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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
O’Reilly vs. Levin: Is it too much to ask that they might kill each other? 
Friday, September 26th, 2008 | 02:30 pm [politics, video]
Those of you within range of radio stations that carry The Radio Factor and The Mark Levin Show, who are masochistic enough to actually listen to both programs, got a treat yesterday. It started with Bill O’Reilly’s opening monologue on the Radio Factor, where he lit into “right-wing ideologues” with the kind of sanctimonious fury he usually reserves for invited guests on his show. A few hours later, O’Reilly’s rant was answered by one of those very right-wingers he had been going on about, Mark Levin, who mocked the size of O’Reilly’s radio audience and promised O’Reilly would be off the air in a few weeks and that he (Levin) would quickly pick up any of his decent affiliates.

O’Reilly and Levin — peas in a pod as far as bigheaded blowhards go — were ostensibly fighting over the federal bailout of the mortgage crisis. O’Reilly sees the bailout as undesirable and a certain drag on the economy, but necessary; Levin labels it socialism and rejects it on principle. But the relative merit of the bailout was really just an excuse for the two of them to engage in a good old fashioned dick-measuring contest.

Let’s have a look at the tale of the tape, as it were.

First there’s Bill O’Reilly, the self-appointed, unelected Sheriff of the World. As the host of a news analysis program on basic cable and a syndicated radio show, keeping powerful people in line and watching out for all us regular folks is his job. His TV and radio audiences combine for a reach of about ten million people. He is what happens when you hand a megaphone to the village idiot. Though he avoided naming names in his rant against right-wing commentators (while specifying Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and threatening to kick their asses), he pointedly referred to those who cry “socialism” in response to the bailout, an obvious jab at Levin, who cries “socialism!” more frequently than that kid who was the protagonist of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” cried . . . whatever he cried.

O’Reilly also took a thinly-disguised swipe at conservative capo dei capi Rush Limbaugh: “These idiots, I mean, they're misleading you. They're lying to you. They're rich, these guys — big cigars, all of that.” Limbaugh, like all truly heterosexual men, is an inveterate puffer of expensive cigars.

When challenged, O’Reilly’s favorite tactics are to shout down his opponent, cut their microphone, or hang up on them. He also frequently employs the epithet “pinhead.”

Next, Mark Levin. I write this with the reasonable presumption that most of you have no idea who Mark Levin is. Briefly, he is a shriller, less likable Limbaugh; Hannity, louder and dimmer; a mindless slave to his ideology; a hopeless idiot utterly convinced of his own erudition. His radio audience is actually larger than O’Reilly’s, consisting of about six million people who forget to turn the radio off at the end of Hannity’s show. As an obnoxious know-it-all whose politics fall somewhere to the right of James Dobson, Levin ought to be a household name on the order of Limbaugh and Hannity. Instead, he’s far less known than colleagues with much smaller audiences, like Dennis Prager and G. Gordon Liddy.

Why? I have a theory. Levin follows Hannity on most of his affiliates. In fact, my local station WARK added Hannity and Levin to their schedule at exactly the same time. I doubt that’s a coincidence, especially given the amount of cross-promotion Hannity and Levin give each other on their respective programs. Hannity, as Levin’s lead-in, is nipping at Limbaugh’s heels with a weekly cumulative audience of over thirteen million people. Hannity is Friends back in the Must See TV days. Mark Levin is Will & Grace — people only tune in and pretend to like him because he comes on right after the show they’re actually interested in. (And for Christ’s sake, don’t leave a comment telling me that I’m not being fair to Will & Grace and it was really a very funny show if I’d only given it a chance. The only difference between it and The Single Guy, or Boston Common, or Suddenly Susan, or Veronica’s Closet, or any of the other fucking duds NBC tried to slide in after Friends and Seinfeld is that it hung in the slipstream for eight seasons instead of one or two.) I wouldn’t be mocking the size of someone else’s ratings if most of mine depended on Sean Hannity’s leavings.

Levin deployed his considerable wit and rhetorical acumen to respond to O’Reilly’s tirade. Regular listeners know well what a clever man Levin is, giving “funny” nicknames to people and institutions that annoy him — “The New York Slimes,” for instance, or “Barack Milhous Nobama.” He responded to O’Reilly by unleashing a torrent of smartly vicious retorts, referring to his show as “The Non-Factor,” calling him “a jerk,” and comparing him to Ted Baxter (a lift from Limbaugh, who first made the comparison in a New York Times — pardon me, Slimes profile a few months ago). He also accused O’Reilly of paying more in “hush money” to the woman who sued him for sexual harassment than he (Levin) had ever earned. Oh, snap. He then performed a shameless act of verbal fellatio on Rush Limbaugh, but that happens so frequently on Levin’s show that I almost didn’t mention it.

