Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bill Fails the Test: More Paranoia from O'Reilly

Bill Fails the Test

Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I decided to head down to the local market store to buy myself a newspaper, the Manteca Bulletin so I could look through the classifieds for a full-time job. When I looked in the “Local” section, I found an article written by none other than Bill O’Reilly. Back in my conservative days, I used to be quite a fan of O’Reilly but even after I started down a different political journey, I still had some respect for him although it began to waver with his increasing arrogance that often comes to journalists as they’re rising to fame. Now, as a proud liberal, I am critical of O’Reilly and plan to devote articles to critiquing O’Reilly and his warped analysis. O’Reilly says that he’s neither a conservative or a liberal but an independent. He’s welcome, of course, to any title that he wishes but I cannot help but notice the ways that he seems to reason like a conservative many times. This New Year Day’s article “Upcoming presidential election a real test of faith” looks to me like what I regard as a typical right-wing scare piece. I have decided to critique it point-by-point. In the following analysis, I have decided to produce the entirely of O’Reilly’s article in blue with my comments in green. Enjoy!

You have got to hand it to the committed left media, they are ruthless and fanatical-much more so than the relatively few right-wingers currently inhabiting America’s newsrooms.

O’Reilly here begins his article by trotting out his response concerning a “committed left media”. Of course this is a wild generalization on his part and he makes no effort to back up the rest of his careless generalization about some supposed “left media” and even goes on to attack them as being “ruthless and fanatical” all because they are apparently anti-religion to the core.

The latest leftist tactic is to put the “hypocrite” on any Republican presidential candidate who dares mention his “faith”.

How does O'Reilly know that this is the "latest leftist tactic"? As a secular progressive, I have no problem with any presidential candidate who mentions his or her faith. But I do have a problem with candidates who take the high moral ground and pound the pulpit about the evils of society and certain “sins” all the while committing a sin of their own. The most obvious and recent example is Ted Haggard, of course. Evangelicals rushed to defend him and when he finally admitted to his congregation that he was a “liar and a deceiver” and confessed “sexual immorality” to his congregation, then some began distancing themselves from him. What is a person to do then take him to task for his hypocrisy? Does the label “hypocrite” not apply?

In all fairness, though, I don’t believe in vilifying all Republicans who talk about their faith in God or talk about what they value. I can disagree with them tremendously and it’s very much possible for them to have my deepest respect, as long as they strive to be consistent. O’Reilly will have none of this, however. You are either with the faith-based traditionalists or you are their sworn enemy and are out to destroy them at all costs because you hate America. You simply cannot be in the middle or indifferent to them, you are either with them or against them period. This is how O’Reilly’s opinion seems to come across to me. Again, I have no problem with folks like Pat Buchanan or Gary Bauer expressing their faith. I do have a problem with people like James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and Ann Coulter moralizing from the pulpit and then not practicing what they preach.

Leading the charge is the Washington Post, a newspaper that is densely populated with secular progressives.

Does anyone here besides me smell the charges of “conspiracy” in the air? If I understand O’Reilly’s logic, here, there is a anti-faith conspiracy by these horrible secular progressives who are out to destroy people of faith, presumably because we don’t want to be accountable to their god for our “sins”.

Their chief anti-religion hatchet man is columnist Harold Meyerson, a self-proclaimed “non-believer” who routinely smears public people who demonstrate spirituality.

O”Reilly is just supplying one example here? I thought this was all members of the "leftist media"? Where are the rest of them? Is it just one guy? Okay. So what if Meyerson proclaims himself to be a “non-believer”? Is that offensive? Is that insulting? Is he a disgusting human being because he doesn’t believe that O’Reilly’s deity exists? I guess some conservative Christians find disbelief in their creeds insulting and offensive. I am an atheist/Secular Humanist- perhaps they would find my disbelief in their creeds offensive and insulting. If so, I can only say two words to them: grow up!

