Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Open Letter to Joan Walsh about that O'Reilly appearance - UPDATED

Salon Editor Joan Walsh was just on The O'Reilly Factor and you can see the results here. I posted the letter below to the comments section of her recent Salon post about the interview.

You were angry throughout the interview, Joan. Big mistake. What would Jesus do? What would Mohammed do? What would the Buddha do?

Unconditional love, that's what. Compassion and constant forgiveness. That's what the Left stands for. Nonviolence, and unconditional love and compassion. All the important Left political positions stem from that essential foundation.

All the letter writers who told you you're a fool for going on the show are wrong. Let the Left media be your guide. Look at Colbert, who regularly has quite Right Wing people (including Papa Bill) on his show and treats them with respect and love and dignity -- even as he very bluntly satirizes them in that deliciously calibrated way. Or Rachel Maddow, who has "my fake uncle Pat Buchanan" on and seems to feel a real affection for him, as repugnant as some of his views may be.

You can be the Left guest who shows the right that someone on the Left can be loving and gentle and actually say some things that make sense. But you have to take control. Don't ever argue with him; that's his territory and he's a master of forcing you into an argument in which he has already defined the terms to his own advantage.

Bill O'Reilly's a fake and a fraud, no doubt about that. But maybe on the abortion issue he has a point. When he asked you if you thought late term fetuses should have any rights, why couldn't you just say, "I believe a woman's right to control her body should trump any rights we may or may not extend to unborn fetuses." Let him have his belief that abortion is some level of violence, if not murder. Lots of very civilized people have that fundamental belief, including a lot who think a woman should have the legal right to make that choice.

But his rhetoric of hatred should be met with a rhetoric of love. Meet every ugly statement of his with a very calm, positive declarative statement of how he could become a better man, a better American, and a better leader for his legion of followers. "I understand where you're coming from but I think it would be more democratic, and American, to work to change the law rather than calling someone a 'baby killer' and all but advocating vigilantism against him." Smile sweetly.

Never give him back anger. Never never. O'Reilly feeds on anger, it makes him stronger. He feeds on anger like a mosquito feeds on blood. Give him only love and forgiveness. Help set him straight.


Joan Walsh responded:

With all due respect peacelove, I so totally agree with you, I do believe the answer is love and compassion, and I do my best to show it.

And yet I think your letter is condescending bullshit. And I bet Rachel would agree with me re: Uncle Pat, because I have dealt with more of his hard-core racist bullshit than she has. Your letter makes me wonder how you model love and compassion to people as shriveled as O'Reilly - but I love you for it.

To which, I responded back:

So sorry, Joan. I didn't mean to be condescending but I can certainly see how my letter can be read as such. My bad.

O'Reilly's a tough one because he's so fundamentally dishonest. You really can't tell what he actually believes since he's perfectly willing to contradict himself if he thinks he can leverage it to his advantage.

That said, I do think there is a way to neutralize O'Reilly by simply refusing to allow his barbs to stick in their target (you). Laugh off the ridiculous ones, just like the way Obama laughed off the claims that he was a Muslim who consorted with domestic terrorists. He called them "silly" and moved on.

And, luckily, most of America did as well.