Saturday, September 29, 2007

O'Reilly and his critics

National Public Radio correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams defends Bill O'Reilly in an article in Time Magazine, "What Bill O'Reilly Really Told Me". (ht:Sykes)

O'Reilly, controversial host of the top-rated TV cable talk show on Fox News Channel, interviewed me on his radio show about a woman-hating, N-word-spouting rapper being hired by McDonald's for a celebrity endorsement. O'Reilly has been on a crusade against big companies legitimizing a crass, hateful and pornographic popular culture by putting stars like Snoop Dogg, the pornographer/rapper, in their ads.

Sad to say, but a lot of today's rappers fit the bill.

They make their name by bragging about how many people they've killed, how many times they've been shot and how many "bitches" they've abused. And those rappers, along with no-talent black comedians who use the N-word and profanity constantly, are creating a very negative image of black people in music, in music videos and in the movies.

So, O'Reilly says to me that the reality to black life is very different from the lowlife behavior glorified by the rappers. He told me he was at a restaurant in Harlem recently and there was no one shouting profanity, no one threatening people. Then he mentioned going to an Anita Baker concert with an audience that was half black, and in sharp contrast to the corrosive images on TV, well dressed and well behaved.

I joked with O'Reilly that for him, a guy from Long Island, a visit to Harlem was like a "foreign trip." That's when he brought up his grandma. He said she was prejudiced against black people because she knew no flesh-and-blood black folks but only the one-dimensional TV coverage of black criminals shooting each other and the rappers and comedians glorifying "gangsta" life and thug cool. He criticized his grandmother as irrational for being afraid of people she really did not know.
That's pretty far from how O'Reilly has been attacked as a racist with a condescending attitude towards African Americans.

I have no idea what's in the heart of Bill O'Reilly, and truthfully I don't care. The few times I have been exposed to his program I saw a tired blowhard of limited intellectual capacity saying things largely to feed a populist appetite in a pursuit of ratings and popularity. I can recall one specific case where O'Reilly's publicity seeking prevented an effort to rescue a woman's daughters from life in Saudi Arabia.

But O'Reilly's critics are so desperate to shut up another voice with which they disagree they're willing to grasp at any out-of-context statement they can rather than try to beat him in the marketplace. In the effort they come out looking worse than O'Reilly.

Maybe they should just eat some felafel and chill out.