I have never heard of this person before O”Reilly mentioned him and so I would ask O’Reilly to demonstrate this routine smearing of people who demonstrate spirituality. I would ask him to provide references from Meyerson demonstrating these “smears” as he puts it. One last comment is in order here: O’Reilly seems to have constructed a false dichotomy between faith-based traditionalists and secular progressives. What about secular conservatives? What about secular libertarians and religious libertarians who both agree on free-market enterprise, individual liberty, and constitutional monarchy? Some political libertarians happen to be religious while others are secular. What about secular independents like Christopher Hitchens? What about complete political moderates like atheist historian Richard Carrier, who happens to be a Secular Humanist? What about religious progressives? I am hoping O’Reilly doesn’t think that a “religious progressive” is an oxymoron but one would never guess that such a phrase isn’t exactly that from the way that O’Reilly is often known to divide people into these two groups, creating this false dichotomy.

Earlier this month, Meyerson wrote a column entitled: “Hard-liners for Jesus” and it was a beauty.

Why doesn’t O’Reilly go through it piece by piece with a rebuttal commentary like I am attempting to do with this article? And do not some “hard-liners” deserve to be criticized for immoral behavior and hypocrisy? Do not folks like Ted Haggard and others deserve the label “hypocrite”? Oh, no! That is just a mean-spirited attack! Only conservative Christians are allowed to attack people, I guess. Christians can attack “secular progressives” and suggest that any bad deeds on their part are just a natural consequence of their "lack of morals" which can only come from authoritarian fundamentalism while any attack or criticism from a “secular progressive” against any conservative Christian is met with paranoid screams of “Persecution!!!”

The lead paragraph went like this: “As Christians across the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it’s a fitting moment to contemplate the mountain of moral, and mortal, hypocrisy that is our Christianized Republican party.”

Okay, so is Meyerson putting the “hypocrite” label on all Republican candidates who dare declare any “faith” or is he just applying the criticism to those who have clearly demonstrated hypocrisy and are rightfully being taken to task for it? One would never know by the way that O’Reilly doesn’t analyze Meyerson’s article.

But Meyerson was just warming up. He then went on to assassinate the characters of GOP politicians , including the president: “Bush whose catechism is a merry mix of torture and piety…”

Which GOP politicians were hit by this piece? I guess in all fairness, one should include examples of exemplary GOP politicians who are authentic people of faith and then shame the hypocrites for not being like the exemplary Republicans of faith. O’Reilly doesn’t even touch on any reasons why Meyerson described Bush’s faith as “ a merry mixture of torture and piety”. I would’ve liked to have heard Meyersons’ side of the story. But suppose that this is a hit-piece with an anti-religious agenda to it. I have news for O’Reilly and his most loyal fans: Meyerson is just one person. Does this one person with an “anti-religious agenda” demonstrate any large-scale tactic from this supposed “secular progressive” media? If Meyerson is leading the charge, who is taking or marching orders behind him? Who is following him? Or is this more crass generalizing on O’Reilly’s part because he is offended and insulted at the thought that anyone would not share his religious beliefs? Perhaps anyone who doesn’t share his religious beliefs is a “secular progressive” by definition.

Blood dripping from the keyboard, Meyerson ended his brutal diatribe this way: “The most depressing thing about the Republican presidential race is that the party’s rank and file require their candidates to grow meaner each passing weak. And now, inconveniently, inconsiderately, comes Christmas, a holiday that couldn’t be better calibrated to expose the Republican’ rank, fetid hypocrisy.”

Actually I agree to an extent with Meyerson’s conclusion quoted here. I do agree that some Republicans, if not the candidates themselves, seem to grow meaner and meaner with time. It seems that some Christians in the Republican Party, at least to me, seem to be getting more and more paranoid about a “secular progressive” and even a “Communist” agenda that is out there for one reason: to persecute them and seem to me to want to treat the world with more judgmental contempt, self-righteous arrogance, and condemnation. How many times have we liberals, whether mainstream or radical, whether capitalist or not capitalist, have heard self-righteous conservatives tell us “you liberals have no morals!“ This is just another way of saying “The problem with you liberals is that you are not Bible-thumping, head-up-the-butt, self-righteous conservatives like us!” For one thing, what does it mean that liberals have no morals? Where do these “morals” come from? How does one acquire morals if one is lacking them? For many conservatives, there is only one answer: to start a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” and to “read the Bible” and to “pray daily” for his guidance. In other words, become a fundamentalist Christian- that is the only way to be “moral” and since us liberals are filthy heathens without Jesus Christ in our hearts, we simply lack morals. What self-righteous arrogant filth! (Many Christians would simply respond by saying “You know I am right! So what if you think what I said is ‘arrogant’? The truth is arrogant by nature!”) Some Christians seem to love treating liberals with mean-spirited contempt thinking that they're being "warriors for God" by doing so and if anyone is nice to a liberal, or refuses to treat them like dirt, that person is a "whimp" for Jesus.

