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Looking Out For The Little Guy

Part One of Two

The Ubiquitous Bill O’Reilly Says He Is Just “Looking Out For The Folks.”

 If This Is So, Why He’s So Hated By The Left?

By Perry Hicks - Special to GCN

      At times, it seems as if FOX News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly is everywhere: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, web sites, and even books. With all this opining, it is no wonder that he has become the focus of attention both good and bad.

     On the bad, it would seem that O’Reilly has attracted the special wrath of every liberal in Hollywood. Comedian Al Franken featured him prominently in his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. And more than one web site exists for the single purpose of defaming him. However, the unkindest cuts of all have come from journalists who have couched their criticism in clever, more subtle ways suggesting, if one reads between the lines, that Bill is not really one of them.

     What could be coming from O’Reilly’s mouth and pen that would merit such acid verbosity? Is his work not true to the FOX slogan “Fair & Balanced?”

     In this two part series we will take a look at Bill O’Reilly and his message and see how it compares with personal experience. But more importantly, we will answer the question: Is Bill O’Reilly really looking out for you?

Jealousy and Dilettantes

     Laying all of the criticism on jealously and dilettantes would be intellectually lazy.  Yes, O’Reilly’s success has been phenomenal. The television show, The O’Reilly Factor wins the cable news ratings war with about 3 million viewers every weekday night. The Radio Factor had the biggest roll-out in broadcast history. His latest tome, Who’s Looking Out for You? topped the New York Times non-fiction best seller list.

     It is also true that FOX and its founder, Rupert Murdoch, have never been popular with some in the media. This may be because Murdoch has the businessman’s equivalent of a gardener’s green thumb. In just 7 years of existence, FOX News Channel has grown to tower over its nearest competitor; the original cable news network, CNN.

Culture War

     Still, jealousy and dilettantes cannot adequately explain the volume or ferocity of attacks against Bill O’Reilly. A better answer might be found in exploring America’s raging culture war. Traditionalists, like O’Reilly, are finding their message pitted against the greater part of everything you see, hear, and read streaming forth from the media.

     This is because that stream contains an ever increasing level of moral turpitude. Promiscuity is not just normal but actually healthy. Drug use has no consequences. Criminals and criminality are glamorized. Women are mere sex objects. Authority deserves contempt. Moral teaching is despised. Religion is reviled. Clergy are hypocrites. Children are sexualized by constant exposure to erotic images and lurid song lyrics. Patriotism is divisive.

     Apologists would argue that an individual product, say a gangster rap song advocating violence against women, could not have a deleterious effect on society. Individually, this may be true. However, collectively, such material has a devastating impact. 

     While those same apologists would argue that mature adults can easily judge between fantasy and reality, children cannot. They are not able to handle the constant images of gratuitous sex, selfish materialism, inappropriate levels of personal entitlement, drugs, crime, violence, and other self-destructive behavior. Couple this with a lack of moral teaching and the gross malfeasance of our public education system, it is no wonder that many of our children are growing up aimless; reaching maturity without marketable skills; and suffering from an increasing number of emotional problems.

The Man

     So, what kind of man is Bill O’Reilly? First and foremost, he is a private man. In 2000, I was selected to do a viewer interview with O’Reilly for his FOX website. Just before beginning recording, his instruction to me was to ask “nothing personal.” In other words, he wasn’t going to pull a Bill Clinton and tell the world whether he wore boxers or briefs. Neither was he going to delve into things that had no relevance to his public discourse.

     One of my first questions was, “Are you still teaching, and if so, is The Factor just a change in venue?” He didn’t acknowledge it directly though he did speak to his Florida classroom experience. However, surveying his TV and radio shows, news columns, and books, it is quite evident that he is doing just that; teaching.  

     Regardless of his image as a New York tough guy -and I know I am going to garner great guffaws when I say this- Bill O’Reilly is a sensitive man.

     I don’t mean sensitive from the standpoint that he would sob his way through a tissue box with Oprah Winfrey. I mean Bill O’Reilly is sensitive to the life problems all of us have had to face; such as developing a marketable skill, or coping with family. Particularly with young people, O’Reilly understands the awe they feel entering the adult world. My opinion on this has been particularly influenced by both Who’s Looking Out for You? and his first book, The O’Reilly Factor..

     For example, one of O’Reilly’s recurring themes is the relationships we have with our fathers. His own father was overly cautious due to having lived through the Great Depression. This story was very meaningful to me because my dad was born in 1908 and literally came of age just as the market crashed in1929. At one point, my father was so poor he had to fill holes in his shoes with cardboard. The Great Depression left many men, as O’Reilly describes it, stuck in a defensive mode that limited both their personal and professional growth.

     By the time of their passing, both our fathers came to regret not having reached their full potential. In a parallel that is probably quite common among children of that generation, both O’Reilly and I felt moved to promise that we wouldn’t hold back. We would reach full potential for them.

     If it sounds as if I am ascribing failure to merely earning a living and raising a family, I assure you that is not my intent. The lesson to be learned here is not that our dads failed, but they felt that they could have done so much more. In the case of my own father, he was a self-taught commercial artist, who, for a time during the Kennedy years, actually had a White House parking pass. He looked so much the part of a European craftsman; he once appeared on the cover of Potomac Magazine. The tragedy is that he didn’t take what he had to the next level.

