How Bill O'Reilly Gets Away With Blatantly Lying
Bill O'Reilly and Brian Williams are not the same brand of newsmen: Williams informs with the objective truth, O'Reilly entertains with his version of truth.
On cable news — especially Fox News —, editorializing makes for superstars. A fact kernel can be popped into all sorts of wild theories. Glenn Beck rose to prominence by wailing and flailing with apocalyptic fervor.
Sean Hannity is a rushing river of popular outrage. Rush Limbaugh made himself a radio titan by popping pills and spewing what he felt to be completely wrong with America.
But, no one touches O'Reilly.
"The O'Reilly Factor" is the most watched cable news program in America, but his audience is not diverse. To half the country, O'Reilly is a truth-twisting blowhard who knows how to talk, but has some awful things to say.
For the other half, he is the vanguard of defense against the liberals who want to strip away the "real Americans'" freedom.
No one has hammered Williams harder than O'Reilly, which is ironic because Bill has been telling unfounded stories about his heroic reporting in war zones for decades.
But, even if his stories were conclusively proven false, they wouldn't take away from his audience.
If you're been open to the possibility, you know that Bill O'Reilly is a proven liar. Current Senator and SNL alum Al Franken wrote a meticulously fact-checked book: "Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them," and O'Reilly's face is on the cover.
But, for half the country, none of this matters because O'Reilly convinced them everyone else is lying, and he's the only one giving it to them straight.
Despite his obvious political leanings, he calls his show the "No Spin Zone." By sitting behind a desk, tapping papers and wearing a suit, he looks just like Walter Cronkite. His opinions are presented as truth.
O'Reilly knows the only fact that matters. Today, the truth alone isn't good enough. We want the version of truth that fits with our beliefs. When we watch the news, we don't want to question, we want to hear how right we are.
The left is as guilty as the right. They have their own favored truth-tellers. Men like Stewart, Colbert, Oliver and Maher may have more dedication to facts, but their roles are the same. They tell the other half what they want to hear.
We have our go-to programs because allowing the truth to challenge our views is uncomfortable. That's not a philosophical speculation — it's a fact.
A recent report from Duke University showed that if people don't like the political implications of an issue, they will deny the issue exists.
This finding directly applies to cable news. When O'Reilly's audience is told that he is a liar, their O'Reilly-informed views are questioned. They have to entertain the possibility that the world is a bit more complex than "the Factor" would allow them to believe.
They would have to admit they are wrong and no human has enjoyed that ever since Adam and Eve fibbed about that apple. So, they deny any evidence contrary to their beliefs.
Brian Williams was villainized because his one lie starkly contrasted his history of truth-telling.
O'Reilly can lie exactly like Williams and still enjoy a massive career because his lies add up to just a strand in the appealing web of semi-truths that have snared a huge portion of our country.
We're a bunch of complacent cowards who only want to hear our sides of the story. We base our opinions not in facts, but in the opinions of the people we trust.
Our country is divided down the middle because we can't even agree on what's true.
But, that's no fun to hear.