Before moving on, though, what is more telling about this piece is that O’Reilly seems not to quote or list Meyerson’s reasons for reaching this “brutal” conclusion.

Joy to the world, Harold, right?

I guess Bill’s joy here would be seeing fundamentalist faith in God rammed down everyone’s throat, right Bill?

The strategy here is obvious: Any Republican who dares mention God or faith in the campaign will be vilified as full of “fetid hypocrisy” if the man has ever done anything wrong in his entire life.

Whoa! Hold the phone here! Whose strategy is this? Is this Meyerson’s strategy? This sure as hell is not my strategy although I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Reilly called me a “liar” and said I am either with Jesus or against him, meaning that if I am not a fundamentalist, then I can only possibly be, by default, a secular progressive out to persecute Christians. But there is a serious issue here: why should any Republican mentioning “God” or faith” be vilified? Only those who have demonstrated hypocrisy deserve the criticism. I wouldn’t go through a Republican’s background looking for any slip-up, especially if that person has apologized for the slip-up. What is past is past and as long as someone has apologized for any wrong-doing, all is forgiven in my opinion, whether that person is a traditionalist or a secularist.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t care if a Republican candidate dares mention “God” or his or her “faith”. If they have faith, that’s fine with me. My problem is when you have angry or arrogant pulpit-pounders who lash out at “sinners” and then lie about the skeletons in their own closet. Sheer faith doesn’t bother me at all but if someone is going to declare faith, all I ask of them are two things: to be humble and consistent. I know too many Christians who are sorely lacking both of them and it saddens me that they find the Republican Party so magnetic to belong to.

Using this tactic, the secular American media hope to get any faith-based issues out of the campaign.

Ah oh, I think I smell a conspiracy here! And this time it's not Pat Robertson beating the drum!

That would be good news for the Democrats, of course, because a Pew Research Study, shows that only 29 percent of Americans believe that the Democratic Party is friendly to religion. Thus, discussions about faith and values aren’t going to help the Democrats very much.

Okay, so, I guess it’s only the Republican Party who can be a party of religion and values. The only “religion” here, I guess, can only be a form of fundamentalism such as Christian fundamentalism and the only values here, can be fundamentalist values. The logic here seems simple (and tiring!): if you are not a fundamentalist Bible-thumper, you cannot have any “faith” or “religion” and you sure as hell cannot have any “values”. What about religious progressives? What about people who don’t believe that the Bible is the “inerrant word of God” but believe that it is a book of mythology and symbols designed to teach values and lessons about every day spirituality? What about people who are progressives who are strong people of faith? I think of Barack Obama who is a progressive Christian.

If O’Reilly is right about the poll, I can only conclude it’s because fundamentalist radio-show hosts demonize “liberal Christians” as being “wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing”, as being liars, traitors, “compromisers”, and fakes. I believe that it is the conservative Evangelicals who have convinced many Americans that only Evangelical fundamentalists can be “True Christians” and if you are an Evangelical fundamentalist, then you cannot be a political progressive: you have to favor supply-side economics, you have to hero-worship Ronald Reagan and think Sean Hannity can do no wrong, you have to think that universal health-care is “socialized medicine” and if you don’t enjoy arrogantly mocking liberals every chance you get in an adolescent manner, you simply have no sense of humor. Only fundamentalist Christians can have a sense of humor. Please!

