Perhaps you are aware of Fox News’ attempts to force satirist Al Franken to remove “Fair and Balanced” from the title of his new book ( Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right). Leaving aside for a moment the sheer amusement value of their argument (that Franken will blur and distort the meaning of “fair and balanced”), let’s look at Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly and his rant in (where else?) the Murdoch-owned Daily News, wherein he attempts to assert that Al Franken — one of the originial writers at Saturday Night Live — is not in fact a satirist, and therefore not entitled to use Fox’s catch phrase in a satirical effort. With no trace of irony, he says:
Fox News has become the highest-rated news network on cable because we feature lively debate and all honest voices are welcome. We don’t do drive-by character assassinations, and we don’t denigrate opposing points of view by launching gratuitous personal attacks . . . It makes me sick to see intellectually dishonest individuals hide behind the First Amendment to spread propaganda, libel and slander. But this is a growing trend in America, where the exchange of ideas often degenerates into verbal mud wrestling with intent to injure.
All I can make of this is that apparently, he doesn’t watch his own show. His abusive tactics are seen by millions of viewers a week, and have been well documented. Only a few months ago he cut the mike of a 9/11 victim’s son because he disagreed with his comments. More than this, Franken makes the case quite well that O’Reilly belongs on the cover of this book, given his history of distorting and exaggerating his journalism resume, not to mention his ongoing attempts to cast his upper-middle-class upbringing as poor and humble. Franken has publically busted O’Reilly before, too, since Bill seems to like to claim to have won a Peabody — which, of course, has never happened.
The scary thing is this: people still take O’Reilly seriously.