Classic Bill O’Reilly was on display Monday night for his Talking Points segment: Don’t Trust the Media! O’Reilly then proceeded to tell us several reasons why we should not trust the media. Now let’s think about this. A media personality looks square in the camera and, without noting a hint of irony, tells us not to trust the media. Doesn’t this sound like a Saturday Night Live skit?
Many of our founding fathers despised the press, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson among them says O’Reilly. As David McCullough notes in his best-selling book, John Adams, Mr. Adams was probably overly sensitive to criticism, of which he received a lot while president. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a group of four separate laws passed to quell opposition to John Adams specifically (while he was president) and the Federalists in general. I’m unable to find any evidence that Thomas Jefferson despised the press. (If you’re able to find any of this evidence, please let me know.) As a matter of fact, I would say that Thomas Jefferson wrote extensively on freedom of press. “No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will.” Alexander Hamilton wrote about the necessity of a free press in Federalist paper number 84. Finally, I would add that John Adams loved to read and had an extensive library. I think, as usual, Bill O’Reilly is blowing smoke.
He does go on to say that the press is largely corrupt, but gives no evidence to support this.
Newspapers are dying. I must congratulate Bill O’Reilly, frankly, for getting a fact correct. The reasons that newspapers are dying are complex. I think the Internet does have a large part in this, but newspapers were dying long before the explosion of the Internet in the late 1990s. I think that the invention of 24-hour news also has had a lot to do with it. The morning paper is giving you information that you are ready know.
Now Bill O’Reilly is going to give us two excellent examples of why we should not trust the press.
Swine Flu. Bill O’Reilly states that he can’t find out what’s true and what’s hype. Why? He has a whole staff of investigative reporters. Why can he not find out what’s going on? Is he too lazy? He then goes on to say that reports this week state that the swine flu (we’ve been asked to call it Influenza A H1N1) is not as bad as first thought, says O’Reilly, but he can’t verify that either. Why not? The Centers for Disease Control has an extensive amount of information on their website. Bill O’Reilly and Fox can call several states. Every state has a department of epidemiology. I’m really confused about why he can’t verify the number of cases throughout the nation. The CDC has a number of confirmed cases. Why is this so difficult?
It really isn’t difficult. Instead, Bill O’Reilly is trying to paint himself as a thoughtful broadcaster who is not caught up in the hype. Instead, he has not covered a major story at all. In my opinion, I think the precautions that have been taken have helped curb the spread of this disease. Also, it may be that this disease is not as contagious as we first thought. O’Reilly has his agenda and he is sticking to it.
Tent City. Bill O’Reilly then tears into his most “damning” story. Stories about a tent city around Sacramento beginning to spring up in early to mid-March. In what is a particularly huge piece of irony, O’Reilly quotes a story out of The Economist (a periodical written in Great Britain). O’Reilly claims that the story is bogus, which it is not at all. The short article in the Economist states that, “There may have been a foreclosed homeowner or two among its denizens…” Please watch the following video (below). It’s the same video featured in Bill O’Reilly’s tirade. Although the reporter implies that many if not all of the people of this tent city are there because of the economic downturn they never really say that.
Moreover, if you read some of the articles that were written, they clearly point out that everyone in the tent city is not there because of the economic downturn. Instead, most of them were there before the economic downturn. Reading… what a concept! This concept is clearly wasted on Bill O’Reilly. From the Mercury News: “Although a sliver of the roughly 200 Tent City residents are recently middle class people who lost their homes, the overwhelming majority — 80 to 90 percent by several estimates — have been homeless for years, even decades.” From the opening paragraph of a LA Times story, “The capital’s tent city sprawls messily on a grassed-over landfill beneath power lines, home to some 200 men and women with nowhere else to go. It has been here for more than a year, but in the last three weeks it has transformed into a vivid symbol of a financial crisis otherwise invisible to most Americans.” Just as the Today Show probably reported only half the story, it appears that Bill O’Reilly is doing exactly the same thing.
Finally, Bill O’Reilly took the opportunity to bash MSNBC once again. First, let me state that it is clear that Fox news has led in the ratings and has done so for some time. As a matter of fact, both Fox news and MSNBC increased market share during the first quarter of this year. So, Bill O’Reilly is being disingenuous by stating the viewership for MSNBC has plummeted. That is simply false.