How he has yelled, cajoled, and insulted, ever claiming the higher moral ground that we have now discovered was built on quicksand.
I can’t believe he’s gone. As horrific and unlikely as the election of Donald Trump, the demise of Bill O’Reilly is almost as unbelievable but also wonderful and far, far overdue.
Bill’s life is a parade of continuous insult and cruelty, piped in the houses of old men who share the sentiment. It’s a safe space for curmudgeons to gather and dissect the many problems with “kids these days” and to throw around outdated terms for women and minorities.
Bill is the only professor of his imaginary university, where he lectures other old guys on how to be more awful people—and they happily oblige. I’ve watched Fox and written about it several times, always wringing my hands trying to understand the appeal, and watching people I dearly love buy into the cynicism, dishonesty, and meanness of it. I’m ashamed of the many O’Reilly episodes I’ve hate-watched.
Some parts of my own O’Reilly experiences really stand out. For instance, I learned that I was a “secular progressive.” This is one of the worst imaginable sins in Bill-speak, always boiled down to two letters— “SP.” Secular progressives are people like me and many of my dearest friends who are nonreligious and progressive on social and economic issues. Our existence is an insult to “traditional” values that are the superior way to be an American, according to Bill. Traditional America loves Jesus and adheres to older, traditional gender roles, like keeping women at home or demanding sex from reluctant subordinates.
Bill turned an entire segment of humans into some imaginary enemy, so he could attack and vilify it. He wrote a book, “Culture Warrior,” dedicated to skewing us (don’t read it). Bill’s books feature massive font sizes and lots of graphics. For people who don’t read other books, they’re a sad shadow of what a good or even mediocre book should be.
Bill has sounded the alarm for years about the immorality of SPs. We want to destroy America! We lack moral fiber! Yet, I’d be surprised if many of my fellow SPs have paid out millions of dollars for sexual harassment. The SP business isn’t a great paying gig, and we also frown on forcing yourself on unwilling sex partners.
For 20 years, oh how he has lectured us. How he has yelled, cajoled, and insulted, ever claiming the higher moral ground that we have now discovered (to NO one’s surprise) was built on quicksand. There have been multiple claims of Bill calling unwilling women and masturbating. This is an unnecessary, salacious detail, but how can we not yell it from the mountaintop about a man who has denied the fundamental rights of women? Bill has (reportedly) used his power and influence time and time again to coerce sexual favors from subordinates, exploiting his power imbalance for sex. A man who behaves this way has no morality. He is fundamentally broken and caustic.
The funny thing is that I’m not mad at Bill. I avoid these sweeping condemnations except in the case of those people who hurl such charges—Bill is a degenerate. What could we expect from such a person? I am upset at the millions of people who tune into him. I have many friends who love Bill O’Reilly, quote him and read his books. By and large, in my personal life, the Bill-lovers are decent if ill-informed people. They are responsible for ignoring or explaining away the awful person that Bill O’Reilly has proved himself to be for decades.
Bill also started—then declared victory in—the War on Christmas. This seems small, but it isn’t. This yearly ritual is an attack on minority religions and secular Americans, and those who dare to live outside how Bill thinks they should. It’s a reminder that we aren’t welcome in Bill’s America, and to conform we must either shut up or shout “Merry Christmas” upon command. It’s just a small example of his authoritarian desires.
Bill has insulted or browbeaten his way to the top of society with a toxic stew of authoritarianism, a healthy dose of racism, a never-ending defense of white privilege and rampant sexism. So much of his show has been about helping those least in need, while putting a boot on the necks of the “undesirables,” like feminists, atheists, the gays and especially “uppity” black women, all the groups who had to fight hardest for a seat at America’s great buffet.
For many years, and despite Trump’s victory, Bill O’Reilly has been fighting a rear-guard action. As Bill lined up one attractive, young conservative woman after another to gawk at and harass, a quiet shift happened around him. Sexual assault stopped being socially acceptable or funny. More of Bill’s personal actions and racist segments seemed less and less OK, until one day he was just finished.
You never know when bad people are going to fall. Some mean old men linger seemingly forever. It feels like we’ll never be rid of some toxic voices in our society. But then one day—BAM—it happens. Just like it did this week.
It’s springtime in Reno where I live. The weather is cool but warming, and the greenery is on display as the world wakes up from a cold, winter slumber. The world is fresh. I feel hope. And I have only one thing to say to Bill O’Reilly, who will likely never read these words: Merry Fucking Christmas.
Edwin Lyngar graduated from Antioch University in 2010 with his MFA in creative writing and also holds an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. His essays have appeared in Salon, Alternet, the Bellingham Review and others. Follow him on twitter @Edwin_Lyngar.