- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

DRUDGE AND O’REILLY

You’ve got to love it when the holiday spirit rises anew among your favorite media mavens. Last week, Matt Drudge of the online Drudge Report did the unthinkable and published the latest rankings for best-seller books in 2003, recorded by Nielsen’s BookScan. Mr. Drudge wasbeinga little naughty, as is his custom. On Monday, Fox News star Bill O’Reilly had bragged to NBC’s Today Show that “We’ve outsoldthatguy [Franken] all over the place. We’re running against Hillary for most copies of non-fiction books sold this year!” The results, alas, showed that Bill O’Reilly’s oeuvre, “Who’s Looking Out For You,” was easily bested by Al Franken’s screed “Lying Liars” and way behind Senator Clinton’s largely unreadable account of meeting lots of African prime ministers, “Personal History.” What was Mr. O’Reilly’s response to being caught out in an inaccuracy? He called Mr. Drudge “a threat to democracy.” But he didn’t deny the facts because he can’t. I never used to understand the appeal of Mr O’Reilly. Then last week, I finally got cable. Yeah, I know. How did I do without it? Quite well, actually. I read more; got all the info I needed from the web; but I missed those VH1 list shows, “South Park” re-runs and “Queer Eye.” So, now I get to see O’Reilly consistently for the first time as well. Suddenly, you see why he reacts so obtusely to simple criticism. He’s unhinged! Alarmingly, I find myself agreeing with him on many issues. But he is so obnoxious, so transparently phony, so gung-ho in a crude populist know-nothing kind of way that I’m almost embarrassed to be on the same side much of the time. Does anyone say “I may be wrong” more disingenuously? Is there anyone more aggressively watchable because he is so awful? Okay, there’s CNN’s Bob Novak and Paul Begala. And, in the old days, John McLaughlin. But Bill O’Reilly is so compellingly odious you almost can’t take your eyes off him. I wonder how much of his ratings are based on ‘hathos’ — the enjoyment you get from hating someone, the same delicious feeling you get reading a Paul Krugman column or listening to Joe Biden.

BEGALA AWARD

“I shouldn’t take it personally. Because what (the Bush) administration was attempting to do was turn back the progress of the entire 20th century. They were not just after Bill Clinton — they wanted to undo Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt. They were on their way to Teddy Roosevelt. It was a bipartisan right-wing extreme agenda.” — Sen. Hillary Clinton, earlier this week, in Miami. Bipartisan right-wing extreme agenda?

GIMLI GETS IT

If you want an antidote to lefty-actor Viggo Mortensen on the meaning of Tolkien, you have to go to the wonderful Welsh actor, John Rhys-Davis, who plays Gimli in “The Lord of the Rings.” I saw Mr. Mortensen on TV the other night saying that the “Lord of The Rings” was all about bringing people together, eschewing violence, promoting peace, etc., etc. Poor guy. Cute, but dumb as a post. Rhys-Davies is smarter in a recent interview. Here’s the money quote:

“I’m burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it’s painful. But I think that there are some questions that demand honest answers. I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me… What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is and what a jewel it is.

“How did we get the sort of real democracy, how did we get the level of tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you around this table, and yet you will take it and you will think about it and you’ll say no you’re wrong because of this and this and this? And I’ll listen and I’ll say, ‘Well, actually, maybe I am wrong because of this and this.

[He points at a female reporter and adopts an authoritarian voice, to play a militant-Islam character:] ‘You should not be in this room. Because your husband or your father is not here to guide you. You could only be here in this room with these strange men for immoral purposes.’

“I mean … the abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True Democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.”

Exactly. That is what I believe my generation has been called to protect — and this extraordinary, and deeply Catholic, movie couldn’t have come at a better time.


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