Friday, February 10, 2006

Kristof: Helpful Middleman or Cunning Demagogue?

Since Bill O'Reilly apparently cannot spare the time or money, Nicholas Kristof of the Times has offered to start a campaign to support an O'Reilly visit to Darfur to allow the Fox gasbag to use his powers for good. The article is one of those among the daft "Times Select" category, so if you are a subscriber it is available here, but I will try to provide the money excerpts. (Note to the legal staff at the Times: Remember "Bloom County" lawyer Steve Dallas' first rule of being a lawyer: "Never, ever sue a poor person."):

After Mr. O'Reilly denounced me in December as a "left-wing ideologue" (a charge that alarmed me, given his expertise on ideologues), I challenged him to defend traditional values by joining me on a trip to Darfur. I wrote: "You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared ... and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause."

A few days ago, I finally got my answer. Mr. O'Reilly declared in his column: "I do three hours of daily news analysis on TV and radio. There's no way I can go to Africa."

No need to give up so easily, Bill. With a satellite phone, you can do your show from anywhere.

But maybe Mr. O'Reilly's concern is cost, so I thought my readers might want to give him a hand. You can help sponsor a trip by Mr. O'Reilly to Darfur, where he can use his television savvy to thunder against something actually meriting his blustery rage.

So, what I have been wondering for a few days is simply this: Is this an act of demagoguery or not? My initial inclination is to assert that if it is not demagoguery, it at least represents a pretty good example of public grandstanding.

But then I remember the target. One can and should feel free to disagree with Kristof's conclusions on Darfur. But no one can doubt that his concern is genuine, and in being the single most visible spokesperson for action to stop the nightmare in Darfur, his has been a heroic voice. Kristof has been a lot more right than wrong in drawing attention and beating the drum of our global negligence in Darfur. O'Reilly, meanwhile, is a noxious bully who cannot even meet the standard for being called a journalist -- he is too busy to go out and investigate a story!

I may have said this before, but I am still waiting for O'Reilly to have his Jim Rome-Jim Everett moment. Many of you remember precisely what I am talking about. In 1994 the blustery Rome was interviewing Rams quarterback Jim Everett, and Rome kept calling him "Chris," a not so subtle hint that Everett was soft (Rome was, of course, equating him to the women's tennis player, Chrissy Evert). Everett warned Rome to knock it off, Rome went to that well one more time, and in a moment of sublime street justice, Everett knocked Rome on his ass, flipping over the table in the process. From that moment on, Rome tempered his bombast. Maybe only slightly, but discernibly. I am waiting for the loutish, bullying O'Reilly to receive similar comeuppance. He constantly insults, needles and menaces his guests. One of these days he is going to cast aspersions on the wrong guy. The fact that he bloviates on things about which he so apparently knows little will make that Jim Everett moment sweet. Kristof is simply calling O'Reilly out. That's not demagoguery. That's putting your (and willing readers') money where your mouth is.

My guess is that this will be less reminiscent of Jim Everett than of Axl Rose, who in the Guns 'N' Roses song "Get in the Ring" challenged Spin magazine publisher Bob Guccione Jr. to a fight (Money quotation: "Get in the ring, motherfucker, and I'll kick your bitchy little ass,") and then refused to respond when, in the pages of Spin, Guccione accepted.

O'Reilly has his chance. He can take Kristof's challenge. He can go to the Sudan with an open mind, learn that demonizing the other side does not actually make them demons, and then draw his own conclusions. Or he can cower in his studio, an Axl Rose for the Depends set. Kristof has given you an opportunity, Bill, and others are even willing to foot the bill. Here's your chance. Get in the ring, motherfucker.


Anonymous said...

Quit drinking. The voices in your head may go away.
Mike Tyson

dcat said...

I have no idea what point you are trying to make about a post written two years ago. Incoherent and untimely -- well played!