But there is a larger issue in play for The Washington Post, The New York Times and other committed left media. Standing in the way of gay marriage, legalized drugs, unfettered abortion, and other sacred liberal causes, are people of faith.

Oh, yes, there is that false dichotomy again! You can only be a faith-based traditionalist (read: Evangelical fundamentalist Christian capitalist) or you can be a “secular progressive” (read: atheist, God-hating, Bible-burning, Communist who wants universal healthcare, a Soviet-style command economy, wants religion banned, people of faith persecuted, and the government telling people what to do!) I have news for Bill here: not all secularists or progressives support all of the above. I do not support the legalization of all drugs nor do I imagine all secularists or progressives do. I do not support “unfettered abortion”. I do believe that abortion is a choice between a woman and her doctor. I try to be more prochoice than proabortion. I am uncomfortable with late-term abortions and I am opposed to “partial-birth” abortions except in the case where a woman’s life is in danger. Does that sound like advocating “unfettered abortion”? Hell, I know of some atheists who are against abortion. Consider Doris Gordon, the founder of Libertarians for Life. She is an atheist and yet she is against abortion! I wonder if O’Reilly will categorically deny her existence because it is a logical impossibility! After all, only faith-based traditionalists can be against abortion, "unfettered" or not!

What about libertarians who are in favor of legalized drugs and “unfettered” abortion? Are these only “sacred liberal causes”? What about liberals who are against abortion? Perhaps O’Reilly might be surprised to learn that actress Kate Mulgrew, (who played Captain Kathryn Janeway on the television series Star Trek: Voyager) is a liberal Democrat and is against abortion? But that cannot be! Actually, it is!

My point here is that reality is not so simplistic as O’Reilly makes it out here to be! He seems to delight in making false-dichotomies and promoting this laughable myth of a “culture war” between the “traditionalists” and these “secular progressives”. The reality of the matter is more complex than O’Reilly wants it to be! His article gets funnier!

They are the primary opposition to the social liberal agenda fervently embraced by the leftist press.

If only everything were so black and white! Notice how O’Reilly here doesn’t support this assertion. What “leftist press”? Who are these “secular progressives” who are out to support this “social liberal agenda”?

If you can demonize (sorry) people of faith, if you can shut them up by playing the hypocrisy card, then say hello to a Swedish social system.

This seems to me like a slippery-slope. If you oppose fundamentalist faith, then you can only support a Swedish social system! Another false dichotomy here! I guess O’Reilly here believes that only fundamentalists can support free-market capitalism and that only secular progressives can possibly support the “Swedish social system”. And here lies the slope: shut up people of faith by shouting “hypocrite” and you inch closer and closer to the horrible, dreaded, Swedish social system and even that is a short step to full-blown Communism!! The horror of it all!

O’Reilly seems to think, here, that the only “people of faith” are Evangelical conservatives. What about liberals? What about religious moderates? Why is the only alternative to “faith” a “Swedish social system”?

Ah, Sweden, a country of 9 million people enjoying , perhaps, the most “progressive” political system on Earth. The quasi-socialistic government provides cradle-to-grave entitlements, most people never get married, and just about anything goes socially.

O’Reilly needs to explain how it is “progressive”? Is it a mixed economy and, if so, then what kind? A Keynesian economy? What kind of rights do people have here? What are these so-called “cradle-to-grave entitlements”? Most people never get married? Even if true, so what? Oh, I get it! That’s just immoral! If people are not thinking of getting married, then they need O’Reilly’s angry God rammed down their throats to force them into marriage or else the fiery flames of Hell await them!

By the way, about 85% of Swedes do not believe in God.

Which god is this?

Harold Meyerson would love Sweden.

How does O’Reilly know this?

The Washington Post should begin publishing there!

Why should they?

What a country!

Why don’t you move there, Bill? (Yes I realize he’s being sarcastic and so am I!)

None of this God stuff, none of this vile “fetid hypocrisy”.

