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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Breaking Down "The O'Reilly Factor"

Before you read any of this, you may want to know my political affiliation. But, I won't be going into that. This isn't necessarily an attack on O'Reilly or Fox for their viewpoints. Rather, this will mostly focus on the nonsense that is produced on the show, The O'Reilly Factor. That being said, let's get into it.

On February 3rd and 4th, The O'Reilly Factor aired parts of a 45 minute interview with Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." This intrigued me and I watched. The way that O'Reilly has his February 3rd show organized bothered me, so I decided to take a closer look at the next episode and go over everything that irked me.

O'Reilly begins his show with a segment called "Talking Points Memo."
This is where he goes over the big news story of the day (on this day it was response to the first part of his interview with Stewart). The words that he says out loud are written on the right of the screen while he says it. This is the most blatant form of talking down to an audience I have ever seen. Every other news and "news" show presupposes that I am smart enough to follow along with the person on screen while he/she is talking. From now on, I will use time stamps to help you keep up.

2:22 -- O'Reilly defends fellow Fox News host Glenn Beck as a "Constitutionalist." This is absolutely ridiculous. If this were true, Beck would be more supportive of things like illegal search and seizure, due process of law, and the penumbra of privacy, but I digress.

3:18 -- O'Reilly is still in his TPM segment and begins railing against other journalists saying that anybody who doesn't work for Fox is a leftist. He includes journalists like Cronkite, Rather, and Brokaw; men who all worked for the big three and who all had long and storied careers. This feels a bit like sour grapes and petty name calling.

One final note that I noticed during TPM. Fox News loves having their name on screen. Look:
I count at least three times. (Unless you count both sides of their rotating logo. Then it's four.) How many times do I have to be reminded that I am watching Fox? This goes back to the idea of assuming the audience isn't smart enough to figure out what is going on. I'm surprised that the scroll at the bottom doesn't consistently read, "YOU ARE WATCHING FOX NEWS."

6:00 -- We're into part two of O'Reilly's interview of Jon Stewart. The interview itself wasn't bad. O'Reilly tried to take jabs at Stewart and his show, and Stewart rolled with them. I was impressed. (You can watch the entire thing here. Brace yourself, it is very long.) Now at this point in the show they are talking about foreign policy issues, specifically Iran and nuclear weapons. What's disturbing is O'Reilly's comment asking if Stewart isn't worried about a "guy named Ahmed." The problem with this is the mild bit of racism you get from O'Reilly. That everybody from that part of the world must be feared until they prove otherwise. This is no way to go through life, fearing that which you are too ignorant to understand. One guy with a bomb won't destroy this country. In the history of the world, terrorism has never worked. America and its people are stronger than that. But if we are constantly bombarded with fear, xenophobia, and hatred, we will destroy from within.

8:30 -- O'Reilly admits that the war in Iraq was wrong. I don't have much to add. I just liked hearing it.

9:50 -- O'Reilly and Stewart are talking about whether it is a good idea to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian or military court. Stewart contends that civilian court is fine and O'Reilly maintains the opposite. What I thought was interesting was that O'Reilly heavily implies that if KSM is put into a civilan prison, he will be killed Oz-style by a member of the Crips or Bloods. What makes O'Reilly think that gang members are so patriotic as to take out a terrorist? Shouldn't he be more worried about KSM teaching these guys how to maximize their revenues and profits? Just a very odd logic chain.

11:15 -- O'Reilly mentions that everybody liked his interview with Stewart, except for Brian Lowry. He calls Lowry a "vile, vile person." This is left without explanation. Presumably, one would have to have watched previous episodes to get this reference. Again a very odd turn.

13:50 -- A commerical aired for Megyn (yes, that's how it's spelled) Kelly's show on Fox. It contained an interesting image.

Take another look at this. The man on the left is older, but not greying. He is remaining calm and even smiling in the face of a woman who appears to hate him. He is also wearing a shirt that has an American flag and a reference to Jesus. (We don't see the whole shirt, but can assume that the two are linked for the sake of goodness.) Then we have the woman on the left. Her hair is obviously dyed, she has a pierced nose, her arms are a little fat looking which implies the rest of her is larger than normal, and to top it off she has her boyfriend (I assume) cheering her on from behind. Which one of these people do you think Fox and Kelly are appealing to with this image? (No, it's not the boyfriend.) I don't want to break this down too much, but it is really just amazing to me. By the way, this wasn't for a specific story on Kelly's show. Just a normal promo.

14:00 -- We have the first in a long series of blonde people appearing on O'Reilly's show, with Laura Ingraham. Seriously, every guest not named Jon Stewart had straw-colored hair. It was a little weird.
Ingraham interprets Stewart's appearance on the show as a public distancing from President Obama. This doesn't make a lot of sense if you have ever watched The Daily Show. Stewart has been known to call bullshit whenever he sees it, whether it is coming from the president or not. I don't know what Ingraham's day job is, but she is mildly annoying in her appearance her. My guess is that she has thin skin and can't take criticism well, but that's just me.

