O’Reilly Criticizes Churchill

Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ most fair and balanced primetime host, was nice enough to bring a disturbing development happening right here in Colgate’s own backyard into the national spotlight. It was just one week ago that O’Reilly broke the story that the head of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Ethnic Studies Department, Professor Ward Churchill, was booked to speak at Hamilton College last night. O’Reilly – apparently feeling able to take the moral high road less than two months have passed since he paid off a woman accusing him of multiple counts of sexual harassment – has been relentless in his attacks on both Professor Churchill as well as of Hamilton University’s President Joan Hinde Stewart. After several days of scalding verbal attacks and multiple death threats, Hamilton finally gave in and decided to pull the plug on the event.

O’Reilly’s gripe stemmed from an article written by Professor Churchill in which he refers to those working in the World Trade Center who died in the 9/11 attacks as “little Eichmans,” in reference to former German SS Lieutenant-Colonel Adolf Eichman. Churchill goes on to liken the actions of the current U.S. government to those of Hitler’s Nazi government. The point that Churchill was attempting to make with these statements was taken way out of context and was wildly distorted by O’Reilly and the rest of the right-wing media. Churchill makes the argument that the U.S. acted as a rogue nation and has been in violation of various international laws, drawing the ire of many different groups of people. He claimed that what happened on 9/11 wasn’t merely a terrorist attack but rather the inevitable retaliation for crimes against the international community. Those working in the World Trade Center, not the janitors, policemen and fire fighters who lost their lives, were part of the machine that allowed for the U.S. to commit these international atrocities. The right wing media, however, painted Churchill as a traitor and a lunatic, disregarding his argument in its entirety and focusing instead on the sound bites that they could most easily distort to benefit their own personal agendas.

While certainly the opinions of Professor Churchill are quite far to the left in nature, O’Reilly took it upon himself to dictate who is and isn’t entitled to share his opinions with willing listeners and in what venues those opinions are appropriate to be shared. O’Reilly wasn’t alone in his furor, as the equally unbiased Wall Street Journal also took several shots at Professor Churchill, attempting to continue to embarrass and discredit both Churchill and Hamilton College.

It is interesting to note that the supposedly all-powerful liberal media, the one that conservatives continue to maintain exists, did not make a peep when right wing fanatic Ann Coulter dropped by Colgate in the spring of last year. Bluntly stating to the crowd that America was fighting on the wrong side of the Kosovo altercation and that the highest aspiration of Mexican immigrants was to mow lawns, the arrival of this blatant racist, hate-monger and of course, “patriot,” received no negative reaction from O’Reilly or others. Why is it that the inflammatory remarks made by Coulter on such a regular basis on her college tours are simply regarded as right wing rhetoric while those made by Churchill are considered both treasonous and horrific? Perhaps it’s because Coulter is merely talking about the benefits of the genocide of Muslims or the capabilities of Mexicans. I mean, it’s not like these people are Americans, right?

Beyond the obvious hypocrisy that is evident in this, there is an issue of bigger concern at work here, namely, the right wing news media attempting to control the outflow of ideas by liberal thinkers. In running their smear/bullying campaign, O’Reilly and The Wall Street Journal showed that stirring up as much animosity and national exposure for an event as possible can be used to deter universities from bringing in controversial speakers. These news outlets, who feign impartiality and journalistic integrity, are using bullying tactics as a means of silencing dissenters and making it difficult for audiences to hear their ideas. In doing so these so-called impartial “journalists” add validity to the claims of such scholars like Professor Churchill, as the actions of men like O’Reilly share more than a passing resemblance to famed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebells.

These events are certainly a blow to both the willingness of universities to bring in controversial speakers, to academic freedom, and to the first amendment itself, while likely giving “journalists” like O’Reilly a sense of accomplishment and vindication. Someone must be held accountable for this having taken place, and since that certainly won’t be any member of the media, the next logical choice would be Hamilton’s President Stewart. In giving in to these media bullies, she has sent a dangerous message and set an even more startling precedent. Her decision to cancel the event will only further motivate men like O’Reilly and has greatly hurt the intellectual freedom of other universities across the country. For this reason, she should do the honorable thing and resign, before she does any more harm to Hamilton College or the First Amendment.