For Immediate Release - February 10, 2009
Since when is it a crime to write for The Nation?
Last night Jon Stewart brilliantly lampooned Bill O'Reilly for his ambush on Columbia Journalism Review editor Mike Hoyt, who was followed onto a bus by an O'Reilly Factor minion because CJR ran a piece by someone who once wrote for--gasp!--The Nation. [Video link here.]
Stewart makes a good point, that O'Reilly is so hypocritical about the right to privacy it could make your head spin. But what the incident really shows is just how fast Fox News and the right are sinking, and how rudderless they are in this time of great crisis. Years ago 60 Minutes popularized this type of guerilla journalism in reports that exposed corporate crime, greedy CEOs and financial malfeasance. Apparently not interested in investigating the financial crisis or abuses on Wall Street, O'Reilly instead chased a journalist onto a bus over something far more shocking: palling around with The Nation.
I wish I had pointed out that The Nation is a fine magazine of the political left, just as magazines like The Weekly Standard are fine political journals of the right (perhaps noting that CJR praised the Standard for its excellent cover story on Detroit just last week). And that, anyway, [Michael] Massing has written just once for The Nation since 2003, and writes all over the place for the best publications in America. Or that among his best work is a book on American drug policy that credits Richard Nixon; or that is blockbuster critique of the press coverage of the runup to the war in Iraq irritated the New York Times a lot more than it irritated Fox; or that he's working on a history of the Protestant Reformation. And etc.Hoyt is right--Massing has been published across the political spectrum. But even if he hadn't, since when is it a crime to write for The Nation? As with the stimulus debate, when the right reached back to the 1990's for lines of attack about arts funding and contraception, O'Reilly is so intellectually bankrupt that he needs to create a target out of publications like The Nation. In fact, The Nation has a long history of publishing writers of varying ideologies, many of whom would be more at home with O'Reilly than at a Nation editorial meeting. Pat Buchanan has written for us; so has Mickey Edwards, former Chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation. We've published such questionable figures as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., H.L. Mencken and Robert Frost. We even published a letter to the editor from Adolph Hitler in 1927, but I best not go there.
The reality is that with conservative principles in tatters, his own influence sinking and a new generation of ideas taking hold, Bill O'Reilly attacks the messenger (an occasional contributor to The Nation) instead of the message (O'Reilly's segment gave no substantive critique of Massing's interesting piece, about the right-wing use of the "un-American" meme.) He's got nothing left. When simply writing for a publication with a differing ideology is an offense worthy of being ambushed at a bus stop, perhaps it's O'Reilly who is closer to eroding freedoms and liberties than the scurrilous liberals he deplores.
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Contact: Ben Wyskida, 212/209.5426