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July 23, 2007

Methinks Bill O’Reilly Doth Condemn Too Much


A dispute last week between Bill O’Reilly and JetBlue over the latter’s sponsorship of the upcoming YearlyKos blogging convention shows us quite a bit about the modern-day conservative mind – most notably, the frequent use of straw men to obfuscate attention to America’s real problems.


Some background: the left-wing blogging community DailyKos is planning its upcoming YearlyKos convention in Chicago in early August. The airline JetBlue has agreed to sponsor the event, which in its inaugural incarnation in Las Vegas last summer drew several presidential candidates, and this year’s event is scheduled to feature Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel and several Democratic presidential candidates.


This decision by JetBlue has led to a torrent of righteous indignation among conservative bloggers and right-leaning cable news panelists, who used the occasion to cherry-pick various quotes from the blog to show just how extreme these people are. Bill O’Reilly, for instance, has said the site “rivals the KKK and Nazis,” and even sent a reporter to ambush JetBlue CEO David Barger at his home and ask him about certain “extreme” quotes that appeared on the site. (For someone so opposed to Michael Moore, O’Reilly seems to have embraced one of his most common tactics.)


JetBlue eventually relented and agreed to drop its advertising from the YearlyKos web site. O’Reilly’s fans, meanwhile, responded to the “hatefulness” and “extremism” of the Kos site by leaving comments telling its members to “Hurry up and die,” and comparing them to “a commie slime maggot born from Karl Marx’s rotting feces.”


I come not to defend DailyKos, but rather to bury those smearing it. The DailyKos blog, for those unfamiliar with it, is the most heavily trafficked of the left-wing blogs, with hundreds of regular posters and many more commenters than that. The blog has participated in fundraising for Democratic candidates.


I’m not a user or a particular fan of the Daily Kos community. The group is considerably to my left, and I don’t generally agree that their prescription for the country is the best thing. But anyone who knows anything about the Internet – especially a large operation like Daily Kos – knows that if thousands of people are posting a day, some nutters are going to get through. And the most extreme thoughts of said nutters, once they have been cherry-picked, should not be seen as the institutional opinion of the whole operation.


How much responsibility do political partisans have to condemn the outrageous comments made by some associated with them? This question, in fact, has apparently become Sean Hannity’s primary source of material in recent months. Virtually every liberal guest who has appeared on “Hannity and Colmes” or Hannity’s radio show this year has had to answer questions about some outrageous comment – usually by an obscure blogger or college professor – and whether they will condemn these vicious, hateful remarks. If the guest condemns them, he’s throwing his own party under the bus. If he doesn’t, he’s being extreme. If he refuses to answer, he’s being “evasive.”


After Ann Coulter said she “hopes the terrorists kill” John Edwards, Hannity and guest Brent Bozell changed the subject to “liberal hypocrisy” because a liberal blogger named Hart Williams had called for the murder of conservative musician Ted Nugent, and that “no liberal has condemned him.”


Why hadn’t they? Probably because while Ann Coulter is a major media figure who appears on television almost nightly, Hart Williams is an obscure blogger who I’d imagine most liberals had never even heard of. The reason they hadn’t condemned him was because they were simply unaware of him. Perhaps O'Reilly, Hannity and Bozell would be happy if every liberal in the country helpfully issued a list, every morning, of every other liberal he wished to condemn.

I've written before just how stupid it is to argue over whether one political side or the other has more crazy people in it. If, say, 10 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans are crazy, do the Democrats then “win”?


Perhaps it is best to judge political and media figures first and foremost by what they themselves say, and not by whom they have or have not condemned.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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