So I’m watching the online stream of the Bill O’Reilly, Al Franken and Molly Ivins dustup at Bookexpo America, which was aired on C-Span2 BookTV. In just the first 5 minutes Bill answers two phone callers by immediately going into ad hominem attacks on the liberal cabal, and then calls Todd Gitlin a “pinhead” academic. As the caller said this is O’Reilly’s constant M.O. - he talks right over the caller or whoever he is talking to.
But why is it that the most penetrating commentators on the left, such as Al Franken, Molly Ivins, Jon Stewart at the Daily Show are comedians? But the right is full of pompous blowhards like O’Reilly, Limbaugh, and Savage. I especially like the sourgrape expression Bill wears while Franken is listing out his errors and lies. Franken accuses O’Reilly of lying about Inside Edition winning a Peabody award and then Bill rips into Al for a “vicious” attack and daring to “call me a liar.” This is vicious? Citing Bill for lying about what awards his program is small potatoes compared to the attacks Bill routinely launches on his programs.
At the conclusion of the program an audience member asks the three authors what they think about the poisoned political discourse of contemporary media. Ivins rejects Grover Norquist’s call for partisanship in the state governments. O’Reilly says that it’s not his job to civilize the discourse, he is there as a watchdog, looking out for the little guy. Franken says that he is tired of liberals refusing to fight. He says that you need to call people on the lying that takes place on the right. I especially like the very end of the show, as Pat Schroeder thanks the audience you can see Bill O’Reilly, already standing, thank Molly Ivins and then he immediately walks off stage. Then Al Franken and Bill O’Reilly thank each other. The incivility in politics is that neither O’Reilly nor Franken thank each other. There is no sense today that once the arguing is over you can still respect the other person for having different views.