Friday, January 19, 2007
O'Reilly dumps on kidnapped boy
The national scold strikes again! But this time he may have overstepped the bounds of decency, by no means for the first time.
For a while I have thought that Bill O'Reilly was an extreme right-wing predatory version of Howard Stern - both do more harm than good. Stern, of course, doesn't take himself too seriously (most of the time), O'Reilly takes himself too seriously all the time. The other thing that ties them together is that every time they open their mouths, they say more about themselves than anything in the world around them.
O'Reilly recently decided to feed his voracious audience some red meat.
On the January 15 O'Reilly Factor, he had this to say about Shawn Hornbeck -- the young man who had been abducted in Missouri at the age of 11, and was recently almost serendipitously found after being held for four years - "there was an element here that this kid liked about this circumstances," pontificated O'Reilly.
"The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted."
Clearly for O'Reilly not going to school, running around and doing whatever one wants is preferable to the opposite. Interesting Bill! The idea that an 11-year-old child might be scared out of his mind by the situation (as he claims to have been), isn't a possibility for O'Reilly.
I know that for the first time O'Reilly's cable dominance is being challenged by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and he has to feed his audience controversy in order to maintain his dominance. He also has a book to sell and what better way to get media attention than to create a controversy by jumping with both feet into one of the currently hottest news stories.
As usual with no expertise in the matter and no apparent contribution to make O'Reilly is once again shooting his mouth off.
He has said that if it turns out that he is wrong, he will apologize. But, just as with Mel Gibson and Michael Richards, an apology will hardly undo the harm his thoughtless words have done.
A word about the appearance of both the Hornbeck family with Shawn and the Ownby family without son Ben (who was found with Shawn) on The Oprah Show on January 18. To have taken a young man who had been held captive for four years to am appearance on Oprah seems barbaric at best. At a time when he needs as much comfort and security dragging him to appear on a TV talk show seems a bit like throwing him to the lions.
I can't imagine what purpose their appearance served other than exploiting the two families for the entertainment of Oprah's audience. I don't know if they were paid for their appearance, but it certainly will enhance their value in other media - books, TV, films - once again proving the prescience of Andy Warhol's comment about everybody's 15 minutes.
Once they appeared on Oprah they left themselves open to everyone's uninformed opinion about what happened. This seems like the last thing either of these young men need. It certainly won't help the case against their alleged abductor. But I guess the ideal of American culture today is to appear on TV.
Between O'Reilly and Oprah I wonder what chance these young men have of surviving their ordeal.