Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bill O'Reilly and the Media Whorehouse

David Kline over at has posted an account of being blind sided by Bill O'Reilly in a classic bait and switch. This prompted a spate of acerbic criticism. In the pile on, some fundamentals about the corporate media were overlooked:

Missing from this criticism is a recognition that O'Reilly is hardly unique. He is only a particularly blatant practitioner in a media where such tactics are SOP.

Any commercial broadcast program has an agenda. It may be ratings based, it may involve political favor trading, it may even, though rarely, reflect a commitment to the subject matter beyond mere exploitation. What is certain is that the programmer's agenda will come first and your's a distant second or third if that. As they control the microphone, it is an inherently unequal relationship.

O'Reilly is only remarkable in the nakedness with which he uses his advantage. His bully boy persona is part and parcel of his own marketing strategy. As is his pretense at not having such a strategy. Just a gutsy, straight shooting, no spin kinda guy is our Bill.

The only way to make any headway in this stagnant soup of hype and opportunism is to understand up front that you're participating in an electronic dog and pony show. You either figure out a way to make your own meme harmonize with whatever the existing agenda is, or you challenge it outright. The latter is difficult, calling for exhaustive preparation and planning. In the case of prerecorded programs, it is a practical impossibility. The most intelligent and trenchant commentator can be made to appear a buffoon through editing that de-contextualizes their statements.

Read Kline's whole thing.


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