     In particular, I found the passages about O’Reilly’s childhood very moving. I suspect that O’Reilly misses his father, just as I do mine.

Sage Advice

     While Bill O’Reilly probably would not want to call them self-help books, the larger part of his non-fictions is sage advice. His message is beneficial reading for most anyone but particularly so for young people.

    By the title, one would have thought his first non-fiction, The O’Reilly Factor, would have chronicled his show or expanded on its many topics. And to an extent, it does. But the book is really about the things (factors) one must face in life: Obstacles to your progress; interpersonal relationships; societal issues and their impact on you.

     For example, O’Reilly teaches that it is not enough to just work hard, we must also steward our money wisely. Thus, if we want to attain economic independence, we must spend sparingly and invest carefully. But in any case, he reminds us not to forget charity. What you give and who you give it to should be just as carefully considered.

      He also has definite ideas about accountability that is shaped by a very strong sense of right and wrong. Thus, O’Reilly has a traditional attitude toward one’s personal conduct: Drinking and drugs are “out” as is boorish behavior toward women; good manners and wholesome living are” in”.

     We are told to choose our friends wisely and once a good friendship is made, don’t let it fall victim to distance or apathy. Also, we must avoid unstable or manipulative people. They will bring us nothing but grief.

     If we really want to get ahead, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Failure to honestly critique our own performance will stunt both our personal and professional growth. Because a good education is essential, we should pursue the best one our talents and money can afford.

     For the sake of our own well-being, we must forgive our parents for whatever wrongs they may have done us. Likewise, we must be emotionally and financially able to parent before having children of our own. In this way, we will not only be at peace with ourselves, we will not pass on to our own children our parent’s sins.

     Arguing against this wisdom directly would not play well with the general public so O’Reilly’s detractors usually take a different tactic. They generalize how he is too “judgmental” or they try to dredge up fatuous examples to discredit his maxims or brand him a liar. So strange can be their reasoning, one may wonder if these people are living in an alternative reality. However, there is a rationale to their madness. What O’Reilly is preaching can be used as powerful ammunition in the culture war. Therefore, he must be marginalized if not wholly stopped.

Follow the Money

     Part of the opposition to O’Reilly’s message is born of a combination of greed and political correctness. Because the cost of developing new entertainment has become so astronomically high, investors are demanding every project be a blockbuster. For an individual entertainer, success is no longer measured by national stardom; world-wide popularity is the goal. Thus, great pressure exists to uniquely distinguish one artist, movie, or music recording from all others. Because many artists lack sufficient imagination to create a more wholesome niche for themselves, they become ever more controversial in their quest for fame. Bottom line: It’s all about money.

     Political correctness comes in to play when one reprehends certain entertainers for coarsening society. For example, Bakari Akil (Global Black News- Oct. 6, 2002) agreed that it may be difficult to defend some rap artists over “controversial or negative lyrics.” Yet, he chose to interpret O’Reilly’s criticism of Ludacris and Snoop Doggy Dogg as a threat to the “black masses.” Akil did not mention that O’Reilly also condemned white rapper Eminem, the Insane Clown Posse, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Marilyn Manson.

The Culture War Battlefield

     The controversy raging over the quality of what we see and hear is not merely academic. If this is a war, it must have battlefields. If there is a fight, there must be casualties. Tragically, the ground chosen for this conflict is our homes and classrooms. The victims are our young people.

     O’Reilly has often blamed corrupt officials and irresponsible parents for the plight of our children. My own teaching experience supports his view. Public school systems, in concert with indifferent or even hostile parents, have left many high school graduates unable to effectively express ideas, write, or do simple arithmetic.

     Because so many of these young people have never held a job, they are bereft of any work ethic. They have no concept of personal finance, have little mental stamina, and generally are bewildered at the prospect of becoming an adult. Some have been in serious trouble with the law.

     If all of this isn’t enough, mass media compounds the problem. Not only are movies, magazines, and music coarsening our young people, they pound home a looser message of: “You can’t make it,” and “succeeding is selling out.”

     These young people are not excited by a future that should hold all manner of wonderful possibilities for them. They have no expectation of success. All of the codling they have gotten from their over-indulgent mothers (with or without compliant fathers) has left them despondent about their future prospects. They are soft, lazy and deep down inside they know it.   

Direct Application

     How effective is O’Reilly’s message? Three years ago my automotive program’s attrition rate was better than 60 percent. Using his message has dropped that rate to about 10 percent. Of course, my program gives me ample opportunity to employ it. Unlike a history or English professor that would see most students for only a course or two, my students will be with me the better part of two years. Admittedly, that is a huge advantage.

     Perhaps I should say my surviving students because some are simply not ready to take responsibility for their own lives. Some find out the hard way that promiscuity leads to disease or parenthood, that one must work hard to get ahead, and if friendships are not maintained, one will ultimately be alone. Sadly, if and when these lessons are learned, the damage has already been done.

If O’Reilly’s message is right on the mark, what about his method of delivery? Is he” fair and balanced”? What about Al Franken’s claims that O’Reilly is a liar? In Part Two, we will take a peek behind the curtain of The O’Reilly Factor.  

For Part 2...CLICK HERE

Perry Hicks is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics, and is a former Ford Motor Company technical trainer. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Automotive Technology at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. 

Contact the Author: royalenfieldcrusader@hotmail.com

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