Trashing Bill O'Reilly -- Professional Jealousy or Sanctimonious Drivel? ---- The Berkshire Eagle Dumps on the King of Fox News!
Top: Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly of The O'Reilly Factor.
Middle: Milton Bass, Berkshire Eagle columnist, on a trip in Switzerland, a few years ago.
Bottom: Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle columnist and former editor.
What is it with The Berkshire Eagle's columnists Milton Bass and Clarence Fanto?
They both feel the need to rant about Bill O'Reilly and anyone else affiliated with Fox News, traditionalism, or political Conservatism.
Bass ought to stick with a subject he knows something about: music -- especially jazz.
Given Bass's and Fanto's predisposition for dismal, too often factually-challenged, quasi-Socialist commentary, Bass's review today (and Fanto's of 12/28) will likely not disappoint their hundreds of loyal Berkshire fans.
(Both columns are reproduced below in their entirety due to The Eagle's inexplicable habit of mysteriously deleting articles from its own Web archives.)
According to Fanto, he and O'Reilly even shared proximity at CBS News in the early 1980's at an early stage in both their careers.
So how has it come to pass that competing against the best journalists the other networks have to offer, O'Reilly has succeeded in becoming one of the nation's pre-eminent broadcasters -- watched, listened to, and read (even admired) by millions?
The O'Reilly Factor beats ... no, correct that ... destroys its competition -- at MSNBC, CNBC, and CNN -- nightly in the Nielsen ratings war.
Whereas, what is the career status of Mr. Bass and Mr. Fanto?
Best we can tell they're at the peak of their respective powers right now.
Their columns appear regularly (and seemingly only) in a New England daily best known for its former glory, but now mostly for struggling with withering circulation.
In addition, while Bass sanctimoniously rails against O'Reilly's personal ethics for an alleged involvement in a sexual harassment matter at the office, and Fanto targets what he calls O'Reilly's 'ultra-right demagoguery' and 'propaganda techniques', it cannot help but be noticed that neither columnist has ever uttered a peep when media people in The Eagle's own figurative front yard commit the same transgressions for which O'Reilly is being trashed.
The "political venom" referenced by Fanto is indeed "spewed daily" on-air right here in Berkshire County.
Local radio/TV superstar commentator and fellow Eagle columnist Alan Chartock has a reputation throughout seven states for ultra-left demagoguery and shrill propagandizing against the Bush Administration, American foreign policy, and the Republican Party.
(A Washington, D.C.-based NPR news producer who heard one of Chartock's rants while driving through upstate New York even remarked on it to a Baltimore reporter saying, “If you took a photo of me in the car my jaw would have been on the floor.")
While Bass focuses on O'Reilly's alleged treatment of a single co-worker, compare that to the repeated allegations against Chartock, whose absolute control at WAMC Northeast Public Radio for 27-years, has resulted in a lurid history of regrettable office behavior -- accusations he, of course, also denies.
(Of perhaps greater import, though -- the thing that should assumedly matter to holier-than-thou, finger-pointing types like Bass and Fanto: The retired SUNY professor apparently enjoys an almost total lack of fiscal accountability at his $7 million-a-year Albany-based public broadcasting charity cum cash machine. Fanto's stunning lack of curiosity on this latter point cannot be so easily excused. His most recent full-time position was as WAMC's news director, hired by Chartock. Fanto thus appears to be ethically-challenged, at least when it pays to look the other way.)
Bass also claims that "O'Reilly's TV ratings went up considerably" during the co-worker "ordeal", and that somehow this tells us "a great deal about the people who watch him."
This slap at O'Reilly's audience could just as easily be aimed at the WAMC audience who regularly listen to Chartock's loony rants.
Chartock is able to meet ever-higher fundraising goals at WAMC in spite of (or perhaps because of) the professor's ultra-left rhetoric and dominance of the station's talk format.
Is it not analogous to say that his audience's continued and increasing support for WAMC translates into telling us a great deal about those who would actually tune in regularly to this venomous propaganda?
Bass's and Fanto's disingenuous diatribes about O'Reilly make us wonder whether either has ever actually watched The Factor (rather than just regurgitated what Web sites like MediaMatters.org say), let alone been regular viewers.