17:53 -- O'Reilly and Ingraham move on to other stories than the Stewart interview. Here, some comments of Secretary Hillary Clinton are played where she attacks "organized religion." O'Reilly believes this to be a shot at Islamic Extremists and Ingraham sees this as a shot at all Christians everywhere. Why can't the comment be taken at face value? The truth probably lies closer to O'Reilly's interpretation than Ingraham's. However, I fell like Ingraham's reaction isn't isolated to only her. My guess is that there are many people who agree with her and hate Secretary Clinton even more now.

22:50 -- O'Reilly starts a new segment. You know what that means? Yes, more blonde ladies.

24:24 -- O'Reilly begins railing about free speech this and free speech that. However he isn't talking about any government stopping somebody from talking. Instead, he is talking about Planned Parenthood asking CBS to take off Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad. (For everybody who is confused, free speech is only guaranteed by the government. Private companies can limit speech as much as they like.) This is a common belief that we all can say what we want, whenever we want. However, as somebody who works in the media, O'Reilly should know better.

32:50 -- The two ladies and O'Reilly begin talking about sex in the movies. The segment is prefaced with sex-related clips. One of which, featured another blonde woman.
Yes, they showed the infamous clip where Sharon Stone showed off her vagina to all of America. Though, they did blur it out. So, that's something. The conversation had to do with a study (they don't cite where it's from or when it was published) that says that movies featuring hardcore sex no longer make as much money as movies that don't. This is all well and good, but I think the point missed is the differences in a movie's potential income based on a rating of PG-13 versus R. An R limits your audience to only those over 17, PG-13 has no real restrictions on who can see and buy tickets for it. Film studios are more likely to drop a sex scene in order to boost income potential.

38:00 -- The previously mentioned Megyn Kelly stops by to talk about medical marijuana and bullying.
This woman appears to be Fox's answer to Nancy Grace. She is often credited as an attorney and is asked to comment on the legality of issues such as recreational use of medical marijuana and if bullying that leads to a girl's suicide is a criminal offense. These are fair questions, but who is this woman? She is at Fox News headquarters, in New York and is commenting on California and Massachusetts law. What are her credentials for knowing any of this other than being a generic attorney? Just a little bit more information would go a long way here.

48:10 -- A segment called "America's News Quiz" where two Fox personalities answer questions about current events. The questions deal with newly elected Senator Brown (R-MA), the end of Air America Radio, the military film The Hurt Locker, the death of J.D. Salinger, and the Super Bowl (O'Reilly predicted that the Saints would lose.) Oh and the two commentators looked like this:
Yeah, it is really weird that there are so many blonde people on this show. Especially when blonde people are dying out.

55:30 -- The penultimate segment is entitled "Pinheads and Patriots." This show, the Patriots are those in the media who liked O'Reilly's interview with Stewart. Pinheads? That would be the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe who thought the lighting looked off in the same interview. Seriously. That's all it takes to no longer be a patriot, is questioning the lighting choice.

57:00 -- O'Reilly's final segment deals with email and letter writing to the show. Most of the time he just reads the letters (again with the words on the screen so we can follow along) and offers no comment or response. Somebody then mentions the book he is currently hocking and O'Reilly takes the opportunity to mention that you get a free "American Patriot" pen for buying the book from his online store. O'Reilly has abused the patriot so much that I don't think he knows what it means any more.

59:35 -- Like a calendar, O'Reilly's show offers a word of the day feature.
Unlike a calendar, he doesn't tell you what the word means. He just shows you how to spell it and ends his show. (A definition for Sophist can be found here.) My problem with this is that it is like giving somebody a new toy and not giving them the instructions. They take the toy out and play with it wrong and the toy breaks. That is what these people are doing, they are breaking our language. Please stop.

And that's the show. After watching, I don't understand the popularity that O'Reilly commands, unless you have a fetish for blondes (final tally: six, not counting Sharon Stone). He is very opinionated and seems to think that disagreeing with him is akin to blasphemy. He also appeals to the lowest common denominator and talks down to his audience like they are six-year olds (though based on the number of cataract and dental bond commercials, I would guess his audience is older than that). His show is irresponsible offering opinions as facts and attacking people who challenge his authority.

My conclusion is that people like him for these reasons: that he is loud, in-your-face, and holds beliefs that his viewers agree with. I just wish people were a little bit more discerning in who we allowed on television. Maybe someday. Until then, we will always have shows like The O'Reilly Factor. And we'll always have people who love it.

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