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Bill O’Reilly was on fire Tuesday night, saying over and over that if the House passes the Senate bill via the outrage of “deeming” it to have been passed, Obama’s presidency will be “over.” Therefore, O’Reilly thinks, Obama will tell the House not to use that method. This does not seem plausible to me. Obama’s entire course of conduct so far tells us that he will stop at nothing. Besides, if O’Reilly’s idea were true, it would mean that, in the event that House cannot pass the bill this week by a normal vote, Obama will give up on health care—this week.

Apart from that, gosh is O’Reilly difficult to watch. He interrupts his guests constantly, not letting them finish a point, and the conversation, if you can call it that, consists of a bunch of half finished phrases flying back and forth. At one point he asked a guest, what are the different groups of Democrats who are holding back from supporting the bill? I was curious to hear the answer. The guest started saying, “First, there’s the pro-life group”—and O’Reilly interrupted him and didn’t let him finish his answer, or even his sentence. Why ask a person a question and not let him answer you? It’s unacceptable. I keep wishing his guests will say, “Bill, would you let me finish what I’m saying?” But I guess that’s too much to hope for.

The show is unwatchable. And I don’t consider O’Reilly intelligent. I think his success is a function of his ego.

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The Dutch blogger Snouck Hurgronje writes:

You wrote:

“The show is unwatchable. And I don’t consider O’Reilly intelligent. I think his success is a function of his ego.”

An O’Reilly clip interviewing Mr. Wilders was shown on GoV. It was the first time I saw O’Reilly and indeed he is unwatchable. Check the first comment by me.

However, I do not understand what you mean by stating that O’Reilly’s success is a function of his ego.

Another question: why do people want to watch this? And finally: what will it so for the manners of the watchers?

LA replies:

I mean that brash self-confidence will take a person a long way. The first time I saw Bill O’Reilly, ten or perhaps as much as 15 years ago, he was being interviewed on a TV show about his new career as a commentator. I think he said he had previously been a television reporter, then retired for a short time to take courses and read books and develop a world view. He said that he now had a thought-out philosophy and was ready for this new career. In fact his ideas were singularly uninteresting. He also had (to me) an unpleasant personality and a strikingly unpleasant face. Yet somehow he made himself seem important, by his intense promotion of himself. So a person can have nothing of substance to offer, yet be a success through an overweening belief in his own value.

But equally bad, or rather absurd, is the signature aspect of the show—the endless string of seemingly identical pretty blonde “Fox News consultants” with plunging necklines who appear as his guests, so that the show basically consists of this ugly guy O’Reilly interviewing one chattering blonde “bird” after another (or often two at a time, smiling and chirping in unison as though sitting together on a branch) on the news of the day (though some of the blondes are smart, like Megan something). It’s beyond a bad joke. I’ve joked with a friend that California must have a law school solely for beautiful blondes who want TV careers as “legal consultants.”

As for the effect of the show on the culture, obviously it is bad. As for why people watch it, the same could be asked about almost everything on TV today. I don’t know how any normal person could swallow it. For example, I don’t know how any human being could go on watching a program that has repeated advertisements for prescription drugs in which half the ad consists of a long list of medical conditions. “If you suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, brain cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer, Hodgkins lymphoma, ulcers, you should not use Cialis.” “If you find yourself experiencing nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, vertigo, blackouts, impotence, flaking skin, flatulence, anxiety, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, schizophrenic episodes, or fantasies of mass murder, immediately stop taking Cialis and call your doctor.”

First, why would anyone want to purchase a drug that had so many horrific possible side effects? Wouldn’t that list of possible side effects make a person recoil from the product?

Second, this is all on television—an entertainment medium. How could anyone watch this? People have become completely desensitized. It’s not just that it’s extremely distasteful and unpleasant to hear a list of frightening medical conditions read to you every few minutes, it’s mentally bad for us to be constantly reminded of disease, to have thoughts of disease planted in our consciousness. Television has been ruined by the government’s ruling some years ago allowing prescription drug ads on TV. But why aren’t there other types of companies that want to advertise on, say, the evening network news programs? Why are the ads on these shows so disproportionately for prescription drugs?