It sure doesn't sound like it because their respective claims that the program puts forth lies and displays a bias are wholly without merit.
Sure, O'Reilly has his strongly-expressed personal points of view, but then so does the Bush/Cheney-hating Chartock, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, NBC's Chris Matthews, NPR's Daniel Schorr, PBS's Bill Moyers, and every other network 'commentator'.
Yet, O'Reilly also takes pains nightly on his program to interview those whose views directly contradict or contrast his own and/or those of his other guests.
He offers guests a world-class soapbox (The Factor has worldwide distribution) from which to clarify their respective positions without 'bloviating' (O'Reilly's favorite word).
In fact, one notable invitee who has steadfastly refused (without explanation) O'Reilly's invitation to appear on camera is none other than Great Barrington's own Selectboard co-chairman Ronald Dlugosz.
It was Dlugosz whose misguided political correctness regarding the town's pathetic Christmas lights display generated in the first place the present controversy for which The Eagle is now eviscerating The Factor host.
So it certainly can't be said that O'Reilly doesn't at least try to be fair.
(Versus The Eagle whose editors will either refuse to publish letters-to-the-editor with which they strongly disagree (like a shortened version of this column), or simply fail to enable their Web site's 'Comments' function on opinion pieces written by Bass, Fanto, Chartock and other dilettantes for whom the editors decide that readers' Internet responses will not be allowed.)
It's as though Bass and Fanto blame O'Reilly because some of those news makers upon whom he focuses his Factor spotlight, like Dlugosz, chicken out and refuse the opportunity to go on record to clarify and/or to defend the actions and/or positions they take.
What makes O'Reilly different -- and the real reason why Bass and Fanto (and by extension their enablers at The Eagle) are taking after him -- is because O'Reilly disdains the Liberal dogma that Bass and Fanto (and most so-called mainstream media) embrace.
The self-righteous Fanto stridently proclaims that "O'Reilly and his ilk ..... spew out a venomous blend of overheated pro-war, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-"socialized medicine," anti-women's rights rhetoric that helps poison the nation's political and social discourse."
Anybody familiar with O'Reilly on-air or in-print knows this is just plain hogwash (and if anything, putting forth such blatant untruths and misstatements of fact reveals gobs about Fanto's own warped left-leaning mindset).
The Factor program and O'Reilly himself are admired by regular viewers (whose loyalty has been hard won over the years) specifically because the show makes a determined effort to provide the Fairness and Balance about which parent Fox News is always bragging and has a lot riding.
This effort has paid off, in audience and advertising revenue, especially when one compares F&B on The Factor to the ofttimes utter lack of it in news programming cranked out nightly by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC (these last two being called by wags, respectively, the Clinton News Network and the New Clinton News Network).
Now in comparison, Bass's and Fanto's angry charges and uber-Left excoriation are regularly read and admired by a Berkshire audience of -- would it be exaggerating to say a few thousand?
(Of which many of these are best described as the paranoid, delusional political fringe -- the types who steadfastly maintain that Al Gore and John Kerry actually did win but were robbed of victory, and that controlled demolition is what brought down the WTC on 9/11.)
Kudos, Milton and Clarence!
Looking forward to your respective next big career moves.
Waiting especially for the two of you to make that long-awaited jump to cable TV.
I can just see it now: "The Bass and Fanto Factor" on Pittsfield Community Television.
At least it's likely to have a good jazz intro!
* * * * *
The Lively World
O'Reilly's sleazy résumé
By Milton Bass
Sunday, January 06
There's no denying Bill O'Reilly has the tickets to be a news commentator on cable television. His education has been textbook with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from top colleges and universities, and his experience as a reporter and analyst all over the world has been outstanding.
He is also a genius at marketing. He knows what a certain segment of the public wants and he directs his viewpoints straight at them. He has established himself as an ultimate Catholic who single-handedly protects Christianity from the pagan hordes that have them completely surrounded, and he is also the Ultimate Patriot who smites the enemies of the United States wherever they might stand, sit or creep.
