“As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly.” That’s Proverbs 26:11 for a certain popular cable-news host who just returned from a nice Caribbean vacation. And, no, I’m not Bible thumping. I’m O’Reilly thumping.
On Tuesday night’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly devoted the first 20 minutes of the show — and another segment later on with Charles Krauthammer — to refuting what he characterized as unfair attacks on his recent positions. And most of that time was spent defending his claim that traditionalists haven’t mounted a compelling argument against faux marriage, that all they can do is “thump the Bible.”
And even though this accusation has brought O’Reilly great criticism, he didn’t back down but doubled down. He said that his commentary was just “honest analysis”; he also said his claim is vindicated because traditionalists are losing the marriage debate, and, opined he, this wouldn’t be happening if they were mounting the better arguments. Is this honest analysis? It is in the sense that O’Reilly believes it. But it isn’t true analysis.
O’Reilly first discussed the matter with Laura Ingraham, whom I like, but both she and later guest Charles Krauthammer completely missed the point. Ingraham simply said that O’Reilly shouldn’t have used the term “thump” and that pro-marriage forces haven’t had that long to ponder the marriage issue and construct arguments (?!), while Krauthammer very articulately exhibited a grasp of the obvious and said that you’re not going to win policy debates with secularists by quoting Scripture. But the real issue is that you’re not going to win debates with anyone if you ignore your best and brightest.
Moreover, it’s not just that there are compelling marriage arguments on the right.
It’s that the compelling arguments are found only on the right.
As I wrote some days ago, however, you don’t hear them because they’re never presented in academia, the media, or popular culture.
And, frankly, I’m getting a bit ticked off. This is because you, Mr. O’Reilly, are part of the problem. I and others have been propounding deep and sometimes novel arguments in defense of marriage for years, but when have you ever had any of us on your show? And if you want someone with more name recognition, how about Alan Keyes, a true intellectual and one of the best orators of modern times? The point is that the arguments — and arguers — are out there, but the left-wing media act as if we write in invisible ink because what cannot be refuted must be ignored. That is their game, but what’s your excuse, O’Reilly?
It’s not that O’Reilly and Fox News fox Megyn Kelly — his partner in obliviousness when positing his Bible-thumper thesis last Wednesday — are trying to wither the best marriage arguments on the vine; it’s that they’re so immersed in the Lamestream Media, academia, and political class themselves that they don’t look beyond them to where the compelling arguments lie. They won’t be found by talking to a Republican strategist, some retread Ph.D., or traditionalist-organization leader whose relevant commentaries range from nothing to nothing but boilerplate. But it doesn’t require Sherlock Holmes, either. You simply find compelling arguments on that thing called the Internet, and then invite those who penned them on your show. Of course, you must accept that your guest may not be female, blonde, beautiful, and able to win the Miss Factor Pageant.
Yet it’s not just that compelling arguments can’t compel when they don’t get their day in the court of public opinion; it’s that even when they do, they could only, at best, change minds when what we have to change are hearts. This brings us the notion that traditionalists would be winning the debate if, sang scarecrow O’Reilly, they only had a brain.
Where did you ever get the idea, Mr. O’Reilly, that logic and reason generally carry the day? You do know that we’re dealing with human beings and not Vulcans, don’t you? Did Hitler and Mussolini rise to power based on reasoned arguments or was their main technique something else entirely? And I’m sure, Mr. O’Reilly, you believe that you put forth compelling arguments, yet consider your track record. Have you ever succeeded in changing Bob Beckel’s mind one iota? Alan Colmes’? Marc Lamont Hill’s? Juan Williams’? Jon Stewart's? And the more people are disconnected from reason and operate on an emotional level — the closer they are to being what we today call “liberal” — the more the seeds of reason will fall on barren ground. As Ben Franklin said, “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.”
This doesn’t mean logical argumentation is useless. First, you speak Truth mainly because that is what we’re called to do; second, there are still some open and engaged minds that can be changed. But you need to apply what I call political/cultural triage and understand that three basic groups exist. One is the choir, whose members generally agree with you; with them reasoned arguments are valuable, but only because they may help deepen the choir’s understanding of the issues and provide them ammunition for battle. The second group is the smallest and comprises those who can be swayed by reasoned arguments, as well as appeals to emotion, and they are a major target of the former. But then we come to the third group: the Initiated.
These are people detached from and uninterested in Truth, virtually always because they’re relativists who don’t believe in it. This has a serious effect because if there were no Truth, there would be no answers to be found without, only feelings within; this is why such people’s credo is “If it feels good, support it.” And since reason is not an answer but a method by which you find answers, if you don’t believe they exist, you will have no reason to use reason, and that’s when you become wholly unreasonable. This leads to the death of thought — and the birth of destructive processes such as modern liberalism.
How Soviet defector and ex-KGB operative Yuri Bezmenov put it is that these people, the Initiated, are “programmed ... the facts tell them nothing.” He also said that you are stuck with them, you cannot change them, and that all you could do is raise a new generation of patriotic Americans. And, barring some traumatic life event that induces great pain and inspires deep conversion in the rare Initiate, this is true. These people should be viewed as enemies, no different from a Soviet spy in 1955 Washington, and they are not to be reasoned with because this is impossible. They are to be fought and defeated.
Tragically, though, they are winning the culture war. But this isn’t because they have the deeper arguments.
It is because they have the shallower ones.
“Marriage equality!” “Equal rights!” “Forward!” “Coke is it!” “JUST DO IT” “Yes, we can.” Exclaim! Exclaim! Exclaim! Emote! Emote! Emote! Any good advertising man knows that, like a picture, a good slogan is worth a thousand words. What he may not know is that it’s worth far more; the thousand words will rarely be read, especially in this sound-bite culture where most people wouldn’t peruse a piece of commentary if it were pasted to a stripper (only 10 to 15 percent of the population reads news and commentary). And why bother? There are no answers to be found, right? As for emotion, all those words are sort of like Ben Stein’s teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: They drone on and on and on and evoke ennui. Ah, but those slogans — they get you right where you live. Why, even Pontius Pilate couldn’t prevail upon the mob with his sober references to justice and law and compete with “Crucify Him!” And thus Barabbas was chosen and Jesus — who, I suppose, just didn’t mount compelling enough arguments — was condemned.
Oops, was I Bible thumping again? Sorry about that, Bill. What can I say? I’m just a shallow guy who could never cut it on the “fair and balanced” Factor where pithiness rules the day and “We report, you decide.”