August 11th, 2008

Bowser

S-P Is the Way to Be!

The chapter on children is the first in Part 2 of Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior, entitled "The Culture War Where You Live" (as opposed to "The Culture War in Your Yogurt"). The second is Chapter Ten, about how traditionalism isn't just for white people. He tries to claim that Martin Luther King was a traditionalist, presumably because he spoke of "Judeo-Christian heritage." Again with all Christians being on Bill's side! Do all the people who are deeply devoted to their religious beliefs but don't think they should force them on others not even register on his O'Radar? As for Dr. King, I don't doubt that he had a lot of what O'Reilly considers traditional values, but his main cause was an alteration to the status quo in order to improve people's lives. Can you get much more progressive than that? In the next chapter, Bill calls Gandhi a traditionalist. I think a lot of this is part of the with-us-or-against-us mentality that seems typical of George W. Bush Republicans. When O'Reilly was promoting this book on TV (I think it was on Oprah), he was trying to peg audience members as belonging to one side or the other based on their answers to a single question. You HAVE to be either one or the other. Would, say, a secular traditionalist cause his head to explode like a robot faced with a logical paradox? Probably not, because he'd just rationalize it away. On the other hand, he refers to Jesse Jackson as "a traditionalist, at least in some ways." He actually only names ONE way (that he didn't want Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed), but I still wonder why Jackson gets to be a PARTIAL traditionalist, while pretty much everyone else has to be all or nothing.

In the chapter on race, O'Reilly writes that "the gay marriage issue is overwhelmingly rejected by blacks. Their religion says homosexuality is not acceptable, and many African Americans bitterly resent the argument that marriage for homosexuals is a civil right." So what? Because homosexuals never had it anywhere near as bad as black Americans did (and, in some ways, still do), gay marriage isn't a civil right? You might as well argue that female suffrage isn't a civil rights issue, because white American women were never kept as slaves (well, not officially, anyway). And yes, it's a sad truth that many victims of prejudice are bigoted in their own ways. I've heard that a certain Mahatma mentioned in my last paragraph had some racist beliefs. Apparently O'Reilly thinks this kind of thing is good, at least when they're the same prejudices he shares.

This chapter also has O'Reilly mentioning that traditionalists are opposed to the "gangsta" movement among black children. I can't say I'm too fond of it either, but guess what? To me, the gangsta thing seems to come out of the same tough-guy attitude as referring to yourself as a "traditional warrior."

Chapter Eleven (no, not the bankruptcy kind) is mostly about O'Reilly's arguments and feuds with various secular-progressive celebrities. There isn't really much that I find worth commenting on, although he DOES use a rather unflattering picture of George Clooney. This from the same guy who complained that he looked "hideous" on the cover of Al Franken's book? Yeah, okay, I know no one's surprised at this point. I do have to say, however, that if the story O'Reilly tells about Nancy Pelosi petitioning to get him fired after he made a comment that she found offensive is true, then I think that was a bad idea on Pelosi's part. Sure, I'd definitely experience some schadenfreude if O'Reilly was fired, but I tend to think it's WAY too easy for people to get fired in this country, and don't generally support calls for MORE firings, even for people I don't like. Besides, isn't it O'Reilly's job to go off on right-wing rants? Firing someone for doing their job well is another one of those things that might make a robot's head explode. But then, hasn't O'Reilly started some petitions to get other people fired? Maybe getting a taste of his own medicine would be an example of that dull variety of karma he apparently believes in.

After describing his fights with celebrities, he says that his book "might also convince some Americans not fully engaged in the culture war to step up and support the good guys: us." But he really doesn't make an effort to explain WHY they're "the good guys," or even to say what they actually believe. Sure, he's given about three trillion things (give or take a few) that traditionalists should OPPOSE, but very little that he feels they should SUPPORT. God, blind patriotism, capitalism, being wished a Merry Christmas at Wal-Mart, and comparing people (but NOT the American government) to Nazis. That's about it so far. Looking ahead, it appears that there might be a little more in the last chapter, but why wait until that late in the book to explain your own position? The statement that I just quoted pretty much drives home the fact that he's not really trying to win anyone over to his side, but just to get those are already more or less on his side to be louder and more obnoxious.

I'll wrap this post up with a thought I had while reading the book. What if Bill is right about there being a vast S-P conspiracy? Well, I'm a pretty secular-progressive guy, so how come I can't get in on it? All I ever get from MoveOn's mailing list are petitions, commercials for Democratic candidates, and offers for free Obama buttons (I still haven't gotten mine, by the way)! Where's all the stuff about undermining the country's deeply held values? Am I not GOOD enough to be a part of that? That really frosts my cupcakes!

