Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Anatomy of a Straw Man, Or Why Bill O'Reilly Is a Dick And He Knows It

So of all the days that Bill O'Reilly throws a big wad of crap out into the world, the other day he outdid himself.

On his radio show -- which I was unlucky enough to catch part of -- he was holding forth on what he sees as the debasement of Christmas. He started out by reminding listeners that they can visit his website to find a list of advertisers (you won't believe this) that say "Happy Holidays" in their ads instead of "Merry Christmas."

One more time:

There is apparently a list on his website of advertisers that say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Bill goes on to remind his listeners that "some" are boycotting the advertisers that say "Happy Holidays." Bill points out that that is "your right as a consumer" to do so.

Then (and this is reason one why he is a dick), he says, "I'm not calling for that boycott, I'm just pointing out which stores won't, which stores will." And he reminds his listeners once again they can find that info at his website.

Where he's not calling for that boycott.

But then he goes on to explain the history of how "Merry Christmas" became "Happy Holidays" and you've really got to hold onto your hat for this one, because it's a wild ride, Mr. Toad.

I'll skip through the part about how it was all funded by George Soros and his legal arm the ACLU as part of a smear campaign ten years ago to change the country from a Christian-based country (whaaa?) to a secular country like in (shudder) Western Europe.

Bill then serves up the meat and potatoes. Because Bill is upset. Because a lot of people are making a lot of fuss about municipal Christmas displays, and that really burns Bill's loofah. He has an explanation for why this is happening, of course.

I would say it's because there's a Separation of Church and State, so it seems wrong for the State to spend money that belongs to everyone to celebrate a religion that doesn't belong to everyone. Or any religion. So really State should stay out of the religion business. Which, as it happens, is what Separation of Church and State means. (Isn't it cool how that worked out? It's almost as if the Founding Fathers knew more than Bill O'Reilly!)

But you probably could have guessed Ol' Blotchy has a very different explanation.

Now follow along with this, because somewhere in here, what you and I know to be real and true is going to be abandoned. See if you can spot where it happens.

Bill begins by saying, "85% of the country calls itself Christian."

Right there, let's stop. I believe the inherent implication is that the other 15% should... what?

That's right: Go fuck themselves!

Bill then says, "Of the 15% who aren't Christian, maybe one percent find the word "Christmas" offensive. If that! So all of this is bogus! Some nut finds Christmas offensive! So what? Tough!"


Did you spot it?

The Republican's best friend: a straw man.

In this case, it was The Man Who Finds The Word "Christmas" Offensive.

No one ever said they were offended by the word "Christmas." That's ridiculous. That's a whole new concept Bill introduced. Why? Because it's easy to knock down. A straw man.

Bill keeps swinging away at our crow-scaring friend:

"If you know a person who is offended by the word Christmas, I guarantee you walk away from that person! I'm not gonna invite 'em over for dinner, because I think they're unstable! I think there's something wrong with them!"

And there you have it. Bill has now marginalized anyone who disagrees with him... first as being part of 15% of the country... then as being part of one percent of the country... then as being part of an imaginary unstable section of that one percent.

What a dick.

So let's create a straw man of our own.

Let's call him Bill O'Reilly.

Let's say that, oh, I don't know, 70 percent of the country is opposed to the war in Iraq. Let's say that this peace-loving 70 percent decides to have Peace rallies in every major city in America on one day in December, and have big beautifully-lit Peace Sticks to mark the occasion.

And then let's say that every city in America gives kids the day off from school, and has Peace Stick day assemblies with Peace Stick day songs, and spends tax dollars to put up Peace Sticks and decorate them.

Bill O'Reilly would scream himself blue in the face about his tax money going to decorate Peace Sticks, something he doesn't support.

But Bill! Most Americans support the Peace Sticks!

Besides... Who doesn't like the word "peace"? If I ever met someone who was offended by the word "peace" I wouldn't have him over for dinner.

I'd think the guy was unstable!

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