You’re hurting America

I missed the John Stewart-Bill O'Reilly debate.  But I did read Brett Lang's review of it in the Chicago Tribune.  The review of this debate is about as post-truth as the coverage of the Presidential debate.

Here is how Lang characterizes Stewart:

On "The Daily Show," Stewart's job is to skewer the media for not doing their own. He is best when looking at the hyper-partisan coverage that defines talking head program's like O'Reilly's and the political theater that both parties are guilty of deploying. But he is at his worst when he tries to be sincere. Case in point was his finger-wagging appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" a few moons ago during which he accused the rating-challenged show of ruining political discourse.

Argument for that?  That was a rather pivotal moment for "Crossfire."  And Stewart was right. 

Here's Lang's portrait of O'Reilly:

Over at "The O'Reilly Factor," the pugnacious Fox News host has a talent for boiling down the most complex geo-political issues into common sense stew, theatrically badgering those who deign to see the world in shades of gray. It may be intellectually dishonest, but it makes for good television.

That was Stewart's point about "Crossfire."  Jeez.  The President of CNN even cited that event as a reason the show was canceled (and Tucker Carlson fired).

This review gets worse when Lang addresses the substance:

The biggest problem was that both O'Reilly and Stewart seemed like two people who read The New York Times over breakfast and maybe TiVo "Meet the Press," yet believe that makes them well-informed enough to give policy prescriptions on the myriad issues facing the country, from failing schools to the Muslim Brotherhood. That said, it's not like the answers offered up by Barack Obama or Mitt Romney last week were any more substantive or any less pandering. The major saving grace was that at least the Stewart-O'Reilly rumble wasn't moderated by Jim Lehrer.

O'Reilly is a political pundit, who gives policy prescriptions all of the time.  Stewart's point is that he is an intellectually dishonest, uniformed blowhard.  I think he's made that point.

Sadly, Lang doesn't realize that. After all, for him it's about television:

So in the end how did it stack up? I'd say it was slightly funnier than Stewart's never-ending "Rally to Restore Sanity," and a smidge more intelligent than O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln."

Sadly, it was nowhere near as good as either of their shows.

They don't have the same type of show, you know.



4 thoughts on “You’re hurting America”

  1. This might be the most vapid and un-self-aware part of the whole piece:
    OK, that last one was a pretty good point. But can we please, please, please declare a moratorium on Sandra Fluke discussions? In this 24-hour news cycle that birth control blowup is so seven months ago. But that didn't stop O'Reilly from trying out a few zingers.

  2. Good summary.  Boy, did Lang miss the point.  I saw The Rumble, and I was struck by how O'Reilly, as opposed to Hannity and Matalin and some others, really does believe what he's saying.  In some cases, O'Reilly simply has a conservative or individual perspective on actual events, and in some cases he believes things that factually are not true.  In that sense, I disagree with Lang.  While O'Reilly certainly has his biases, I don't think he's trying to be intellectually dishonest (whereas Hannity is a complete shill).  O'Reilly simply has an overly simplistic view of the world.  (Plus, he's, um, an angry old socially conservative white guy.)  Jem brings up the Lang's inane, shallow statement about Sandra Fluke, and I was honestly a bit surprised O'Reilly brought her up – and in his opening statement!  The thing is, O'Reilly mispresented her argument (Limbaugh did so more grotesquely).  In O'Reilly's case, I think that's because he truly didn't understand it.  (In Limbaugh's case, as someone else pointed out, he also didn't want to understand it, and his abuse was a way of asserting that he didn't have to.  There might be some of that in O'Reilly, too, but not as much.)

    I'm also guessing Stewart knows far more policy than Lang, but as you note, Lang wanted Stewart to be his "dancing monkey."

  3. Thanks Batacchio–

    Interesting perspective on O'Reilly, though I'm doubtful he's any different from Hannity, et al.  He's worse, because he can't claim Hannity's stupidity.  He did after all go do Harvard, as he often tells us.

  4. Fair enough.  O'Reilly is awful, certainly, but I just found the specific mix of stupid-evil-crazy interesting.  Hannity isn't bright, but he knows he's a shill.  O'Reilly claims to be an independent and a "traditionalist."  In the case of The Rumble, O'Reilly got some cheers, but he really did not know the audience, and did not try to craft a message to persuade them versus his usual audience of elderly white conservatives… or more likely, he just didn't care.  In retrospect, his position on every issue, his solution, boiled down to "get off my lawn."      

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