David R. Henderson  

Two Cheers for Fox News Channel

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Fox News Channel's decision to fire Bill O'Reilly caused me to reread a piece I wrote about Fox back in 2004. Were I to grade Fox, now, independent of O'Reilly, I would give them 1.5 cheers.

An excerpt:

Back to foreign policy, where Fox fails to earn the third cheer. Even here, though, there is some good news, and it's mainly due to Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly is neither liberal nor conservative nor neo-conservative. Rather, he is a populist. Night after night he talks about how he's looking out for "the folks," a term I've never heard him define. I get the impression that "the folks" means, to O'Reilly, what former President Richard Nixon referred to as "the silent majority," a large group whom Nixon imagined populated the United States and favored the Vietnam war, but, somehow, never bothered to speak up in favor of it.

So what is the good news? Simply this. O'Reilly is neither incisive nor particularly thoughtful. But O'Reilly seems to have a high opinion of his own intellect. Because of that, he often hosts smart guests whom, I get the impression, he thought he could refute, but sometimes can't. Moreover, these are often guests who are more articulate and whose views are fresher, than the guests and views you typically see on the liberal networks. In December, for example, he hosted a University of Chicago law professor named Geoffrey Stone, who argued that U.S. defeat in Iraq would be good. O'Reilly regarded this as traitorous and that was about the extent of his argument. But Stone pointed out that if the U.S. government responded to defeat by exiting Iraq, many American lives would be saved. O'Reilly became muddled when faced with this argument -- he didn't know what to do with it. And millions of Americans got to see a guy with some gravitas saying, without animus, that the U.S. government should be defeated.

Don't miss the part about NBC fraudulently blowing up a GM truck and getting caught.

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CATEGORIES: Competition , Media Watch

COMMENTS (6 to date)
Adam writes:

Bill was no sage or saint, but he spoke directly and plainly. He knew how to pitch a story. He was pithy. He was a network product like Brokaw, Blitzer and Holt. He definitely leaves a hole at 8 pm. Fortunately, there're still books, Amazon Prime and EconLog.

John Hall writes:

I won't be surprised if the political opinions of whoever replaces him will be worse.

A writes:

I question the value of "quality and diversity of guests" as normative metrics. If you manage the tone of your show to cultivate a combative atmosphere, then you attract an appropriate audience. A fun experiment would be to watch a youtube clip in which you feel the guest conducted him/herself admirably, and then scroll down to the comments to see whether others agreed.

My intuition is that David Henderson types are atypical O'Reilly viewers, and that O'Reilly's net effect has been to encourage tribalism, rather than improved knowledge.

Jay writes:

@John Hall

What do you mean by someone's opinions will be "worse"?

David Seltzer writes:

Roger Ails allegedly said Bill O'Reilly is a book salesman with a TV show. What he didn't say was O'Rielly made rain at Fox for years.

Adam writes:

He definitely leaves a hole at 8 pm. Fortunately, there're still books, Amazon Prime and EconLog.
During the past year I have discovered YouTube. For the good regulars at EconLog (meaning people with whom I like to believe I agree), you might like the following YouTube channels, in rough order of my preference:
  1. Ron Paul,
  2. James Corbett,
  3. Stefan Molyneux,
  4. Lionel Nation,
  5. Richie Allen,
  6. Alex Jones.
Whenever I go to YouTube they have a fresh list of recommendations for me. Their recommendations for me are surprisingly good. This quality might be because I have a YouTube account and I stay signed in on that account. So when I open YouTube it can reference everything that Google knows about me, since as you know Google owns YouTube.

Unfortunately I don't know how long this helpful-to-me recommendation service will last. I am not sure there is a clear dividing line between Google and government (the left, NSA, and CIA).

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