21 April 2017
I suppose I should say something about the fall of Bill O'Reilly from his perch at Fox News, but I'm not really worked up over it one way or the other. Apart from feeling that his "no spin" pretense was self-evidently false, unless he meant by it that he wouldn't try to hide his partisan and ideological biases, I never really got worked up about him and his ratings success the way many liberals did. It's always been my suspicion that the ratings for right-wing talk on TV and radio have been inflated by liberals and left-wingers tuning in in order to get outraged, while right-wingers are less likely to do the same thing by watching Rachel Maddow. I try not to watch, listen to or read anything simply to get outraged, and so I've ignored O'Reilly and his Fox News colleagues, as well as their radio counterparts, unless I see on Google News that they've said something worth commenting on. He doesn't loom large to me as an enemy like he does to the liberal mainstream, so I don't feel like his removal from Fox News is some kind of victory for somebody. What happened finally was that a fresh wave of sexual-harassment accusations drove more sponsors from O'Reilly's program, though none that I know of abandoned Fox News entirely. While The O'Reilly Factor remained the most popular program on cable news, someone at Fox -- in the absence of Roger Ailes, who was driven out by similar charges last year -- decided that the host was more trouble than he was worth. This proves that commercial media is not a democracy. I don't know whether all the accusations and scandals had cost O'Reilly viewers, but his standing in the ratings still appeared unassailable at the time of his fall. But the public can't will their favorites to stay where they are against corporate decision makers determined to end them. The best O'Reilly's fans can do is follow him to whatever subscription-based streaming-media platform he'll probably set up if he wants to stay in the game without worrying about advertisers worrying about boycotts. Given all the recent upheaval at Fox News and its overall ambivalence toward Donald Trump, the time might well be right for an alternative conservative news network even more opposed to political correctness or other concerns that made O'Reilly's position at Fox ultimately vulnerable. For instance, were some entrepreneur to plant his flag with a promise that no on-air personality would ever be removed for sexual harassment until the charges against him were tested in a court of law, I'd guess that Fox News would find itself facing an instantly powerful rival. On the other hand, it may be past time for conservative culture in the U.S. to get past the good-old-boy attitude that presumably deems it okay for men like O'Reilly, Ailes and Trump -- and Bill Clinton, to make a non-partisan point -- to deal with women the way they supposedly do, when so many people find it not okay. Unless there's something inherently and inextricably "male chauvinist" about American conservatism, the movement should be able to shed the chauvinist trappings that alienate people who might otherwise give its more substantive ideas the courtesy of a hearing.