Friday, May 26, 2006

Idiot Bill O'Reilly Jumping the Shark

There is an expression in the TV business called "jumping the shark." What jumping the shark means is that a TV program has passed a point where it can be taken seriously, and that usually means the program will soon fade into that great network in the sky. The phrase originated from the reaction to a scene in "Happy Days", when the popular character of Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a shark while water skiing. Many viewwers later felt the scene was too unrealistic, and believed that the show was on the downside of its creativity.

Based on what I saw on "The O'Reilly Factor" Wednesday night, I think old Bill has "jumped the shark". I'm going to include his talking points memo here, and provide my commentary in brackets.

Talking Points Memo

"Earlier this week, I said I was praying for a miracle that one American newspaper would take my side in the University of Oregon controversy, where a radical student publication printed vile illustrations of Jesus."

[The publication, The Insurgent, printed some provocative pictures of Jesus in response to another University of Oregon publication publishing the now-infamous Danish cartoons mocking Muslims. O'Reilly has had no problem with the publication of the Danish cartoons.]

"That hate speech violates academic standards, in my opinion. And the publication should be denied college funding. I also said the University president, Dave Fronmeyer, should be fired for poor judgment and lax leadership."

[The name is actually Frohnmayer. And, because of a legal decision Southworth v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Frohnmayer's hands are pretty much tied. The Southworth decision declared that a) student fees and the activities they fund are protected by the constitution; and b) these fees must be allocated without regard to a group's point of view, so that a student organization can't be denied funding because of the viewpoint they represent. It is OK if funding levels are different for different groups so long as these differences are not based upon the views of the groups. So, if there is a liberal newspaper on campus and a conservative newspaper on campus, all other things being equal, they should get the same amount of student fees.]

"Well, I didn't get the miracle I asked for. No newspapers have backed me. But something even more miraculous has happened. In a poll sponsored by the University of Oregon student newspaper, 38 percent of students say 'Bill O'Reilly is right, fire Fronmeyer.' Thirty-three percent believe the administration should say stay out of it. And 22 percent say the paper should not be shut down, but should be condemned."

[Of course, there is nothing scientific about the poll. In addition, a number of the respondents might want to fire Frohnmayer for other reasons.]

"So 60 percent of those who voted understand that hate speech is irresponsible while the faculty and staff of the university have no clue."

[Gee, that's quite a leap of interpretation! Nothing in the poll mentioned hate speech or faculty.]

"Now according to Black's Law Dictionary, hate speech is not always protected by the Constitution. And neither is lewd and obscene public speech, libelous public speech, and insulting words designed to inflict injury."

[True, but conditions need to be met in order for any of these types of speech to be banned. Be afraid, be very afraid, any time that Bill brings out Black's Law Dictionary because he actually thinks he knows something about the law, especially as it applies to the press.]

"The Jesus pictures are clearly obscene and designed to injure Christians. Any rational person can see that."

[Actually, the pictures may be designed to injure Christians, but it is unclear that that are legally obscene. Miller v. California set out the basic guidelines for determining whether a work is obscene:
(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

In order for a work to be obscene, all three parts of the test must be met, which is difficult at best. The fact that the Insurgent published the works in response to the Danish cartoons may suggest that the pictures have serious political value, for example.]

"In an interesting aside, The New York Times ran a piece today about the ACLU. Apparently that organization does not want its own members to criticize it. That's right. The free speech champions, the ACLU doesn't want to be criticized from within. Excellent."

[Now what this has to do with the University of Oregon is beyond me.]

"As part of that article, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero says he believes in free speech, kind of. 'Take hate speech,' Romero says, 'while believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities.'

Aha, but you can attack the majority, which in America is Christians. And therein lies the crux of this issue."

[No, that's not what Romero said or implied.]

"Nobody in their right mind thinks the University of Oregon would allow a KKK student-run newspaper to receive student funding, but they will kick $20,000 a year to a Marxist, anti-Christian hate sheet. That's unacceptable at a publicly funded university. If that sheet wants to go off campus and publish with private money, I don't have a problem, but no student funding should be forthcoming."

[So far as I have been able to determine, the Insurgent is not Marxist. Whether the cartoons make it an anti-Christian hate sheet is subject to interpretation. But what is important here is this -- the student government directed student-generated fees to go to the Insurgent. If the student government wanted to kick $20,000 to a KKK student-run newspaper, it could do so.]

"University of Oregon alumni should stand up the way the students have and withhold donations until something is done."

[OK, except that the University of Oregon is a public institution, and gets its primary funding from the state government.]

"Tonight, the student senate of the University of Oregon will discuss the issue. And tomorrow, we'll report any action the kids might take. Again, this whole thing is miraculous to me. The students are much smarter than the faculty and much braver as well.

And that's "The Memo."

[And, what happened? Seven senate members walked out of the meeting because they felt the discussion was counter to board policies. So, nothing will be happening until the fall. I guess Bill was right -- the students are pretty smart!]

Anyway, Bill is losing it. His grasp on the facts of issues is weakening, and his analytical skills -- slight to begin with -- are becoming laughable.

Now, I don't want Bill to leave the air just yet. Keith Olbermann has been whacking O'Reilly like an pinata for weeks. I find that highly entertaining.


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