Words have consequences. Or one would hope.
The commodity successful talk radio hosts produce is talk. Usually, the consequences of their talk come in the form of lucrative syndication deals and big time book sales. Or soft ball interviews with the President.
Some times manufacturers are held accountable when their product kills. Like cigarettes. Okay, bad example. Let's try, the Pinto. Better.
So, would we be able to hold Bill O'Reilly, in any way, culpable in the case of the Woodland Hills, California man, Chad Conrad Castagana, who was arrested for mailing threatening letters laced with white powder to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer and "Late Show" host David Letterman, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and other high-profile political and entertainment figures.
At first glance, this would seem the case of just a far right kook who wanted to scare the Secular Progressiveness out of a bunch of left wing moonbats. If blame for placing the Traditionalist bull-eye on these liberal elites was due, than you'd have to bring in the entire AM talk radio dial for an interrogation, which wouldn't be so bad
But at closer look, there is more than a hint that Chad had gotten his marching orders from one Lord of Loud in particular. While Pelosi and Schumer might have shared the wrath from any number of right wing talkers, only one has added David Letterman as embodiment of the Hate America First SPs and had laid blame at Stewart's doorstep for the potential killing of Christmas The Culture Warrior himself... BILL O'REILLY.
And when you add O'Reilly's chief nemesis since Franken had the last legal laugh, Keith Olbermann to the stack, it's not hard to imagine that Bill might have penned the hit list himself.
Now, a lot of ACLU-types will get in Bill's corner (and wouldn't that be worth the price of admission), to support Bill's right of free speech and his lack of any responsibility for what some nutcase in the Valley decides to mail.
But, like second hand smoke, what Bill says and his manner of saying it, doesn't necessarily have to catch Bill with the fingerprints to make him an accessory to the crime. Letterman and the rest of the other receptacles of Chad's powdered mailing are not painted by Bill as only ideological opponents as much as real dangers to the very life of America and every living man, woman and child therein.
Chad might have only acted as Silas to Bill's your Bishop Aringarosa, thinking that if he had not scared religion (of the Christian ilk) into Stewart, Walmart might bring back Happy Holidays; that if he hadn't sent warning powder to Letterman, Dave might have not stopped telling jokes, and if not targeting Keith, Bill might one day become the Worst EVER Person in the World. Most crucial, if Chad had not struck out at the enemies of all that is good, good itself would have been lost for good. And for that, could you blame him. I mean good is pretty special.
Perhaps the LAPD, CSI Fox News division, already has Bill in their sights. Or perhaps, instead of policing and fining a nipple's nanosecond of exposure or the devastating blow to our ears a fo*r-letter word delivers, the FCC could do it's job where it truly could help. If not O'Reilly's one degree of separation from Chad's terrorist salvos, certainly Laura Ingram's call to stuff the Democratic voter phone lines is due some FC investigation.
Bill may already be prepared to settle out of court...again. Or, he might just stand on his right of free speech. But like the proverbial "fire" in that proverbial movie theater, free speech has its limits...if they're meant to criminally damage those innocent of any crime. Really, how far is Bill's fear-mongering from Chad's? Bill speaks regularly of how Hollywood and its films screw up America? Should words and pictures shouldn't be held to any more scrutiny than words themselves?
When you decide that the way you're going to garner the ratings from the "folks" and you know what you're saying is not just the freedom to state your case, but to demean your adversaries as destroyers of all we love and hold dear, you'd have to be completely devoid of all reason not to know that your overstatement of imminent danger to our way of life would be a call to arms to Chad and all the other crazies who believe you're looking out for them and wouldn't tell them any less than the entire truth.
And if you don't get pulled in for this bit of iniquity, perhaps it might at least make you think twice before your dramatics and spin actually incite a whackjob like Chad to kill someone. I doubt you will, think, that is. But, in any event, with Chad in the hoosegow, there is one less of the "folks" listening to your...your cancer...or theater fire...or car that blows up when you tap it from behind.
I suggest that if the Culture Warrior needs another target after he runs out of SPs and War Against Christmas he should start with a good look in the mirror.
Afterall, how different is the power of Bill's words from Ward Churchill's?
Steve Young is author of "Great Failure of the Extremely Successful"and waxes satirically on the " L.A. Daily News Sunday Opinion page (right next to O'Reilly's column...really)