There is no question that Bill O’Reilly and “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News are wildly popular. His 8 p.m. show is the top-rated cable news program, averaging 2,650,000 million households per night in April 2009.
O’Reilly’s viewers are much more than just fans-they are followers. There is a difference. Fan casually listen. They are entertained in the moment. They go about their business. Followers are focused. They listen intently. They process information and their reactions to the issues. They may take action based on those emotional reactions. A follower may also be a fan but a fan is not necessarily a follower. Bill O’Reilly has a lot of followers. He is often able to inspire their legions to action on whatever issue he chooses to support or to vilify. The actions of his followers can range to from flooding switchboards and email in-boxes with everything from god bless you to thank you to F**K YOU!
I admittedly do not know Bill O’Reilly. I have never met him. I however am a first-hand witness to his power to quickly engage the masses to action on a particular issue. I was not even involved with the issue in question. Yet his words had a direct effect on me, my family my ability to do my job and my fear for my personal safety.
In 2007, the movie “Redacted” was released. It was a production of HDNet Films which in which my brother Mark Cuban has a major interest. Bill took great interest in the movie, claiming that it was inflammatory and would certainly incite violence against American troops In Iraq. He called for a boycott of the movie. He excoriated Mark for being involved with it. He labeled Mark with the much dreaded “Pinhead” stating:
“there is no question the film will incite anti-American hatred around the world”
Bill was right and wrong. There was anti-American hatred. The hatred however was right here at home. The hated Americans were Mark, myself, our family and Dallas Mavericks employees. Almost all of whom had nothing to do with the film. That was the only anti-American hatred that was incited and it was not incited by the movie. It was incited by Bill’s inflammatory rhetoric Did it translate into violence? Thank god it did not. It did however cause me to fear for my safety.(I had absolutely nothing to do with the film). It caused my email box and my voice-mail to fill with the most vile of hate messages
I also could no longer answer the phones as part of my job as the Executive Director of The Fallen Patriot Fund. A fund founded by the Mark Cuban Foundation. A fund that to date has given out over 4 million dollars to injured soldiers and the families of soldiers killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For a period of about two weeks, about every other time I answered the phone I was greeted with hate filled, obscenity laced tirades over the movie. There were threats as well.
Ironically, American wounded soldiers in need as well as families of KIA soldiers counting on timely grants from the Fallen Patriot Fund to make ends meet were the ultimate victims of O”Reilly’s Redacted rant.
You think Bill cared? I doubt he even thought about it before or after Mark pointed out the dangerous effect of Bill’s words. Soldiers experiencing delays in obtaining needed funds and our family safety were simply the collateral risk he stepped over without looking down and undoubtedly laughed about about with his producers and buds. Here is a quote from Mark’s take on the situation:
“In response to Mr OReilly’s comments that “he is going to be my worst nightmare”. Well you have succeeded Mr OReilly. The people who take you literally took it upon themselves to call my businesses with bomb threats, threaten employees, myself and others with physical harm and wish every manor of death , injury and illness on us all. They also managed to fill up the telephone lines of the Fallen Patriot Fund so that we couldn’t conduct business, and maybe its coincidence, but the fund’s website went offline for the first time ever yesterday.”
Now we have late term abortion doctor George Tiller shot dead. O’Reilly never hid is contempt for Dr. Tiller. He was a vocal opponent of the late term abortions Tiller performed. Bill repeatedly said on air that Tiller had “blood on his hands.” He stated that Tiller was operating a “death mill“ He labeled him “Tiller The Baby Killer” .
Strong words? Certainly. A call to action by his followers? Not explicitly. One would hope that O’Reilly would not make such statements hoping the harm would befall the good doctor who was ultimately shot dead.
What is the point of this?
It is not that I think Bill O’Reilly bears some legal or moral responsibility for the death of Dr. Tiller. I do not believe he does.
It is also not that I agree or disagree with his opinions of Redacted. I frankly have never seen the movie. I probably never will. Not my cup of tea. There is however part of me that wonders if Bill still optimistically hoping that American or coalition troops will stumble upon a safe house or terrorist training facility in Iraq stocked with boot-leg copies of Redacted before we are completely out so he can give a “told you so” shout out to Mark and give him another “pinhead” award.
My point is that anyone who thinks Bill O’Reilly can not work his followers into a tornado frenzy capable of spitting out violent acts is naive in the extreme. My point is that anyone who truly believes that Bill O”Reilly does not know this and is not aware of this with every word he spouts is worse than naive, they are just plain stupid. That just as dangerous as Bill’s words.
The last point is that it ultimately goes back to what I have been saying time and time again in the context of the Facebook Holocaust Denial controversy. Along with the power to put out an unrestricted message to the media masses comes the responsibility to be socially conscious of the effect of that message.
In the end, I admit there a big difference between the Redacted and Tiller example. The difference is that no one put a bullet in me or anyone in my family. I guess the right nut-case follower did not take Bill seriously enough.
Bill O’Reilly’s Mark Cuban Redacted Rant
Bill Oreilly Says Dr. George Tiller Operating A “Death Mill”