Klavan On The Culture

The Real O'Reilly Factor

The Real O'Reilly Factor
Bill O'Reilly(AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, file)

When a news story includes sex, it becomes about sex. The reason is simple: sex is sexy. It’s sexy to think about and talk about and argue over. We all have strong opinions about it. It tends to overshadow everything else.

So the story of Bill O’Reilly’s fall at Fox News is now about sex and that’s what everyone’s discussing. Did O’Reilly harass women or did he get burned by lies and left-wing campaigners? Were the charges proven? Did the charges matter? Are the women believable? Are they gold diggers? Is it all a big fuss about nothing?

My own opinion? I haven’t heard any accusations that amounted to anything criminal but it doesn’t sound to me like Bill covered himself in glory either. If an intelligent and accomplished person like Margaret Hoover is afraid to be alone in a room with you, you may have misplaced your copy of the Chivalric Code, to say the least.

Feminism is a toxic, destructive philosophy that has made the life of most people worse — and no one has said so more clearly or more often than I have. But to react to Nasty Woman Feminism with hyper-aggressive macho misbehavior is to embrace the Reactionary Grotesque. To act badly because your ideological opponents act badly is to be defined by your enemies.

A rich and powerful man — hell, even just a presentable man — can have as much sex as he wants without making the people he works with uncomfortable. What Donald Trump said is true: If you’re a celebrity, women will let you get away with a lot. That doesn’t mean you should take advantage of them. Try being a gentleman, kind and respectful to everyone around you both male and female, and see how life goes for you then.

So that’s my opinion — but here’s the thing: I don’t think this story is really about sex at all. I think it’s about something that presents a far greater threat to our politics than whether men make passes and girls file lawsuits.

According to Michael Wolff at the The Hollywood Reporterthe tension leading up to O’Reilly’s ouster revealed a divide among the owners and operators at Fox, the Murdoch family.

This is a reflection of greater family and company interests and conflicts. For 86-year-old Rupert, Fox News is a key part of his legacy, as well as the family company’s health: the most profitable news outlet ever ($1.5 billion in profits this year) and among the most influential. For James, 44, and Lachlan, 45, the hope is to reshape this legacy, to move Fox away from what they see as its retro, Trump-style views toward, well, something nicer (and to do this profitably, they hope, somehow).

The way I hear it, the young Murdochs don’t like getting razzed for the O’Reilly-Of-It-All when they go to fancy cocktail parties in New York, London and L.A. They want to be part of the cool crowd and you can’t do that with the smell of conservative cordite on you. They care less about profits than about making Fox presentable to the liberal set.

So only Papa Rupert is keeping Fox News alive as a conservative outlet. And — this may come as a surprise to pops — nobody lives forever. This means that the one and only conservative voice on television — to be clearer, the one and only news source that is not an absolute cesspit of leftist lies — may be about to vanish, one unpresentable loud-mouth at a time.

If so, it will reveal once again the short-sighted philistinism of the conservative movement, a movement that can’t be bothered to engage in culture creation, that is too busy screaming about the latest faux crisis to take the long view that might ultimately save the nation we love.

How is it possible that an enterprise as successful as Fox News has spurred no imitators? How is it no billionaires have been inspired to build a Fox for millennials or for comedy or for drama? If I’m right, and the end of The O’Reilly Factor presages the end of Fox as we know it, conservatives are soon going to find themselves facing elections with no cultural voice at all.

Trust me, you’re not going to like it.

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