Even if the evening network news programs were not left-wing mind manipulation aimed at a mentally subnormal audience, I would not watch them because of the prescription drug ads. They’re simply unacceptable.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Boy are you ever right about Bill O’Reilly’s show. I have found it completely unwatchable basically since it first came on Fox News, and unfortunately it seems to have really set the tone for cable talk shows generally. He sells himself a “no spin” guy, but that’s not what he’s really about. What he’s about is his own gut feeling on an issue, which can’t be wrong simply because it’s what he believes at the moment. If somebody comes along and wants to express a real thought—which, after all, takes a few moments and perhaps even a few whole sentences—he waves his arms impatiently and interrupts them while jamming his pen at their chests. He’s not very different from Sean Hannity on that score (who by the way is an embarrassment, never having expressed an actual argument in his entire career, just lots of bald assertions).

Listening to people shout in sentence fragments has become the dominant mode of discussion in our media, which seems intentionally designed to make real reflection impossible. We see everywhere a substitution of reasoned argument for inchoate, loud, angry assertions which seem more designed to stimulate the senses than to awaken the mind. We seem to have despaired of the possibility of discovering any truth or meaning through reason, and have settled instead for the dubious joy of argument for its own sake.

Dare I suggest a connection to Vitalism? At any rate, people who constantly claim that the real point of philosophy is not to find answers but merely to ask questions—and this is a sort of informal orthodoxy nowadays—have no business complaining about the devolution of our discourse into so much angry babbling. If it’s all about “the journey” rather than the destination, after all, then why should the journey be much more than a thrill?

David H. from Oregon writes:

Like Mr. Auster, I yearn to hear one of O’Reilly’s guests threaten to tear out the earpiece and walk off the set unless he is permitted to finish his remarks without being interrupted. Not only is O’Reilly’s behavior discourteous, but old people like me have lost the ability to understand speech when two are talking at once. Unlike a young person, we can’t pick out the words of one when both are talking.

LA replies:

I didn’t know that younger people could understand two people talking at the same time any better than older people. And besides it’s irrelevant whether you can discern the words or not; no thought can be completed when two people are simultaneously talking.

Karl D. writes:

One of O’Reilly’s excuses for cutting off his guests constantly is that he only has an hour and has to keep things moving along, or that he is just cutting to the chase. As if he had a two hour show it would be any better? Sometimes I suspect the man has a narcissistic personality disorder. He is always singing his own praises and really fancies himself as a pseudo president / self-appointed American savior. “Looking out for the folks,” as he is always fond of saying. It is really funny in an almost pathological kind of way. Did you know he pals around Al Sharpton? Talk about clash of the egos? In the end however he really is a Liberal guy on a lot of issues. Incidentally, I think you are talking about Megyn Kelly. She is one of the smarter and more attractive of the Foxy Gals. My bete noir however is Margaret Hoover (an O’Reilly regular) as I think I have written you before. She is from the David Frum school. We should all just lighten up and get with it in her view. Especially when it comes to gay marriage and gay rights. Ugh.

Jim C. writes:

SAT 1585 = IQ 150

Unintelligent? Methinks not. O’Reilly has a lawyer’s smarts, which is why you can’t stand him. O’Reilly would have made a first-rate Supreme Court justice, because he possesses extraordinary analytical skills, which is the key to his success—along with his ego.

LA replies:

If that is O’Reilly’s SAT score that you have mentioned, meaning that that O’Reilly had just below 800 on both his verbal and math SATs (or perhaps 800 on one of them), I am very doubtful of that.

Also, readers should remember that Jim has a firm conviction, stated many times in these pages, that Obama’s IQ is no higher than 105. Not even, say, 115? Let’s just say that I disagree with Jim’s estimates of the intelligence of public figures.

