As the year comes to a close, many people view the remaining days as an opportunity to tie up loose ends, complete unfinished projects, and maybe produce another accomplishment or two to top off the year on a high note. For folks like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly that means achieving something that surpasses their ordinary annual output of anger, hatred, and ignorance. This is the time of year to go for the gold, and you have to admire the tenacity of these professionals as they endeavor to reach new heights of stupidity and malice. Happy Holidays.
To this end, both Beck and O’Reilly serve up a heaping portion of boorish outrage directed at an episode of NBC’s Law and Order: SVU. The storyline concerned the murder of three immigrant children by a man obsessed with illegal aliens and possessed by the hateful rantings of a fictional TV talk show host, Gordon Garrison. In a pivotal scene, the lawyer for the defendant, played by John Larroquette, describes Garrison, Limbaugh, Beck, and O’Reilly as…
“…a cancer spreading ignorance and hate. I mean, they’ve convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system.”
Perhaps that description, and the general plot, cut a little too close to the bone for Beck and O’Reilly. They may have seen more of their own dark underside in Garrison than they are comfortable acknowledging. This sends them both into a tizzy, infuriated by what they regard as a direct insult by the show’s producers and writers.
Bill O’Reilly starts off by telling his television audience that Dick Wolf, creator of NBC’s Law and Order, is “a despicable human being,” a “liar” and a “coward.” Seconds later he asserts that he doesn’t “demonize innocent human beings.” Apparently you lose your innocence if you disagree with O’Reilly or say anything unflattering about him. The entirety of his Talking Points rant was devoted to disparaging Wolf and glorifying himself. He even took partial responsibility for security fences on the US/Mexico border. But most of his tantrum made little sense, as usual.
In the course of his tirade, O’Reilly labeled NBC as “Propaganda Central in the USA.” (He must not watch much Fox News). But he undermines his own argument by immediately adding that it has the lowest ratings. How can it be the paragon of propaganda if no one is watching it?
For the record, NBC Entertainment is in fact the lowest rated broadcast entertainment network, but NBC News is the highest rated news broadcaster with four times as many viewers as O’Reilly. And that’s what makes all of this particularly bizarre. O’Reilly can’t seem to differentiate between reality and theater. He thinks that the dialogue of a character in a fictional TV program represents the opinion of the author. He thinks that if John Larroquette’s character says that O’Reilly is a cancer, then it is Wolf who believes that. And that’s as deep as O’Reilly’s comprehension can go.
The problem is that Larroquette is portraying a thoroughly unsavory character. He is not remotely sympathetic. He is, after all, defending a man who murdered innocent children. He is attempting to get his client off on an insanity defense and cast the blame elsewhere – to the talk show host. He is reviled by the show’s main characters and heroes. [SPOILER ALERT] He ultimately demonstrates his own extreme behavior by murdering his client. So the words to which O’Reilly objects were put into the mouth of the most unethical and unlikeable character. How on earth does O’Reilly interpret this as advocacy for those remarks? All of this easily discernible context notwithstanding, O’Reilly was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore:
O’Reilly: I mean enough is enough with these network pinheads who shove propaganda down our throats under the guise of entertainment.
Is he referring to Dick Wolf or Roger Ailes? Because it seems to me that it is Fox that is using entertainment to disseminate propaganda. It is Fox that turned journalism on its head by casting loudmouth demagogues and witless beauty pageant rejects as news anchors. It is Fox that decorated their broadcasts with flamboyant graphics, alarmist “alerts,” and noisy soundtracks and gongs to announce even the most trivial events. And it is Fox that still pretends to be a news enterprise, while Law and Order has never presented itself as anything but drama.
