Monday, April 03, 2006

Fear Factor in the False Dichotomy Zone

Tip-o-the-hat to The's Opinionator for the above cartoon by Wuerker and for the heads up on a recent New Yorker article/exposé by Nick Lehman, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Opinionator's take on the article:

The article is called "Fear Factor" and .... riveted me by its treatment of O'Reilly's history in broadcasting and the forces which have shaped his public persona. In the 80's he was a reporter for CBS and while vacationing on the Cape, discovered that Provincetown was a gay Mecca. He took a camera man down there and did a piece on what a bad influence that was on teenagers. CBS would not broadcast it and he left the network shortly thereafter.

Lemann writes about the out-of court sexual harassment settlement with Fox News producer Andre Mackris two years ago, his hatred of Frank Rich, Keith Olbermann, Al Franken, the ACLU, George Clooney and many others. These days he can only get minor liberal luminaries to debate him, removing some of the color from his confrontations. The writer describes his "nimble" gift of coming across as a populist, decent, straight shooting American commentator.

The writer sees O'Reilly's 10 years of longevity as uncommon in show business, referring to his "baroque" period. Lemann writes that he has risen to the top in ratings because of his ability to remind his viewers how much the left hates him. An interesting observation is that he defies description as liberal or conservative on many issues. He is, for instance, against the death penalty, for gay marriage and not completely against abortion. He may not be all that fair and balanced, but Lemann maintains that Fox viewers understand that means "the news the way you already see it."
Lehman's conclusions don't leave much room for optimism regarding the state of cable 'news' programs, "increasingly a medium of outsize, super-opinionated franchise personalities."

Opinionator here. Lehman's New Yorker article here.


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