How does O’Reilly know this? So does anyone who believes a Supreme Being automatically deserve to be vilified for “fetid hypocrisy”? Oh, that’s right! I keep forgetting! It seems to me that only faith-based traditionalist fundamentalists can believe that a higher Being exists! Religious moderates and religious liberals are just liars: they don’t believe that a deity of any sort exists! I am sure that even in Sweden there is hypocrisy. I am also sure that there are some Swedes who believe that 'God' exists but I have news for Bill: not all God-believers are guilty of "fetid hypocrisy"! Not all secularists, progressive or not, believes this to be true! I don't! The problem here is that O’Reilly seems to think that just the slightest bit of criticism against anyone of “faith” or believing in “God” constitutes an extreme hatred of religion and as desire for a “Swedish social system”. What nonsense! See how simplistic right-wing thinking can be at times? As I said before, O’Reilly may bill himself (no pun intended) as an “independent” but he sure as hell thinks like a right-winger.

Just an enormously high suicide rate while everybody does his or her own thing.

So what is O’Reilly saying here? That being secular leads people to suicide and that the only reason you can have for living is being created by O’Reilly’s ‘God’? I guess that’s the only reason to live- to believe in the ‘God” of Christian fundamentalists and to be angry Bible-thumpers like they are! It doesn’t matter if you’re a hypocrite, either; if someone calls you on it, it’s just a cover for that person’s desire for a “Swedish social system”. Let me share something with O'Reilly here: Bill, I was a Christian fundamentalist for ten years! I wound up so depressed and extremely suicidal. Deconverting from revealed religion saved my life! If I ever came to believe that Christianity was true and that the Bible was the "inerrant word of God", I would most likely take my own life! I would rather die by suicide than take up Christian fundamentalism or any variant of it. I can possibly conclude that some kind of creator exists but I can only be a deist, never a Bible-believing conservative Evangelical!

But back to the USA.

I didn’t go anywhere, Bill, you did!

In the months to come, you will hear and read countless news and commentaries about the moral hypocrisies of the GOP.

Oh, yes, the horrible-left wing conspiracy!!! Hmmm…when Hillary Clinton says that there is a “vast right-wing conspiracy” she is just being paranoid and deservers to be mocked. Whenever a Christian complains of a “left-wing secular conspiracy” then they’re facing a horrible reality and all conservatives need to take up arms! I guess Bill O’Reilly will be leading the charge on this one!

The secular-left media will hammer Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee, et al., while Sens. Clinton and Obama will get a pass.

Oh, come on! Obama and Clinton have openly spoken of their faith! I don’t hear any such media vilifying them for “fetid hypocrisy”. But then again, Bill here probably doesn’t consider them to be real people of faith and probably considers any belief in ‘God’ to be a complete and deliberate lie because Obama and Clinton are not conservative fundamentalist Christians- you cannot believe that there exists any such thing as “God” and not be one of them! I think O’Reilly is just a bit paranoid here.

Unless, of course, they start up with this God stuff.

Where has O’Reilly been? They started with this “God stuff” some time ago and openly appeal to “faith”. Bill’s problem is that this is not a militant, conservative, Evangelical-fundamentalist faith, the only “authentic faith” I am guessing here!

Then, all bets are off.

Sure, Bill. I imagine anything is possible in "Fantasy Land"!

So a word to the wise: The upcoming presidential election will not only be about important issues facing America. It will also be a test of faith.

I don’t know who Bill regards as “wise” here but I have a word for Bill: please consider investing in some kind of medication. Getting paranoid and creeped out by some imaginary “secular progressive” agenda is only going to make you look mentally disturbed! Soon enough you’ll be imagining Commies in your backyard trying to poison your water and plant microchips inside of your house to transmit information to the Kremlin! Oops! Sorry, Bill, I wasn’t suppose to tell you that: oh crap! Now I have blown the cover of the secular-progressive agenda! I might as well pack my bags and take the next flight to Sweden!

Now do people see how O'Reilly thinks and how paranoid-sounding his rant here is? He delcares himself an "independent" but thinks like right-wingers such as Ann Coulter (she employs this simplistic and paranoid kind of reasoning too!). O'Reilly sees this as a test of faith coming up soon but he doesn't seem to realize this it's his faith which has failed: his faith has failed the test of rationality.


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