasion.
O’Reilly says that this “propaganda is insulting to the families
who lost loved ones to the terrorists and damaging to the
war on terror itself.” But, of course, that notion is ridiculous.
The families of the tragic victims of the September 11 attacks
cannot be insulted by mentioning that there have also been
tragic victims of American military activities. “Not in Our
Name” does not claim that the 9/11 attack was justified or
America was somehow responsible. It does question restrictions
on civil rights that have occurred in the aftermath and the
endless war without clearly defined goals that seems to have
become national policy.
O’Reilly went on to say that “The ad states that America
has no moral right to remove terrorists, because we ourselves
our terrorists. This is dishonest, disgusting and un-American,
But “Not in Our Name” never says this. That is totally O’Reilly’s
interpretation and a completely false one at that . The ad
points out, correctly, that no connection between Iraq and
9/11 or Al Qaeda has ever been established so that an attack
on Iraq cannot be considered an attempt to “remove terrorists”.
O’Reilly doesn’t seem to understand that it isn’t un-American
or anti-American to want your country to do the right thing.
It isn’t un-American to recognize that when you go to war
for spheres of influence or oil resources or just because
you want to redraw the map of the Middle East that there is
a staggering human price to be paid. And it isn’t the Saddam
Husseins and George W. Bushes who start those wars that wind
up paying it. It’s foot soldiers and the ordinary citizens
and the children and the elderly who are devastated by the
power of modern weaponry who suffer for the machinations of
morally bankrupt world leaders.
It isn’t un-American to recognize that America’s wars have
not always been fought for the best of reasons and that some
were simply fought for conquest and colonialism.
It isn’t un-American to be skeptical of a leader whose reason
for going to war seems to change every week and has yet to
provide any evidence of a threat that doesn’t involve hypothetical
On the other hand it’s unspeakably un-American to advocate
(as Bill O’Reilly did a few days after 9/11) that America
should use its military power to cut off food and water access
to countries that have leadership that we disapprove of. In
the O’Reilly vision of the world the impoverished citizens
of such countries would then be forced to overthrow their
leadership or die of starvation. But the murder of civilians
for a political goal is exactly what happened on 9/11, wasn’t
it ? And what makes America a great country is that we strive
through our principles and our institutions to be better than
that. We don’t always succeed but if America is to remain
great we have to rise above the level of unprovoked wars and
thuggish attempts to enforce a narrow version of patriotism
by people like O’Reilly.
Susan Sarandon apparently understands that but then she’s
a lot better American than Bill O’Reilly is.