Bill O'Reilly was nice to me. When I appeared on his show this week with my son Gotham, he admitted that the Iraq war was misguided, that the U.S. originally backed the Mujahedin and Taliban in the Afghan conflict with Russia, and that I was a patriot. What was going on? O'Reilly kept his voice down, and he didn't interrupt.
I could smell roses as I left the studio. (Later, as I walked past cubicles on Fox News' 27th floor, I spied more than a few Obama stickers and some staff members even approached me to teach them meditation.) It's a peculiar feeling being swept up, however briefly, in the right-wing message machine. But if I thought I could walk away unscathed, I was fooling myself. On O'Reilly's website there's still a headline this morning off to the side: "CNN Analyst Blames America." It links directly to the original Wall street Journal op-ed piece that smears me for saying that U.S. foreign policy inflames radical jihadists. No indication that I have responded to the smear, much less that almost every sensible intelligence analyst around the world absolutely agrees that Bush's "war on terror" has created as many extremists as it has killed. As a parting brickbat, O'Reilly had the forgotten comedian Dennis Miller on last night to call me an idiot. Fox analysis at its best, I suppose.
Striking back at O'Reilly and his jesters is mostly ineffective. They are used to backchat and take any response as fuel for their well-tended fires. Fox News is about giving their right wing audience new faces to hate. That's what the right-wing message machine sells. Rabinowitz, Hannity, Hasselbeck, O'Reilly, Miller, they all feed their audiences if they can label someone as un-American. They may not believe it personally and they may be good people otherwise, but they get paid if they can stoke the fires of outrage and fear. It's hard to understand, but they really don't care if what they are doing is dishonest and hurtful; they have compartmentalized this work as "media business."
The bottom line about appearing on The O'Reilly Factor is that he doesn't really listen. His guests are cardboard props in an echo chamber filled with his voice alone. He said he even wants me back! I sent him a message that if he genuinely wants to discuss creative solutions for terrorism, then I would of course accept his invitation. On the other hand, if he only wants to continue this game of pretense dialogue, I'm not interested. I am waiting to hear back.
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