Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Shanda fur de Bill O'Reilly

So, Bill O'Reilly was on the purile morning pap known as The View this morning. 

Anyone who watches The View has no doubt of the political persuasions of the majority of its hostesses.  If you're like most thinking Americans and you don't watch The View (except when a particularly humorous excerpt shows up on The Soup) compare the treatments of 2008 Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and the political views of Walters' women reveal themselves fairly quickly.

Hey, they never claimed to be journalists. 

Well, in any case, they never claimed to be unbiased.

On The View, the problem has never been having a particular view (unless you're Elisabeth Hasselbeck) so much as it has been having to encounter guests whose views aren't in line with your own. 

Usually, this problem can be handled fairly easily through tactics like playfully mocking you if you're an elderly man, or shouting over you if you're a young blonde woman.  But when you encounter a middle-aged white male (demographic alert!  demographic alert!) with a pair of big clanging balls who could care less if he strikes a few sour notes in your ear... walk off-set.


To summarize the clip, Bill O'Reilly argues that Americans are "seeing a widening gulf between the President and them, personally," and when questioned on that, he goes on to cite a CNN poll that indicates nearly 70% of Americans do not approve of the building of the Ground Zero Mosque, in comparison to President Obama's refusal to "comment on the wisdom" of building a mosque in that location. 

Immediately, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar become so offended that Bill O'Reilly agrees with the 70% of Americans cited in CNN's poll and not the two of them (as they shout, "But I'm an American!  I'm an American!") that they literally get up and walk off the set.

What?  Shouting and witty repartee weren't good enough this time around? 

I am Jewish, which means that I know a good argument when I get into one.  There is a reason we need ten men to say a prayer and 70 to make a decision; to say we are opinionated is an understatement.  So, needless to say, when I see the Jewish woman in the room get up and walk away from an argument, something in my kishkes makes me squirm. 

Whoopi I can understand; after all, she's just a poser anyway.1  But, Joy Behar, how could you?  Shanda fur de goyim!  Seriously, what kind of Jewess are you that you can't have a good argument?  Agreeing to disagree is the fourth pillar of our faith!

The situation brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend (who also happened to be Jewish) a few years ago about television news networks.  For some reason, Fox News came up and she immediately remarked, "They're SO biased!"

I replied that I thought all news networks were biased, one way or the other.  The first thing any good media professor will tell you is that television is a business.  The entire point of television is to appeal to a demographic in order to make money through advertising.  Therefore, most television programming is geared towards the particular age/gender/race Neilsen says will be watching at that particular time of the day.  Hence, Saturday morning cartoons are on at 9 am on Saturday morning and not 9 pm on Tuesday night.  So, if Fox News is biased, they are only biased inasmuch as they are seeking to appeal to a demographic previously underserved by their peers (in this case, the political right wing) in order to win ratings and, in turn, increase advertising revenue. 

Her grand reply was, "Well, I don't agree with them, so they are biased."

Wait, is that how we justify who we do and don't talk to, by whether or not they agree with what we have to say?  Where's the Jewish in that?

One scholar, Deborah Schiffrin, wrote an article stating that "Jewish Argument" is a social tool used to "display solidarity."  In other words, getting up and walking away from someone because they disagree with you is about as Jewish as eating pork at the Passover seder.  It is antithetical to the Jewish neshama to turn your back on someone who disagrees with you.  If anything, it is your responsibility to make them dinner during the discussion!

Why is it that Jewish Americans like Joy Behar have lost their ability to argue peacefully, and to disagree and remain on friendly terms?  While her "talk or walk" opinions may promote political comraderie, they do nothing to unite the Jewish American community at large, of which roughly 1/2 do not currently approve of the President's performance, let alone the American Jewish community's relationship with their fellow Americans, of which roughly 1/2 do not currently approve of the President's performance.  Even more importantly, in losing our ability to interrelate with people who hold different opinions, we are losing a key element of our Jewishness that has ensured our survival for thousands of years: The ability to see another person's point of view while holding onto our own. 

Stated simply: What do you think gives a person their character, their ability to echo an opinion, or their ability to express one?

If Netanyahu threatened to walk out of this latest round of proposed peace talks as often as Abbas did, Jewish Americans of Joy Behar's political persuasion would be in an uproar.  How will we ever achieve peace, they would argue, if we can't at least sit at a table together and talk things out?!

There is nothing Jewish about walking away from an argument.  Disagree with Bill O'Reilly and you certainly won't be the first.  But, if you really want to make a statement, invite him to lunch after the show.

After all, what good Irish Catholic boy would say no to a lox and whitefish buffet?

1. "Born Caryn Elaine Johnson...  Goldberg also adopted her stage name, which began as Whoopi Cushion, but later adopted the "Goldberg" surname because her mother felt the original was not "Jewish enough" to make her a star."  For more on this offensive idea, see last week's entry regarding "Joos Controlling the Media".

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