February 20, 2008

O'Reilly uses the "l" word

Is this racism? Bill O'Reilly responding to a caller who said that Michelle Obama is an angry "militant woman" actually tries to suggest that we need to find the facts. He says that he has some sympathy for Mrs. Obama and Bill Clinton in that every time they turn around, they are challenged by someone who is just waiting for them to say the wrong thing. Then he says this:
"That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."
I think it is very possible that O'Reilly just didn't think about how racist that sounds. "Lynch" has become a part of the language in a vague way, kind of the way we use the word "torture." So, as much as I dislike O'Reilly, this strikes me as less racist than some on the web are saying, and in fact compared to what O'Reilly has said in other contexts--like his response to eating in the Harlem restaurant.

But actually what strikes me as more troubling than his casual use of this word is the fact that if Michelle Obama is not blindly proud of her country, she is an enemy. If she thinks we are a "flawed nation" or "bad country" then she should be badmouthed--according to O'Reilly. And his caller's use of the word "militant" to describe Obama is more racism still.

Amazing. Most Americans admit that racism is bad. But if someone was, perhaps, angry about that racism, that would make them militant?


steves said...

I have been participating in a lengthy discussion on Michelle's comments over on another blog. Most, like myself, saw it as no big deal. I guess I heard a woman that was very excited and proud that her husband was doing so well. I didn't see someone that hated America and thought her husband was the only way to improve things. Unfortunately, the nature of the MSM and sound bites doesn't allow for the person to explain tings very well. She probably could have said it better, but I just don't see why this is such a big story.

Lynch has become part of the language and I don't think he meant it as racist. The word Nazi is casually used to describe many situations and types of people.

Tony said...

I am part way with Steve here. I feel her words have been misconstrued and twisted to mean something they certainly don't. That being said, they are representative of that growing narcissism. I am willing to offer latitude here simply because she is Obama's wife and it would be pretty rotten if she didn't support him that way.

I don't think it is fair the way she is being misrepresented.

I disagree a bit with you Steve, but I think it is because of geography. I am in a part of the country where "lynch" most certainly still has racist overtones.

Streak said...

I think lynch has very racist overtones, but simply suspect that O'Reilly could have used it without thinking.

But Olbermann pointed out last night the qualifier "unless" in his little graph about Michelle. Don't want to start a lynching party "unless" she actually said those things. Then it would be ok.

Gene Robinson was on and he looked pretty disgusted with the whole thing and O'Reilly. For him it was clearly racist and clearly inappropriate.

But the right's need to feel welling pride about the US is a little toxic. Especially when, as with the case of the late Falwell, they can bash America with ease. They just bash us. They can say we are traitors, that the NY Times should be destroyed, that the Clintons are commies, that liberals in general want us to lose in Iraq--all of that is completely in bounds.

Have I said that the right wing echo chamber disgusts me?