As a consequence he has the highest-rated "news" show on cable television and something over three million rabid listeners on the 400 radio stations that broadcast his program. He also writes a syndicated column and has had seven books published.
The problem with all this is that the man is obviously of low moral character and has hurt many worthwhile people with his righteous wrangling and wrongful purposes. The most recent victim has been the town of Great Barrington and its Selectmen. The excuse for the attack was that Great Barrington shut its (Christmas) (holiday) lights off at 10 p.m. in its bit to save electricity and help contain global warming. An O'Reilly producer came to a Selectmen's meeting with the program's version of "When did you stop beating your wife?" and then showed selected bits on the O'Reilly program. As a result of this, vicious e-mails, containing threats and vituperations of the basest sort, were sent by O'Reilly regulars to Great Barrington and environs. Peace on earth, good will to men.
The thing about O'Reilly (God's henchman), however, is that the history of the man has been lost because he keeps launching attacks that keep everybody so busy that they don't have time to bring up his résumé.
In 2004, which is just three years ago, a 33-year-old female producer on O'Reilly's TV show sued him for "sexual harassment." She brought the suit because O'Reilly had launched a suit against her claiming she was trying to shake him down for $60 million, which happened to be the amount grossed yearly by O'Reilly's show at that time.
The producer, Andrea Mackris, claimed that the then 55-year-old O'Reilly through personal conversations, a great many of them by telephone, made her feel "absolutely threatened" and forced her to earn her living in "a hostile work environment." She claimed in her lawsuit that O'Reilly continually insisted on describing sexual fantasies, masturbation and the use of vibrators, a practice in which he seemed to consider himself a master teacher. She said that he sometimes obviously "pleasured himself" while describing these things to her on the phone.
The details were so graphic that objective bystanders figured the young woman had taped some of these conversations after they had been going on for a while. She claimed that O'Reilly continually talked about how powerful he was and that he could assemble a horde of lawyers that would beat down anyone who opposed him in any legal matter. He also implied that Roger Ailes, the president of the Fox News Channel, had the power of extra-legal means to take care of any enemies that might take on O'Reilly.
Mackris hired a powerful legal team of her own and negotiations began. Word on the street was that parley broke off when the Mackris people felt that an offer of $2 million from O'Reilly was not enough to stop the matter from going to trial. However, before too much time elapsed a settlement was reached and all parties agreed to keep silent on how much money changed hands. O'Reilly was making about $9 million a year at the time and Fox was part of the settlement so there was much conjecture about how many million dollars the young woman received.
O'Reilly made a statement that there was "no wrongdoing in the case whatsoever by anyone" and he ended what he considered a "brutal ordeal" without issuing an apology. The young lady subsequently purchased two condos in New York so her ordeal seemed to end comfortably. By the by, O'Reilly's TV ratings went up considerably during his "ordeal." Which tells you a great deal about the people who watch him and send out vicious e-mails in his behalf.
For those who might be interested in what Mackris claimed to have endured, the court file is available for view on the Internet.
So this is the man who has set himself up as the defender of the faith and the protector of his country. He calls himself an independent, but it is obvious where his political agenda lies. And lies and lies and lies.
Great Barrington has been besmirched in that it was forced to be part of his machinations. If you do not wish to watch O'Reilly in person, Stephen Colbert is more than a reasonable facsimile and quite funny in his impersonation of "the real thing."
Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.
* * * * *
Bill O'Reilly: Voice of fear and ignorance
By Clarence Fanto
Friday, December 28
The recent dustup between blowhard broadcaster Bill O'Reilly and the Great Barrington Select Board over holiday lights is a wake-up call for many here in the Berkshires who are insulated from the hard-right political venom spewed daily over the nation's commercial radio airwaves as well as via cable or satellite on the Fox News Channel.
O'Reilly and his ilk, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck, reach an estimated 30 million-plus Americans every day as they spew out a venomous blend of overheated pro-war, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-"socialized medicine," anti-women's rights rhetoric that helps poison the nation's political and social discourse.
