It's all about perspective. Tuesday night brought Bill "Fair and Balanced Pinhead" to David Letterman's show. I watched the exchange and then found myself wondering why this meeting occurred in the first place. Could it be that Bill's people and Dave's people got together and saw it as an opportunity for some "real good television?" It's difficult to tell just how genuine the interaction was - as the format was standard talk show, and there was never any furniture thrown.
The tense part:
LETTERMAN: I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. [audience laughter] But I don't know that for a fact. [more audience applause]
PAUL SHAFER: 60 percent.
LETTERMAN: 60 percent. I'm just spit-balling here.
O'REILLY: Listen, I respect your opinion. You should respect mine.
LETTERMAN: Well, ah, I, okay. But I think you're...
O'REILLY: Our analysis is based on the best evidence we can get.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but I think there's something, this fair and balanced. I'm not sure that it's, I don't think that you represent an objective viewpoint.
There it was for all the world to see - "objective viewpoint." There is no doubt that, if asked, David Letterman would happily acknowledge that his show represents his viewpoint, not one of objectivity. The notion that Bill O'Reilly is somehow different from Letterman because he is "news" and not "entertainment" is difficult to maintain in the face of "The No-Spin Zone." I can remember when the World Wrestling Federation staunchly insisted that they were "real." After losing a lawsuit to the World Wildlife Federation, the newly christened World Wrestling Entertainment company began slowly peeling back the curtain and referring to their "stars" as "entertainers" and "athletes" - not "wrestlers."
Is it possible that Bill O'Reilly is just an entertainer, not a "wrestler" after all? If he shrugged his shoulders and admitted to Dave or anyone else that "maybe 60 per cent of what I say is crap," would he still have an audience? The WWE still pulls millions of viewers each week to their "Smackdown." Why wouldn't the same millions tune in to watch the cartoon character Bill the Pinhead work himself up to a tumultuous frenzy about any of a number of conservative causes?
Here's my problem: O'Reilly continues to view the interaction as a victory for his narrow world view. It feeds in so well with his notion of a "culture war." The poor oppressed white, male, Christian majority at last has a champion in Bill O'Reilly. This has got to be comedy, right?
For the sake of all of us, pray that Bill is in on the joke.