"Unfair Freedom of Speech Did Him In."


That's Bill O'Reilly's surprising (read: moronic) conclusion to the the Dan Rather Debacle. From the NY Daily News' version of the No-Spinmeister's syndicated col:

Dan Rather is guilty of not being skeptical enough about a story that was politically loaded….Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.

But you'll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up. It will be printed in the papers, discussed on radio and TV and become part of the unfortunate person's resume whether he or she is guilty or not. A click of the Internet mouse can wipe out a lifetime of honor and hard work. Just the accusation or allegation can be ruinous.

Let me ask you something: In the future, do you think potential public servants and social crusaders are going to risk being brutally attacked within this insane system? I don't. I think many good people are simply going to walk away from the public arena….

Unfair freedom of speech did [Rather] in. This is not your grandfather's country anymore.

Whole thing here.

Dan Rather was slimed? How, exactly? He was mocked and derided for putting out a phony story–a brilliant denouement to a career clogged with other sorts of laughable weirdnesses. Nobody was accusing him of murder, or rape, or any sort of unsubstantiated ad hominem charges. They said he was a dupe, witting or not, of the need for a big story that apparently supported his personal political view. He got burned because he jettisoned his journalistic standards at the precise moment he needed to stand by them. For that, he deserves to get beaten about the kidneys professionally. In any case, he's not going to hell as a result–he's capping off a 1,000 year career as one of the most-underwatched newsbots in the history of TV. That's pretty freaking good work if you can get it. And, Billy O, don't worry about running out of replacements for the Rathers of the world. Dandy Dan's pay, and the immense, typically monstrous power that "public servants and social crusaders" get to wield, suggest that particular well won't be running dry anytime soon. The unsupported argument that public scrutiny of politicians has driven good people out of that arena is weak enough; to claim that the same dynamic is at work in TV journalism borders on the insane.

O'Reilly's siding with the wealthy and renowned is not simply a result of his own recent brush with scandal; he's been on the side of the rich and famous against "attackers" for a very long time, especially Web-based scribes. But it's no less convincing in this case than in any other. "Unfair freedom of speech?" What a load of bullspin that phrase is. Freedom of speech is never unfair. It's the essential thing that allows something like truth to emerge from the marketplace of ideas and information.

And by the way, what can it possibly mean to invoke that pre-lapsarian paradise known as "your grandfather's country"? Without reciting a list of cliched truths (and exaggerations) about old-tyme discrimination against folks with names like O'Reilly, what exactly was better about the United States 50 or 75 years ago? That the social talkback mechanism in virtually every instance was totally stacked against the little people O'Reilly says he protects? I remain a big fan of (and, I hope, occasional guest on) The O'Reilly Factor, which continues to set the pace of cable yak shows for any number of good reasons. But in this latest dyspeptic burp of a col, Bill has produced little more than the next installment of his "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day" bit.

[Thanks to reader Rodney Smith for the link]