Eh, on the other hand, I'm probably better off. After all, I'd never join any conspiracy that would have me as a member.
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Communism is good! Christianity is stupid!

I know I've been making a lot of Culture Warrior posts recently, but some of you DID ask for it. I've now caught up in my posts to the point where I've actually read, and there are only three chapters left. I think I'll try to hold off on them for a little while, since I feel like I've been inundating your friends pages with these entries. Besides, I'm going to be pretty busy for the rest of this week.

Chapter Twelve of Bill O'Reilly's book starts out with him mentioning that the conservative Christian groups are the most vocal proponents of his side, but he thinks that isn't enough. He writes, "In order to stop the S-P movement cold, nonreligious Americans have to be persuaded that traditionalism is in their best interest." So people who aren't Christians or Jews should adhere to a philosophy based on "Judeo-Christian values"? How would O'Reilly like it if some other religion he didn't believe in tried to get him to accept THEIR values? But I guess it's worth it to avoid a country in which you can practice any religion you want as long as you don't force it on others! Oh, the HORROR!

The next paragraph has Bill arguing that a socialistic system "is impossible, especially in a land of 300 million people, but the S-Ps will never believe that." Then, in the one after that, he says, "The secular-progressive dream is not an impossible one for them to achieve." Um, would you mind MAKING UP YOUR FRICKIN' MIND? The anti-socialism paragraph also says, "If they gain power, your assets will become their assets." Seems like it would be the opposite for poor people, but I shouldn't be surprised that he doesn't think any of THEM would read this book. Unfortunately for Bill, I checked the book out from the public library, which people of all different income levels are allowed to use. And, well, maybe total socialism ISN'T practical, but why does that mean we shouldn't make ANY movements in that direction?

O'Reilly also takes on European "relativism," under which "even heinous acts can be explained, so they should not--in fact, they cannot--be condemned." Great cornstalks, this guy makes so many straw men he could start his own scarecrow factory! When I was in college, I considered myself a moral relativist, and was rather surprised that both of the philosophy professors I had were self-styled absolutists. I've thought about the subject many times since then, and I now tend to think that no thinking person can really be a TOTAL absolutist or relativist, because some morals are universal and others situational. Does O'Reilly really think there's nothing that's right at some times and wrong at others? Elsewhere in the book, he's implied that he thinks the rules should be different in time of war, and that American citizens should be treated differently from illegal immigrants. Aren't those relative morals in their own ways? But I guess they're OLD-FASHIONED relative morals, which makes them okay for traditionalists. And really, if O'Reilly actually thinks that Europeans believe "no definite judgments about behavior should be made," then I challenge him to show me a European nation where murder is acceptable.

And guess what else comes up in this chapter? Gay marriage! He says he's not actually opposed to it, but that "gay marriage has an impact on straight marriage." Um...would you mind explaining how? Apparently he WOULD mind, because all he really says is that "American society is built around the traditional heterosexual home." Also, "there is no question that having a mother and a father is what Nature intended." That's funny, because I've heard that humans are naturally polygamous. I could possibly even suggest that a certain married man's sexually suggestive comments involving Middle Eastern cuisine to another woman could be indirectly due to his biological urge to spread his seed to more than one female. But that would be a cheap shot, wouldn't it? And, from what I hear, some animals are gay. Besides, how can Nature (with a capital N, no less) "intend" anything? Does he believe it's a conscious force? Is it more like MOTHER Nature, or like the idea that God and Nature are the same? I'd normally dismiss that as metaphor, but it's hard to do that when he's trying to make a moral point. Not to mention that he says he's not opposed to gay adoption because "kids raised by gay parents usually turn out the same way children in traditional homes do," yet specifies that he favors "allowing children consigned to foster care to live in a gay home when no other alternative is available." Um, if the kids turn out the same either way, why include that "no other alternative" part? Maybe he's like Giuliani, and doesn't always agree with himself. Wrapping up the gay part (sorry, nothing at all titillating is involved), he claims that "traditional warriors do not base their philosophy on bigotry." He's not bigoted; he just believes that some people should be treated differently from others just because that's how it's always been done. They're TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS! :P

Looking ahead a little bit, I see the chapter after the next one is called "Hating America." Ah, THAT sounds like it will be rational and well thought out, doesn't it? {g}