August 17th, 2008

wart

Wrapping Up the Culture War

One thing I've noticed about Bill O'Reilly is how he's constantly trying to paint himself as altruistic. He refers to himself as a "watchdog." One of his books was called Who's Looking Out for You?, and he says, "We're looking out for you" at the end of his show. So who's this "you" he's looking out for? Why, "the folks," of course! And apparently "the folks" don't include secularists, socialists, homosexuals who want to marry, the ACLU, rappers, criminals, and illegal immigrants. I don't particularly care for the term "the folks" (honestly, I find it a little unsettling), but I would generally think that it refers primarily to the working class. Since O'Reilly apparently thinks that income redistribution would work to the detriment of his audience, however, he might not see it that way. I don't know. Regardless, if O'Reilly is looking out for anyone, I suppose it doesn't include me.

Throughout Culture Warrior, right up through the last chapter, Bill-O argues that the secular-progressive mindset is "selfish." Yes, apparently thinking that people should be entitled to a living wage and decent health care is selfish. But don't people who believe in these things usually want them for EVERYBODY? How is that selfish? O'Reilly also defends private property, saying, "If you've paid taxes on your money, your land, your home, your stuff...then it should be yours forever." Then he goes on the criticize the death tax. But if he's so big on personal responsibility and initiative, what did a person's heirs do to deserve their inheritance? Or are we supposed to take him literally, and believe that dead people should be able to own property? In the paragraph prior to this, Bill claims that eminent domain "is a stark indication of the S-P desire for centralized control of private property." I'm against eminent domain as well (with possible exceptions for extreme cases, but I certainly can't think of any of those offhand), but I've never known it to be considered a secular-progressive policy before. That seems to be one of those things that both liberals and conservatives can agree is stupid, but powerful interests keep in play, sort of like the ever-lengthening copyright terms. And while I do think the gap between the haves and the have-nots definitely needs to be shortened, I can't say I'm in favor of confiscation of private property. Federal agents shouldn't be allowed to take a plasma TV from a billionaire's house and give it to an orphanage. The thing is that I don't consider the money paid in income taxes to be private property. That money is really only yours in an amorphous sense. But at least Libertarians who consider taxes to be theft have a consistent (if rather absurd) position. O'Reilly's seems to be that SOME taxes aren't theft, but MORE taxes are. He also states that Americans "are free to move up the economic ladder if we work hard and experience a bit of luck now and then." No, "a bit of luck" is what you need to find a quarter on the sidewalk. I believe the technical term for what you need to achieve upward mobility is "shitloads of luck."

Another concern of O'Reilly's is patriotism. He starts Chapter Eighteen by saying that Roger Ailes, "a humorous guy," goes to parties in Manhattan, "and when an S-P person sounds off about the dismal state of United States [I'm not sure, but I think "the dismal state" might be Kansas :P], Ailes will sometimes loudly respond: 'Why do you hate America?'" Apparently, this is "a room silencer," because "[t]here is nothing worse you can do to a devoted S-P acolyte than imply that he or she is unpatriotic." But if what Ailes say is a joke (which Bill seems to be suggesting by referring to him as "a humorous guy"), then how is it actually implying lack of patriotism? Maybe what it really shows is that Ailes has terrible delivery for his jokes. I can sympathize. Or maybe it's NOT a joke, and he's actually implying that wanting to improve the United States means hating it. O'Reilly claims twice that the United States MUST be awesome if so many people are coming here illegally. And sure, relatively speaking, the States are great. I'm no flag-waving patriot, and I think there's a lot of more for improvement here, but I definitely appreciate a lot of what we have here. But O'Reilly thinks relativism is bad, and even he agrees that the country isn't absolutely good. Really, the patriotism argument is pretty dumb, because the beauty of the First Amendment is that we're ALLOWED to hate America if we want, as ironic as that might be.