Can O’Reilly tell the difference? Maybe his comment above is referring to Glenn Beck, who describes his own program as the “Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment.” Wouldn’t that make Beck a “pinhead” shoving “propaganda down our throats under the guise of entertainment?” For his part, Beck also misread the Law and Order segment for all the same reasons O’Reilly did. But Beck took a different tack. Rather than hysterically attacking Wolf and company, Beck launches into a self-serving defense to absolve himself of responsibility for the sort of violence portrayed in the program. He describes himself as “just a dad” and defiantly asks: “Where is the evidence for inciting any violence?”
Beck has the sort of convenient memory that allows one to be a sociopath without any messy recollection of his vile deeds. He forgets that he once fantasized about choking Michael Moore to death with his bare hands:
“I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out…”
He forgets his frequent radio bit wherein he mulls over who he would like to beat to death with a shovel:
“I’ve been sitting here for the last few minutes trying to come up with a list of people I want to kill with a shovel. […] How many people have I said let’s kill with a shovel, huh? How many people have I said let’s line ’em up and shoot ’em in the head? I think quite a few.”
I don’t know many dads who articulate these revolting ideas. Beck also forgets the numerous calls for his legion of demented disciples to “fight back” against an enemy that is deliberately trying to attack your family, your values, your faith, and even to destroy your country. Marxists and fascists are taking over Washington. They are indoctrinating your children. They are on your doorstep. Beck insists that this is not a time for compromise or debate. He says that “You don’t compromise on your destruction.” It is an Apocalyptic Gospel that leaves little option for true patriots. They either fight or they, and everything they love, dies. It doesn’t matter if Beck occasionally recites legal disclaimers to refrain from violence. Once you’ve convinced people that the very essence of their existence is threatened, there are going to be those who will conclude that violence is acceptable – even inevitable – as self-defense.
Beck speaks in a Da Vinci coded language about things that only he can see to a congregation that is especially vulnerable to a message that only they can hear. Rush Limbaugh is even more direct. In advance of the Democratic National Convention in Denver last year, Limbaugh told his listeners to Screw the world! Riot in Denver!
“I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”
He couldn’t be much clearer than that. Limbaugh has yet to comment on the Law and Order episode that mentioned him and O’Reilly and Beck, but his record of offensive and hostile rhetoric like that above is well documented.
If you take the combined blather of these shoutcasters, it isn’t hard to foresee an outcome not unlike that of the one played out on Law and Order. And perhaps much worse. Yet they will continue to deny any culpability for their irresponsible fear mongering. And they will fire back at any criticism that holds them accountable. Even if it doesn’t make any logical sense, as this incident with Law and Order demonstrates. And even if it contradicts their professed appreciation for the First Amendment, as they seek to silence the creative output of a television dramatist. (Note: O’Reilly’s guest for the discussion on this subject was Laura Ingraham, author of “Shut Up and Sing,” a repulsive assault on free expression that reduces the role of artists to trivialities, ignoring their contributions to society and their potential for insight and inspiration).
But more than anything else, this affair reveals how intellectually vacant these losers are. They are incapable of grasping the meaning of a popular TV cop drama – which is not exactly the pinnacle of human intelligence. They are just angry that someone said something about them that they vaguely regard as adverse. And that’s enough to launch a full scale media war. Because, in the end, all they really want is an issue to blow out of proportion; a hyperbolic fireball of frenzy; a meaningless and dishonest controversy. An excuse to raise their voices, pull out their hair, and drive their viewers into a panic.
Like I said above…Happy Holidays.
p.s. Ice-T has a few words for O’Reilly.
Update: Just one day after all the whining about how liberal Law and Order is, and how it is spewing leftie propaganda, the program aired an episode that told a very different story. This one featured an ACORN-like community organizer whose murdered body was found with the word “FED” scrawled across his chest. However, the conclusion revealed that it was not some right-wing, anti-government, Beckoid who was responsible, but the head of the community organizing group who was attempting to cover up an affair. So having indicted the liberals in this episode, will Beck and O’Reilly and the vast, conservative, Hollywood-bashing, over-reactionaries retract their allegations of bias against producer, Dick Wolf? Don’t bother staying tuned.