So who won? I’m not sure. I find both men to be utterly loathsome, though for slightly different reasons. O’Reilly is at least no ideologue, unless you count “Bill O’Reilly” as an ideology; Levin is perhaps the most unpleasant personality in all of talk radio . . . okay, maybe second most unpleasant — there’s still Glenn Beck, afterall.

Hearing these two go at it yesterday put me into a weird, uncertain headspace. Who was I to root for? It was like watching the Yankees play the Braves in the 1996 World Series — hope for a good game that ends with both teams and all their poser fans swallowed up in an immense earthquake.

Or how about this analogy: it was like seeing two school bullies suddenly tire of giving swirlies and wedgies and turn on each other. What outcome do you, as someone who has been terrorized by both of these assholes all year, hope for? That they’ll knock each other out and both get expelled?

Right. They never expel anyone anymore.

Media Matters has
a transcript of O’Reilly’s tantrum, along with a video, which I have helpfully embedded below.
Allahpundit over at Hot Air has an audio clip of Levin’s counter-tantrum, which I have likewise posted.
Enjoy the debate tonight. I’m glad McCain has decided to show up, though part of me wishes Toby Benson’s suggestion yesterday of a Palin vs. Obama debate had been taken instead. It would have been fun to see Barack pick the meat off her bones.
Sunday, September 28th, 2008 | 02:20 am (UTC)
I sould have commented earlier about this but I was coaching a football game last night and only read the article on my phone.

Currently I am teaching a class called Modern World Events better known as "current events" last week we did a unit on bias in the media. This unit required me to sit through two different days of O'Reilly and then show them again in class. What I think is interesting is how well you nail it. O'Reilly does think he is the Sheriff of the World. During one episode he showed film of Hillary Clinton saying that she had warned of the impending crisis in the market. He says something like "If she and all the other people that knew this was coming why didn't she come on the Factor and tell the world." It's as if he believes that is show is so influential that if someone comes on the Factor it is because his show is more important than the nightly news.

When I started teaching this unit I thought the kids would get a lot out of it because it could open up a debate about how the media shapes our beliefs about news and what we find is important. In reality these kids who are mostly juniors and seniors in high school have no idea who John Stewart is let alone who Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity are.

There is so much information to be learned here but trying to decipher how the general public consumes the media is like trying to untie the Gordian Knot. You can't do it. (Unless you destroy the whole thing I guess). People are lazy and would rather believe that Barack Obama has the middle name Hussein than take the time to figure out why he is named that.
Sunday, September 28th, 2008 | 03:03 am (UTC)
I've gone from being appalled at people my age and younger who have no idea what is going on in the world to being pleasantly surprised when I meet someone who knows who Stewart, Colbert, O'Reilly, Olbermann, etc. are. There is a very depressing lack of curiosity about the media and the world in general, and it seems to cut across demographic lines. I'm convinced that many of humanity's most serious social problems could be solved if we only had more thoughtful people.

As for O'Reilly, yeah, he's a fascinating figure. Unlike Limaugh and Hannity and their right-wing ilk, he's not repugnant because of his ideology. I actually agree with a lot of his political stances. What makes O'Reilly such a prick is how warped his perspective is by his own vanity. He lives in an O'Reilly-centric universe. He sincerely believes that he is one of the most powerful men in the world, and that elected officials and giants of industry and entertainment should all come to him for help and to be admonished when they step out of line.

He hosts a show on basic cable. It's self-delusion on a scale more epic than any I've ever seen.
Monday, September 29th, 2008 | 04:22 am (UTC)
The thing I am most disappointed about teaching this unit, is that the curiosity doesn't exist in many of my students. I find it very difficult to make them find information on their own and largely this is what the current unit is about. I can present episodes of cable news until their eyes bleed, show them the New York Post and Times and try to explain the different bents, but until they care to actually look this unit is meaningless.

What's worse we have teachers openly support legislation that is on the ballot in November who is hanging posters on the wall and taking every opportunity to tell the kids about his opinion and they can't even catch the bias in that.

Don't even get me started.
Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 | 02:36 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine that bias or sensationalism in the media would have interested me much when I was 17. But, then again, there was no O'Rielly or Levin back then.

Do young people even get or know that the media isn't supposed to be biased, unless it's, of course, an opinion piece (like Steve's fine blog)? Opinion IS the news to them. Maybe they don't know that the media has a responsiblity to present information fairly. They don't know they're being duped.

I hope you find a way to show them that in today's knock out drag out war for ratings, there's still two sides to everything....and they're really going to have to learn to do their homework if they want to find the truth.

Oh, and by the way Steve, Will and Grace was good stuff...I miss Karen and Jack.
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