Friday, November 03, 2006

Bill & Bruce

Get it while it's hot – Language poet & Fordham poly sci professor Bruce Andrews appeared last night on the odious Bill O'Reilly's "O'Reilly Factor." The video can be viewed here (go to the blue buttons on the left & click "Outrage of the Week"). I'll hand it to Bruce for remaining unflappable in the face of O'Reilly's imbecilities; on the other hand, sfarz I can tell Bruce scores precisely none of the points one hoped against the Loofah Man. "Normative"? "Justificatory discourse"? One hears millions of O'Reilly viewers across America – "He ain't just a commie, he cain't even talk so's I can understand."

There're a lot of academics out there who nurse dreams of going on O'Reilly or another of the skanky right-wing talk shows & wiping the floor with the host. What they usually fail to recognize is that the level of discourse on those shows isn't just simple – it's so absurdly dumbed-down that all of the tools of critical analysis & subtle reading one has developed over the years are simply useless, a set of jeweller's instruments against a caveman with a big club. Irony – Bruce's stock-in-trade – simply does not register.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I think you're right, but I also think there's more to it than that. I think academics don't quite get just how intellectually dishonest O'Reilly and his ilk are, how willing they are to completely distort reality in order to score a point with their audience. It's beyond comprehension unless you've had it overwhelm you a few times.

The other problem, I think, is that there is no way to win an argument on a show like O'Reilly's, because even if you abandon your strengths and wade into the muck with him, you still come off as no better than he is, which means he's won. It's like going to Stormfront and trying to win an argument about white supremacy--you'll never get them to concede a point, and you wind up feeling putrid for the effort.

The best way to deal with an O'Reilly is to treat him the way David Letterman did last week on his show (which means, of course, you have to get O'Reilly off his own turf). Treat him with sneering derision, with the open contempt he deserves, and undercut it with a self-deprecating humor that defangs his "I'm a regular guy and you're an elitist" schtick.