Saturday, April 22, 2017

O'Reilly the Loser

The big news Internet-wise is the canning of Bill O’Reilly by Fox News, the most watched cable-network, with O’Reilly’s “show” by far the most watched and profitable. The cancellation by scores of advertisers that made his “show” the most watched, most profitable enterprise forced this action. News/commentary is not the primary interest in the Fox-owned empire of Rupert Murdoch but profits are.

Accompanying this surprising affair is a tumultuous shakeup in the Fox News prime-time schedule, with long-time commentators doing the musical changing-chairs game, obviously an effort to maintain the audience by keeping the familiar faces in view, though it’s doubtful that any new/old face (in this case, Tucker Carlson for O’Reilly) will have the “O’Reilly impact,” often rude but informative as well.

I have not been an O’Reilly fan except for catching the first few minutes of his “show,” the monologue about world/domestic subjects, always biting but always fair and square. O’Reilly was not a good interviewer because he inevitably wound up arguing with his guests, often simply talking over their remarks, sometimes obviously losing his temper, especially if his opposition-presenter was highly intelligent and articulate, someone like Charles Krauthammer or Karl Rove. He seemed disposed toward competing rather than discussing and when “out-talked” was not a graceful loser.

O’Reilly sort of followed in the footsteps of former Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes, who was canned last year account allegations of sexual harassment made by several women in the Fox lineup, who, whether ordered to or not, showed as much of their natural assets as possible for the cameras—much cleavage, thigh, and upper body—bare shoulders, etc., sort of “ladies of the night” style.

This obvious cheesecake feature diminished the seriousness of anything they had to say. The men, contrarily, dress to the nines, Adams-apple to the feet. I will be accused of some kind of bigotry or gender-hate for saying this but it’s true and applies to other networks as well.

Fox had paid out enough in dollars and reputation for the alleged improprieties of Ailes and O’Reilly but seems to have a dress-code that invites the leer and the gawking. I refer to these talking-head programs as “shows” rather than information-centers because of this approach, actually demeaning to women since it indicates that wit is less important than sexy attention-getters. By far the best of the “shows” in this venue is CNN’s Smerconish, who never overbooks and lets people actually talk.

Regarding politics, Fox is the lone TV-outfit making the case for the conservatives (republicans), though it’s fair to say it lives up to its claim of being fair and balanced. The other biggies—MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS—are unabashedly “progressive” (used to be “liberal”) and were/are virtual PR outlets for the democrats, demonstrated most recently in the handling of the presidential campaigns. CNN even furnished Clinton a list of the questions she would be asked in its “debate” fiasco, becoming an object of ridicule in the process.

The CNN apparatchik in this affair was Donna Brazile, who surprisingly but unavoidably was fired and immediately installed—unsurprisingly—by the DNC as its chairperson, which office she doesn’t now hold. The talking-head “shows” on all the networks are entirely predictable, a couple or three interviews conducted by some overpaid anchor with a government official, followed by panels of the self-appointed experts to explain what was said and why.

Both Ailes and O’Reilly (golden parachutes of $40,000 and $25,000, respectively) deserved to be canned if they were actually guilty of harassment. Showmen/newsmen in the public eye have a responsibility to invoke trust due to decency, a vital attribute to being credible in any other way.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark