Common sense would tell anyone, that if you are going to take on Bill O’Reilly with a full frontal assault there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Don’t spin, don’t engage in the ridiculous, don’t make half cocked assertions, and don’t try to mislead the folks. To sum that all up one could say above all, don’t be a pinhead.
Unfortunately two professors with the IU Bloomington School of Journalism decided not to make good use of common sense when they posted their “study” attacking Bill O’Reilly on the internet. O’Reilly had a ball with these two professors and Indiana University on his program. Odds are by tomorrow night the segment will be archived on YouTube forever.
The two professors who produced this unscholarly document are Mike Conway and Maria Elizabeth Grabe. I just finished reading the study and it is such an ideological hit piece that I was laughing while I read it as it was so ‘over the top’ ridiculous. It used every dirty trick used by a radical ideologue that one would typically see on an unregulated internet message board.
Let us begin with the very first deception in the study:
O’Reilly employed the name calling device almost once every seven seconds.
What didn’t come out till later is that Prof. Conway and Grabe included political labels such as “Democrat and Republican” as name calling devices. Is this what you have in mind, or is that the narrative that comes to mind when you see the term “name calling device”?
Perhaps someone should remind Conway and Grabe that words mean things and in the world of journalism, context is everything. When one distorts context or fails to use it in good faith it creates a story that gives a “false light” and if the story meets certain criteria it is considered “false light libel”.
Other example of “name calling propaganda” cited by the study is when O’Reilly chastised a journalist for using a “buried headline”. Burying the lead is one of the most common forms of media bias.
I wrote a paper on “burying the lead” bias. For example: A Washington Post article told how law enforcement working for the Bush Administration had improperly used the Patriot Act to obtain the private records of about two dozen American citizens and The Post told us that the Attorney General was not ruling out criminal charges. The unwritten narrative was clear; the Bush Administration is criminally violating your privacy. Many paragraphs deep into the story it told you that these mistakes had been caught by the Inspector General, whose job it is to find these kinds of errors and these two dozen mistakes were out of over 1500 legal uses of the Patriot Act that year, or an error rate on the new law of slightly over 1%. In light of those facts it changes your attitude of the story doesn’t it?
There is no way that Conway and Grabe could not have understood what O’Reilly was talking about when he used the term “buried lead” as burying the lead bias is one of the most talked about bias techniques in journalism. The only reason to simply refer to this as “name calling propaganda” is because they wanted to impress their far left peers by publishing a ‘study’ to damage Bill O’Reilly.
Another example of name calling they counted is when O’Reilly used the term “Kool-Aide Drinkers” when used in conjunction with far left or far right ideologues. “Kool-Aide Drinkers” is a term commonly used term for people who are hardcore political ideologues who believe that their side can do no wrong and the other side can do no right. Anyone who engages in political or cultural discourse becomes familiar with these types of people very quickly. This term can also fall into the same category as shtick or a shows techno-babble. While the term “Kool-Aide Drinker” may seem like pejorative name calling at first glance, it is merely a mildly entertaining term that describes a group of people that almost everyone has had to deal with at one time or another. When viewed in context it is not in the same class as calling someone a jerk or an ass without dealing with their argument as this study clearly implies.
Like any radical leftist arguing on an internet message board, Conway and Grabe compared Bill O’Reilly to whom else …wait for it….because this is just too predictable… you guessed it, a Nazi propagandist who they describe as:
His broadcasts became heavily anti-Semitic and he was one of the few apologists for Adolf Hitler and the reign of terror brought about by the Nazi party in Germany.
Mini Update – The Nazi propagandist they referred to is Father Coughlin who was a far left advocate of “social justice” and redistribution of wealth, a view that is common among leftist academia. Ironic isn’t it?
Coughlin had a well-developed theory of what he termed “social justice,” predicated on monetary “reforms.” He began as an early Roosevelt supporter, coining a famous expression, that the nation’s choice was between “Roosevelt or ruin.” Later in the 1930s he turned against FDR and became one of the president’s harshest critics. His program of “social justice” was a very radical challenge to capitalism and to many of the political institutions of his day.
Coughlin’s magazine was called “Social Justice”. He later turned against FDR because he believed FDR didn’t go far enough in the government take over of society and the economy.
When someone makes any kind of comparison to a monster like a Nazi, the comparison becomes what is commonly referred to as a Reductio ad Hitlerum.
A Reductio ad Hitlerum is rationally unsound for two different reasons: As a wrong direction fallacy (a type of questionable cause), it inverts the cause-effect relationship between why a villain and an idea might be criticized; conversely, as guilt by association (a form of association fallacy), it illogically attempts to shift culpability from a villain to an idea regardless of who is espousing it and why. Specific instances of Reductio ad Hitlerum are also frequently likely to suffer from the fallacy of begging the question or take the form of slippery slope arguments, which are frequently (though not always) false as well.
