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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Conservative Blogosphere Vs. Bill O'Reilly

When I initially saw the segment, I didn't think much of it, but it has set off a firestorm in a little corner of the internet known as the right blogosphere. Here's video of the segment.

At about, 1:50 of the segment, O'Reilly and Amanda Carpenter discuss a comment made on Hot Air.

unqualified, militant, and Socialist, NEXT please. The GOP needs to block any of Hussein's extremist picks.

Now, in discussing this comment, O'Reilly does several things of note. First, he misidentifies this as a blog post, which the purveyors would have written. In fact, it is a comment by a reader. Second, he alludes that Hussein is used to describe Obama. Third, his analysis of the comment is that it comes from political fantasy land. In other words, the Republicans don't have the votes to hold up any of his nominees during this cycle.

Now, I thought nothing of this however the folks at Hot Air saw this as a "smear".

Ah, there’s nothing like yanking a comment out of context and using it to smear the entire site, even though neither Ed nor I have ever referred to Obama as “Hussein.” Bonus points to O’R for referring to the comment in question as a “blog posting” even though it’s anything but. And before our lefty commenters ask, yes, I have defended
Kos from similar charges

Exit question: How guilty to hold Carpenter for not objecting more vociferously in Hot Air’s defense?

The firestorm has been set. Next came Michelle Malkin, owner of Hot Air, on Fox and Friends attacking O'Reilly for this "smear" (during a segment about something totally different no less)

Finally, O'Reilly responded last night during his reality check segmen. He corrected himself and pointed out that it was commenter and not the writers that said this. He also said that he believes that blogs should do a better job of policing such comments, and that on his own site that's often easier said than done.

This hasn't stopped the fury from the right blogosphere. They have mined for any comments that are also vile. They found this one.

NO HOMOS NO HOMOS now will the League arrest me for my right wing statement, perhaps i will be taken off the New Yuk slimes CHRISTMAS card list. what you do or dont do in your bed room is none of my business just dont tell me I am wrong if i say NO MARRIAGE FOR HOMOS NO MARRIAGE FOR HOMOS. Hay maybe you can have a vote and lose and have the courts overturn your vote. Well that cant happen in AMERICA now can it.

They've even combed The Fox, owned by O'Reilly's employer Fox News, for vile comments and found several there. So, it appears the right blogosphere is in full war mode against O'Reilly.

Well, here's my take. First, if the folks at Hot Air consider this a "smear", they are awfully sensitive. Frankly, most of his commentary is mild. He mostly calls the comment dumb, not offensive. Frankly, it is. He only alludes to Hussein referring to the president to make sure all his viewers know who is being identified. He did initially mistakenly attribute this to the writers but then corrected himself. He has long been pointing out that comments in blogs get vile and he does this on both sides.

What's really hypocritical and self serving about this though is that the ire is attracted to O'Reilly himself and not Amanda Carpenter. Only those throwing the hissy fit know why, but I have a few theories. First, O'Reilly's audience is massive and so a food fight would give them exposure they wouldn't normally get. Carpenter's audience is not only smaller but includes most of the same readers.

Yet, Carpenter ought to be the target of most of these attacks. She was brought onto the segment to share with O'Reilly the view from the blogosphere. She's almost certainly the one that chose the comment. It's unlikely that O'Reilly was the one that mined Hot Air for a comment. He doesn't read blogs. It is Carpenter that is the blogger. Carpenter could have corrected O'Reilly about this being a comment but didn't. So, if they feel smeared, they should be ticked at her. Yet, she gets a free pass on all of this venom. Why? Well, for one thing, Carpenter is a fellow conservative blogger. Picking a fight with her isn't as fruitful and many of these same bloggers are personally friends with her. Of course, her audience is also significantly smaller than O'Reilly's.

Also, the venom in the comments follow posts about this whole thing among all the blogs prove O'Reilly's point, that far too many hateful comments are allowed on the blogosphere, on both sides. O'Reilly agrees that it is very difficult to police all of these comments, and that's of course the reason given by Hot Air for allowing them. Of course, being overwhelmed doesn't change the fact that they are there. Frankly, the site staffs two full time writers and it could easily staff several interns to mine the comments if they wanted to.

From my own perspective, I am sure that if I read every single comment on my own site there would be several that would qualify as hateful and I get significantly less. There is a fine line. I don't want to be a facist and dismiss anything I find objectionable. That would mean very few people would come back. So, I try to keep my rules somewhat simple. As for O'Reilly, he isn't necessarily a big fan of the internet. He often points out much of gutter scum that is found there. Comments on blogs of both sides is just one example. He has admitted, more than once, that even his own site isn't perfect in mining these comments. The point should be to try and figure out how to keep the hate out. Reflexively getting defensive and attacking the messenger doesn't solve the problem.

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