Monday, January 10, 2005

Geoff Stone v. Bill O'Reilly 

How did I miss this? Apparently, Geoff Stone - professor at The University of Chicago Law School - appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and got into it with the lovable host. From O'Reilly's current column...
On December 17th, I interviewed Professor Jeffrey Stone who teaches law at the University of Chicago on my television program. The topic was whether one could be a loyal American and want to see the USA defeated militarily in Iraq. Stone said yes:

O'Reilly: "I want to make sure you want to stand by your statement, that you can be a loyal American rooting for your country to lose militarily in Iraq. Do you stand by that?"
Stone: "I stand by that. One can be a loyal American and still root against the country."

Stone went on to say that wanting the USA to lose in Iraq could save lives in the long run. I said that any military loss would have to mean more causalities for the U.S. military, which is absolutely true. You don't lose militarily without taking casualities, so how could any loyal American want that to happen?

Subsequently, Professor Stone wrote an op-ed in The Chicago Tribune accusing me of, among other things, spewing "ugly invective" and "inflaming my audience."

Well, here's some more gas for the fire. Believing that the Iraq War is wrong is legitimate dissent, and you might even be right--this may be an unwinnable situation. But feeling any kind of joy or satisfaction when you hear of victories by the "insurgents" means you have crossed the line from dissent into disloyalty.

Rationalizations walk. If you are rooting for the insurgents, you are one.
Note that Bill O'Reilly, an idiot, cannot be bothered to spell Professor Stone's name correctly.

Here is the key excerpt from Stone's column on the incident.
This brings me back to Bill O'Reilly. In our "debate," O'Reilly protested that he did not mean to imply anything about the loyalty of those who "merely" oppose the war in Iraq, as long as they don't "root" for the enemy. Accepting his rather peculiar framing of the issue (it is, after all, his show), I argued that a patriotic citizen could in principle want his nation to lose a war--if the war is unjust and if "losing" means that fewer soldiers and civilians will die for no good reason. After all, patriotic Italians in World War II could well have hoped Italy would lose the war, the quicker the better.

O'Reilly insisted that losing the war in Iraq would necessarily mean that more Americans would die than if we did not lose (whatever "lose" means in this context), and that no patriotic American could therefore want the United States to lose. Of course, this isn't necessarily so. A patriotic American could reasonably believe (rightly or wrongly) that we have no business being in Iraq and that the sooner we get out the better. To cover the evident weakness of his position, O'Reilly resorted to the time-tested spewing of such ugly invective as "despicable," "traitor" and "disloyal" (not at me, but at those who might hold the hypothetical view he was determined to excoriate).

His purpose, of course, was to inflame his audience, without regard to the most fundamental values of the American system he claims to support.

What is the consequence of such demagoguery? As always in our history, it is to foster rage rather than reflection. After the show, I received a flood of e-mails capturing the anger I believe O'Reilly deliberately incited. A few examples:

- "You ought to be arrested, tried and convicted of wartime treason. And I don't have to tell you the penalty for that."

- "You are not only despicable, but should go ahead and move out of the U.S.A."

- "I must imagine that you will look over your shoulder a little bit, because maybe some soldier in a foxhole somewhere might be a tad angered with you. There may be a few GIs who would like to `speak' with you."

- "There is the tendency for citizens to take the law into their own hands in these cases; that is not outside the realm of possibility."

- "If anything happens to either of my loved ones serving overseas, I will hold you responsible."

- "Simply, you are un-American."

And so on.

Of course, these individuals have every right to their views, and the 1st Amendment certainly protects O'Reilly's vile incitement of such hatred.

But he dishonors the Constitution and his profession when he does so. This is not democratic deliberation. It is dividing Americans against Americans just for the sport of it. In my book, for people like political commentators O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to exploit people's fears and anger in a time of war for nothing more than their own ratings is a pretty good definition of "unpatriotic."
I have to find a videotape of this.
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