Any comparison to a Nazi propagandist creates a very nasty negative narrative whether it is explicitly stated or not. This is why the far left uses these kind of arguments to the point of being silly on internet message boards, and now IU Journalism School studies. If they can reduce you to a Nazi then no matter how accurate what you say is no longer matters; you can’t be credible because you are like the Nazi.
According to this study here is another example of Bill O’Reilly’s evil propaganda:
Testimonial [testimonial propaganda] involves a respected person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person. For example, in a segment about the new Pope, O’Reilly (4/19/05) referred to him as a good friend of the late Pope John Paul. Thus, through suggested friendship, the former Pope is called on to testify to the legitimacy of the new Pope. Testimonial can also be achieved through negative connotation when someone with a bad reputation is presented as endorsing a person or idea.
Vile propaganda technique or perhaps a newsworthy detail? The fact that Cardinal Ratzinger was a close friend of the former Pope is newsworthy just as if it were said that Ratzinger was a philosophical enemy to the pope or if they genuinely didn’t like each other. What if Jennifer Aniston came to my birthday party and the South Bend Tribune reported it. Was The Tribune reporting it to call on to my legitimate star power to make it appear that she was endorsing me for propaganda value; or just reporting a newsworthy fact? What do you think? I report, you decide.
There is so much ammunition in this ‘study’ but I will wrap up with this:
Criminals and terrorists were consistently presented as evil in that they endanger human life, but evil was also achieved through moral violation. Here are a few examples: University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill was described as following a Nazi philosophy, hating America, justifying murder, and as a traitor who comforts the enemy (3/2/05;2/7/05; 2/1/05). Illegal aliens were described as dangerous, out of control, causing chaos, and threatening the American way of life (4/7/05; 4/26/05; 4/25/05).
For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was described (1/17/05) as a hero because he had noble goals in opposing violence and correcting injustice.
Remember how I stated above that in journalism context is everything? The statements above become priceless when viewed in context.
Ward Churchill was a professor who stated the people who died on 9/11 were “little Eichmann’s”. Adolf Eichmann was the man who designed Hitler’s “final solution” for the Jews. The case Churchill made was clear. Our 3,000 dead were more then just a legitimate target, they deserved it for furthering capitalism and free enterprise which Ward Churchill loathes. Ward Churchill and others who spoke out with such nonsense were used by Al-Jezeera and Al-Qeada for propaganda purposes. That propaganda gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Isn’t it interesting that Conway and Grabe see no hypocrisy in using a Nazi reference against Bill O’Reilly but make out the man who refers to our dead as “little Eichmann’s” as the victim of mean ole Bill O’Reilly.
Now one must ask, why did Bill O’Reilly say that the illegal alien problem was “dangerous, out of control, causing chaos”? We certainly need to ask that very important question because obviously Conway and Grabe simply didn’t care. Bill O’Reilly has covered story after story of criminal illegal aliens who have killed people, raped and driven while intoxicated. These criminal aliens had long records and were never deported. Such a situation indeed is dangerous, out of control and causes chaos in the lives of the victims.
As for the last example of Bill O’Reilly’s evil propaganda cited by this ‘study’, the Martin Luther King example quoted above, is just too much. Conway and Grabe had already reached the point of being laughable before they tossed this in. May I see a show of hands of those who do NOT believe that Dr. King was a hero? Apparently, according to the IU School of Journalism, pointing out this self evident truth is engaging in propaganda on par with Nazi monsters. I wonder what the IU Black Faculty & Staff Council will have to say about that?
The study had referenced communications theorist Carl Hovland. I found that to be most amusing because Hovland is known for what is sometimes called “attitude change propaganda theory”. One form of this is when only some of the facts are given or those partial facts are misrepresented with an attitude that deliberately creates an unspoken narrative in the reader’s mind (O’Reilly the Nazi propagandist or like the Washington Post example above). This study, which plays so fast and loose with the facts, context and definitions is a quintessential example of Hovland’s theory in practice.
Is the state of academia so bad and so partisan, that they have reduced themselves to writing preposterous propaganda to each other to help keep themselves convinced? Congratulations Mike Conway and Maria Elizabeth Grabe, you just managed to get in my upcoming book.
UPDATE – O’Reilly hit IU again today (3-3-09) on his program. Considering the ammunition Conway and Grabe gave him who can find fault with it? Amy Adams’ comments were featured on The Factor during the IU segment. She told O”Reilly how radical many of the J school profs are. The alumni will not be pleased with this situation, but I suppose it is better that they know the kind of silly propaganda that some professors are trying to peddle as scholarship these days.
For our Florida readers: Bill O’Reilly will be speaking in Palm Beach at a fundraiser for the charity http://ithappenedtoalexa.org/. Be sure to attend if you can to support a good cause.