Internet alarmist Bill O'Reilly is at it again. Last night, after a not-unreasonable Talking Points memo on the Schwarzengangbanger story, O'Reilly brought historian Douglas Brinkley to discuss the real question: "[W]hy is this stuff in circulation?" The truthful answer—Mickey Kaus is an incorrigible gossip, people have been known to hold onto their old soft-core porno mags, and the interview itself is pretty interesting—apparently would not do.
O'REILLY: But the other thing is that the court system in this country does not protect anybody in the public arena. You—look, with the rise of the Internet—you see the vile stuff on the Internet? You could say anything you want about anybody.
And it just goes unchecked. Shouldn't there be a check and balance in this?
BRINKLEY: I think so, too, and I think the Internet—you know, you mentioned the Clinton era, and, of course, that's when the Internet kind of blossomed into our lives, and, suddenly, you had a billion e-mails going around the world and—on—every day, and I think the Internet's so unregulated and that so many false things come up.
When I used to do a book, Bill, I would go to "The New York Times" index, which had a quality thing. Today, if I'm going to look up somebody, you look them up on the Internet. So what's on there, some people take as truth.
One of the hardest parts of being at a university is constantly telling students anything you read on the Internet is worthless, it's not factual.
To belabor the obvious, the Oui interview actually took place, and was published in an actual print magazine. No amount of government regulation, court protection, or lying to college students is going to prevent people from reading old magazines. But then, O'Reilly seems a bit on edge these days. From the same interview:
I wouldn't answer—look, I've got to—I've got to tell you, Doctor. They're after me. You know that. And even you've had some problems. Anybody who goes on television and speaks their mind, they're going to attack.