Unfortunately, they far outnumber, in reach and influence, the liberal Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and the temporarily-sidelined equal-opportunity political satirist Jon Stewart and his fellow Comedy Channel protégé Stephen Colbert (whose faux-right wing spoof of O'Reilly & Co. is so spot-on that some viewers don't see through it). They've been sorely missed, even though the Writers Guild of America strike they've honored by remaining off the air is a just cause. They'll be back, most likely without their writing staffs, on Jan. 7.
Ultra-right demagoguery has a long, dishonorable history in American broadcasting, dating back to the radio days of the late 1930s, when Father Charles Coughlin's anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist ravings found an all-too-ready audience of sympathizers. Famously, he blamed the Great Depression on an "international conspiracy of Jewish bankers," the same group he claimed was responsible for the Russian Revolution.
Carried by hundreds of stations via CBS Radio (!) and, by some estimates, reaching as many as one-third of Americans, Coughlin's sympathetic expressions of support for Hitler and Mussolini finally were forced off the air in 1939 after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, a precursor to U.S. involvement in World War II. But other, less extreme right-wing broadcasters like Boake Carter and Fulton Lewis, Jr. continued to attract huge audiences.
University of Indiana media researchers released a study of O'Reilly's commentaries earlier this year, finding that he consistently vilifies certain groups and presents others as victims as part of his skewed world view. The analysis found that the broadcaster used derogatory names every 6.8 seconds, on average, during the "Talking Points Memo" segment of his infamous, ironically titled "No Spin Zone."
"If one digs further into O'Reilly's rhetoric, it becomes clear that he sets up a pretty simplistic battle between good and evil," said Maria Elizabeth Grabe, an associate professor of telecommunications on the Bloomington campus. "Our analysis points to very specific groups and people presented as good and evil." The researcher found that O'Reilly employs propaganda techniques eerily reminiscent of those 1930s radio hatemongers.
Utilizing propaganda tools familiar to students of World War II, the researchers identified O'Reilly's major patterns, all part of his effort to inject fear into the body politic. These include name-calling, "glittering generalities," card-stacking, the bandwagon effect (catering to the widespread desire to follow the crowd), and a pseudo-populist "plain folks" appeal to listeners in an effort to convince them that his ideas are "of the people." The Indiana University study team compared O'Reilly's approach to Father Coughlin's, even reaching the conclusion that the Fox newshound is a "heavier, less-nuanced user of propaganda devices" than Coughlin was.
Key findings pinpoint the use of fear in 52 percent of O'Reilly's commentaries — for example, he moaned that the U.S. was "slowly losing freedom and core values" at the time when "left-wing" media were "unfairly" criticizing the now-disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
In the World According to O'Reilly. "politicians and media, particularly of the left-leaning persuasion, are in the company of illegal aliens, criminals, terrorists — never vulnerable to villainous forces and undeserving of empathy," the study concluded. "Our results show a consistent pattern of O'Reilly casting non-Americans in a negative light. Both illegal aliens and foreigners were constructed as physical threats to the public."
Victimized by this vast left-wing conspiracy are most Americans, the U. S. military and the Bush administration, he argues as he casts himself as the chief protector of our fundamental freedoms. He's fond of inviting those he portrays as liberal East Coast elitists and "secular progressives" on his show so he can bully them into submission.
O'Reilly has every First Amendment right to air his views as he has evolved into the advocate-in-chief for neo-cons and disaffected fundamentalists. It's his style and his extremist techniques that are so offensive.
We knew O'Reilly slightly during our CBS News days in the early 1980s, when he was a promising investigative reporter and news correspondent who left the network in a huff when colleague Bob Schieffer used some film footage shot by network crews originally assigned to O'Reilly. Bloated egomania already was becoming evident.
With 10 months of the presidential campaign still ahead, O'Reilly will find plenty of fodder to support his hate-based cottage industry. The $10 million a year man is a self-described frequent visitor to the Berkshires; in the unlikely event that you encounter him on the streets of Great Barrington, be sure to give him a warm greeting.
Clarence Fanto is a regular Eagle contributor.
Labels: Alan Chartock, Berkshires, Bill O'Reilly, CBS News, Clarence Fanto, Fox News, Great Barrington, media, Milton Bass, Northeast Public Radio, Pittsfield, The Berkshire Eagle, The O'Reilly Factor, WAMC