Doug H. writes:

I couldn’t agree more. I can only stand a couple of minutes at most. He asks a question of a guest then proceeds to answer it himself quickly cutting off the person’s attempt to answer. Years ago he was involved in a scandal regarding alleged phone sex. He threatened over and over again to expose this as fraud. Then he settled. He lost all my respect. He constantly says the American people want honesty.

I wonder if he actually thinks that Obama is a smart man who is not a Marxist racist person.

Bruce B. writes:

When I was in high school (early 90’s) O’Reilly was a reporter on a TV tabloid show (I’d watch anything back then). According to his Wikipedia entry, he considers himself a “traditionalist.”

D. writes from Seattle:

I’m pretty sure I sent you a comment along the same lines in the past, but since this issue is relevant again, I’ll say it again.

Anybody who is important enough to be invited to Bill O’Reilly’s show, or any other similar show, is also important enough simply to walk out of the studio if repeatedly interrupted by the host. What kind of message are you sending to the audience about yourself and about the relevance of your positions if you allow yourself to be bullied by the host? Bill O’Reilly is not your boss at work—what is he going to do if you walk out, fire you? I’d give him a few warnings, and if he continues interrupting, I’d politely say that we can’t have a civilized discussion under such circumstances, get up and walk out. Imagine how many hits you’d get on YouTube if you did that—it could only increase your public standing.

When I was a kid growing up in Eastern Europe, there was this talk show with a rather abrasive but funny host covering mainly entertainment topics (actors, singers, athletes, etc). Once he had an older actress as a guest; he somehow offended her and she got up and walked out of the studio. The shocked look on the hosts’s face was priceless. And of all the episodes I watched, that is the only one I still remember after 30 or so years.

Message to future guests: show some spine and walk out.

Jim C. writes:

Here’s the link for Billy’s SAT—and note that their primary source is Time, which surely fact checked it (otherwise Bambi would have had a 1600). And please don’t diss Bambi—I argued that he sports a rock-solid 106!

LA replies:

How does Time know it? Does the College Board release SAT scores to reporters?

Jim replies:

I’d imagine Time contacted O’Reilly directly (it’s common knowledge that O’Reilly attended the high-IQ Chaminade [I went to Brooklyn Prep]). I’m sure O’Reilly jumped at the chance of unzipping his cognitive manhood and probably authorized either Chaminade or whatever college he attended to release it.

LA continues:

Or, as suggested at that page, maybe they get the scores from the college the individual attended.

But why would a college give out this private info, assuming it still has it?

I’ve never asked this question before. How do we know anyone’s IQ? How do we know that JFK had 117 IQ (too low), or that Richard Nixon had 143? How was this info obtained?

Jim replies:

Here is site, How to estimate your IQ based on your GRE or SAT scores.

LA continues:

O’Reilly repeatedly says amazingly stupid things.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, he had as a guest Karl Rove, who was saying that Obama wants to bring socialism. And O’Reilly resisted that idea, saying things like, “Obama’s not taking away my house.” He said that at least three times. As though anyone ever said that socialism means that the government takes away people’s homes! Communist regimes have done that, not socialist governments, let alone democratic socialist governments.

It’s not believable on its face that a person whose work is commenting on politics, and who thinks that the definition of socialism is that the government takes away people’s homes, and who doesn’t know the difference between Communism and socialism, has a 150 IQ—in the top one quarter of the top percentile of the population.

However, here’s my bottom line. Whatever O’Reilly’s IQ may be,—even if it’s 150, which, again, I’m extremely skeptical of—I do not consider the individual I see before me on television named Bill O’Reilly to be an intelligent person. He’s a bull-headed egotist, who (as a reader says above) believes that whatever notion popped into his head last is the truth, and then (to use a phrase of the moment) keeps trying to ram it through.

March 19

Paul K. writes:

A commenter at VFR said that Glenn Beck seems like someone who just started reading important books and was all excited about them, if slightly confused. O’Reilly, on the other hand, gives the impression that he’s never read anything beyond the daily paper and is merely excited about his gut feelings.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 17, 2010 10:04 AM | Send

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