OxBlog

Sunday, April 09, 2006

# Posted 5:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATCHET JOB TARGETS O'REILLY: At the recommendation of the lovely SC, I read Nicholas Lemann's recent profile of Bill O'Reilly in the New Yorker. She insists it is not a hatchet job. I insist that it is. The funny thing, of course, is that neither of has ever watched the O'Reilly Factor, nor presumably do most of those who read the New Yorker.

Strangely, enough Lemann seems to recognize this fact. At one point, he writes that
If what you know about “The O’Reilly Factor” comes mainly from its opponents on the left—from movies like “Outfoxed” and Web sites like Media Matters—and you watch it regularly for a while, you’ll be surprised by how little of the content these days is political.
What this sentence accidentally helps illustrate is how similar Lemann is to O'Reilly. Just as O'Reilly (as Lemann would have it) peddles outrage by attacking liberals with which his audiences isn't familiar, Lemann peddles outrage to liberals by attacking conservatives with which his audience isn't familiar.

Although Lemann isn't a cable news icon, his brand of bien pensant rabble-rousing has brought him rewards of a similar magnitude of the kind bestowed by liberals. He is the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, the most prestigious school of journalism in the nation. He is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, the most prestigious general interest magazine in the nation.

Anyhow, here are some samples from Lemann's writing:
O’Reilly has been playing O’Reilly so successfully for so long, and has developed such a substantial library of hooks, tics, and subplots, that he sometimes seems to be parodying himself, or parodying [Stephen] Colbert’s parody of him...

O’Reilly, like every political talk-show host with a big following, is a populist, who, in his beyond-irony way, is a rich, middle-aged white guy aligned with the ruling party...To say that that doesn’t make any sense is to deny oneself the pleasure that a close study of O’Reilly affords...

Once, when Howard Stern was asked to explain his success, he said that he owed it to lesbians. O’Reilly owes his to child molesters...the emotional chord [O'Reilly] strikes, even if he doesn’t state his position, is that scum don’t deserve liberties and shouldn’t have lawyers...

O’Reilly imagines himself to be the underdog in a confrontation with any liberal, but, when he goes after one, it can come across as the television equivalent of police brutality—bullying undertaken for the sheer joy of bullying.
For all I know, O'Reilly deserves this sort of vitriolic condescension. But even if he does, the really interesting question is why O'Reilly has become a cable news icon. Why does an average of two million people watch his show every night (twice the number, Lemann points out, as tune in to Larry King)?

If a New Yorker writer wants to introduce O'Reilly to a New Yorker audience, answering these kinds of questions might be far more educational than a hatchet job. For example, why not interview some of O'Reilly's fans or perhaps some of his fellow conservative pundits? As far as I can tell, Lemann didn't even interview O'Reilly himself for the profile (although Lemann quotes copiously from the show's transcripts.)

Personally, I think the New Yorker should take some steps to prune the deadwood among its political correspondents. First things first: recruit another half-dozen sharp, (relatively) young writers like George Packer. Then get rid of Sy Hersh, Nick Lemann and the rest of those who have overstayed their welcome.

Now, I'm not saying that the New Yorker should be a conservative magazine or even a balanced one. George Packer is a staunch liberal, and any magazine with six George Packers would be staunchly liberal...but also staunchly innovative and staunchly insightful. In other words, no one would dare compare Packer with Bill O'Reilly.
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
"She insists it is not a hatchet job. I insist that it is. The funny thing, of course, is that neither of has ever watched the O'Reilly Factor, nor presumably do most of those who read the New Yorker."

So how can either of you possibly weigh in? I've seen far too much of the ORF, and this isn't a hatchet job.
 
love it
 
It can't be that the case against is Sy Hersh simply that he's old, right? It seems to me that, regardless of the length of his tenure at the New Yorker, he's doing some of the most vigorous and valuable investigative journalism out there. It seems to me that they'd be crazy to lose him
 
You see, even you are going with my theory that Porter is a useless lamb lover. You're bashing Hersh in one post, and the lambskin Porter quotes him an a God in the next. Dump Porter.
 
Porter stays. He's first rate. And how many more times do you want him to use the word "if" in his description of Hersh's allegations?

And Ted, the case against Hersh isn't that he's old. By "deadwood" I meant intellectually, not physically. Hersh is both irresponsible and boringly repetitive.
 
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