Chapter Fifteen (which I've already quoted a few times now, actually) is about the code that Traditional Warriors are supposed to live by. One thing is that they have to mean what they say. In what I guess is supposed to be a joke, considering that he begins the next sentence with, "But seriously," O'Reilly writes, "There is nothing worse than going to a place like Los Angeles and having people say 'Let's do lunch, babe.' Is there anything worse than that? I don't know of one T-warrior who's ever said anything like that. But plenty of S-Ps have. It's the dead giveaway of a creep. Rejecting phony jargon is yet another reason to leap over to the traditional side." Does anyone actually still talk like that? Has anyone EVER? I don't know. Whenever I say something like, "Does anyone even use that expression anymore?", it usually comes up the next day. The truth is that I'm kind of a shut-in, and don't really know how people talk. But the stereotype is that the "let's do lunch" talk comes from sleazy Hollywood executives, and I tend to doubt they're the most liberal or progressive guys around. And when O'Reilly talks about "phony jargon," does he mean terms like "Islamo-fascism," which he used in his last chapter? Although Bill bashes Michael Savage three times in the book, he apparently has no problem with using his moronically inaccurate term. At least, Savage has CLAIMED that he invented the term, and why would anyone PRETEND to have come up with something so stupid? But then, I remember seeing a website where someone proudly mentioned that they were involved in the creation of the XFL. There are some things it's better NOT to brag about, guys. But anyway, when O'Reilly claims that "[t]here is no difference in attitude between the Nazis and the jihadists," what about how the Nazis were über-nationalists, while Al Qaeda isn't specifically connected to a nation? Isn't there a difference between fighting a country and fighting an organization (or, to hear how some people talk of the War on Terror, fighting a concept)?

Another trait O'Reilly urges for his side is "an unemotional examination of religion," saying that his code is secular, but is based on Judeo-Christian principles. But if religion isn't a factor, why even throw in the "Judeo-Christian" part? Really, though, for all his talk about these principles, most of the ones he most supports don't appear to have much to do with the Jewish or Christian religions. I think they're mostly based on how he saw the world in his childhood, when everyone went to church, acknowledged Christmas, raised their kids in a tough but fair manner, and had real VALUES. Also, homosexuals weren't open about their preferences. Weren't things SO much better then? Of course, this is based on a skewed perspective. And even if it weren't, why shouldn't things be subject to change? O'Reilly's style of traditionalism seems to be centered around doing things the way we've always done them, even if that way no longer works (or, in some cases, never did work).

Finally, in his "Final Mission Statement," O'Reilly wants you to know that, even if the secular-progressives DO win his Culture War, "I'll know that I have fought on the side of the angels." Eh, I figure that angels can fend for themselves. They're immortal beings with magic powers, after all. And that's about it, really. It's been an interesting ride through the No Spin Zone, but I think it's time to move on to something less irritating.
Polychrome

Another Sort of War

It's Olympic time again! I don't really care, but it did make me think of a passage from Ruth Plumly Thompson's Speedy in Oz, in which the title character is negotiating with King Radj of Roaraway Island. His nation has been at war with the neighboring Norroway Island for centuries.

"You could build ships, couldn't you, and go exploring?" suggested Speedy, "or you and the men of Norroway could have athletic contests and things like that."

"And what are athletic contests?" asked Radj, leaning thoughtfully on his lance.

"Oh, tests to prove who can shoot their arrows farthest--or jump the highest or run the fastest, or wrestle the most cleverly," explained Speedy.

"Well, wouldn't that just be another sort of war?" Radj wrinkled his brows in evident puzzlement. "Suppose the Nadjians won these contests you speak of, shot their arrows farthest, proved that their men could outdistance mine, why that would make me so red hot, roaring mad, I'd declare war on them at once, and if my men won, Nadj would want to fight me."

"I guess you do not care much about good sportsmanship," sighed the Wizard's ambassador, feeling he was getting nowhere by appealing to the King's better nature.


In the discussion on this book, John Bell points out that this is "a sentiment apropos of this Olympic period." Nowadays, I get the impression that the Olympics aren't really of all that much concern to the United States. Sure, a lot of Americans apparently still watch the games, but nobody seems to get as worked up about them as they do about their local football or basketball teams. But I get the impression that people in other countries still care. Otherwise, why would the Chinese bother cheating? It seems like it would be a positive thing to see people from all over the world trying to outdo each other in games rather than via bombs or bankruptcy, but the fact is that these other sorts of competition are still going on. Didn't the war between Russia and Georgia begin the same day as the opening ceremonies? While it's certainly not exactly the same, it reminds me of the story of the Christmas truce during World War I, during which there were allegedly football games between the two sides. Of course, after that, they went right back to shooting at each other. I find war sickening anyway, but that kind of thing somehow makes it even worse.

Getting back to the Olympics, I'm just not interested in sports in general, regardless of the diversity of the participants. Maybe they'd be more interesting if they went back to the ancient Greek tradition of athletes competing in the nude.
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