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A Stiff Among The Swells
Hilarious rerun on Slate of a Michael Kinsley piece on Bill O'Reilly's handy persecution fantasies, including O'Reilly's absurd contention that he sits home every night because nobody invites him to parties. Yeah, right. Kinsley's having none of it:

Certainly, traditional snobbery cannot hope to compete with today's most powerful social ordering principle: celebrity. O'Reilly, as he himself has been known to admit, has the most popular news show on cable. His book, The O'Reilly Factor (named after the show), was a No. 1 best seller. When he appears at an "A-list" (Newsweek's label) social function, nobody wonders, "What's he doing here?"

...Yet O'Reilly, like many other people, clings to the fantasy that he is a stiff among the swells. He plays this chord repeatedly in the book, a potpourri of anecdotes and opinions about life in general and his in particular. He had a very strange experience as a graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (which let the likes of Bill O'Reilly through its ivy-covered gates, he is careful to note, "in an effort to bring all sorts of people together"). Other Kennedy School students, he says, insisted on being called by three names, none of which could be "Vinny, Stevie, or Serge." Their "clothing was understated but top quality … and their rooms hinted of exotic vacations and sprawling family property. Winter Skiing in Grindelwald? No problem." They tried to be nice, but Bill was nevertheless humiliated, in a Thai restaurant, to be "the only one who didn't know how to order my meal in Thai."

I should explain this last one to those who may not have been aware that Thai is the lingua franca of the American WASP upper class. The explanation is simple. American Jewish parents only one or two generations off the boat often spoke in Yiddish when they didn't want their children to understand. Italian-Americans used Italian, and so on. But WASPs only had English. (They tried Latin, but tended to forget the declensions after the second martini.) So they adopted Thai, which they use in front of the servants and the O'Reillys of the world as well. (At least it sounds like Thai after the second martini.) When they turn 18, upper-class children attend a secret Thai language school, disguised as a ski resort, in Grindelwald.

...Why fake a humble background? Partly for business reasons: Joe Sixpack versus the elitists is a good posture for any talk show host, especially one on Fox. Partly out of vanity: It makes the climb to your current perch more impressive. Partly for political reasons: Under our system, even conservatives need some plausible theory to qualify for victim status, from which all blessings flow. But mainly out of sheer snobbery. And it's the only kind of snobbery with any real power in America today: reverse snobbery. Bill O'Reilly pretends (or maybe sincerely imagines) that he feels the sting of status from above. But he unintentionally reveals that he actually fears it more from below. Like most of us.


Posted by aalkon at October 6, 2006 11:53 AM

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Comments

I happen to notice that Slate is rerunning these columns for a book they plan on publishing. I hope they use my favorite Bill O'Reilly column: Bill O'Reilly Wants You To Shut Up! I love the picture they use. It's just so Bill O'Reilly.

Posted by: Patrick at October 6, 2006 2:14 AM

Anti-intellectualism goes hand-in-hand with O'Reilly's brand of reverse snobbery too. Unfortunately I think this has become a prominent part of popular culture. I strongly suspect that the upswing in popularity in of both country music and NASCAR in recent years (especially among middle-class suburban types) is a result of this.

Posted by: deja pseu at October 6, 2006 7:08 AM

> Anti-intellectualism goes hand-in-hand
> with O'Reilly's brand of reverse snobbery
> too

Even if that's true, it makes hating Bill O'Reilly more complicated than he's worth. People don't turn on their TV sents for intellectual stimulation...The turn on their TV sets because it's an inexpensive way to veg out.

When you turn off your TV, Bill O'Reilly ceases to exist.

Unfortunately, when you turn off your radio, NPR is still clucking, and doing so on your dime.

Posted by: Crid at October 6, 2006 7:43 AM

Crid
Seeing as how Bill doesn't cease to exist when turned off, you're still observing NPR ( radio being lots less expensive than TV ) is such a drain on the purse.
I'd have a lot more sympathy for that outlook if I didn't know corporate America thinks it should have sole uncontradicted accesss to mass media.
Wonder why I don't believe much of what I'm exposed to and value less. At least my inbox has a spam filter.

Posted by: opit at October 6, 2006 8:49 AM

I don't think NPR should be paid for by our tax dollars. I do think it should exist -- listener funded or advertiser funded.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 6, 2006 9:03 AM

I think it's really important to note that, like Bill O'Reilly, folks on the left (particularly academic feminists) have long been groveling for authenticity by inappropriately identifying with the working class. Someone named Dick Pels has a brilliant essay about this in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader (Sandra Harding, editor).

Here's Dick:

http://www2.fmg.uva.nl/assr/scholars/fellows/pels.html

Posted by: Lena & Dick, 4 Eva! at October 6, 2006 11:04 AM

>I don't think NPR should be paid for by our tax >dollars. I do think it should exist -- listener >funded or advertiser funded.

At least if they are nationaly funded, they're operating on my dime, not my twenty bucks.

NPR is a lot like libraries to me. Quite, peaceful, and musty while I'm there, but It never really dons on me to come back. Especially now with google books.

Maybe we could solve the issue by having an AM version for conservatives who want to whisper and an FM version for liberals who want to hear history of jazz shows. Guess that still doesn't get your dime back.

Posted by: smurfy at October 6, 2006 11:36 AM

Thanks, Lean...I ordered it from the library...of which I'm a frequent customer, especially in cases like this, when the book is $27 used on Amazon!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 6, 2006 11:41 AM

Be forewarned that the book has a lot of feminist theorizing that might turn your stomach. But overall, the writers are a bunch of smart rug-munchers.

Posted by: Lena at October 6, 2006 12:50 PM

I figured as much (about the feminist theorizing). And I'm all for smart rug-munchers!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 6, 2006 1:18 PM

> Seeing as how Bill doesn't cease
> to exist when turned off

Let me translate: "While I, in my deeply personal, tightly-reflexed excellence, am able to see through the tissue of lies and distortions which characterize this-or-that broadcaster, there are millions and millions of lesser minds who cannot resist these simplistic temptations!"

> if I didn't know corporate America
> thinks it should have sole
> uncontradicted accesss

I'm 47, raised in a college town. Since well before Nixon was re-elected, I've known that almost anyone who uses the word "corporate" in such a condescending tone is full of shit...

...And probably not in charge of his portfolio, and thus likely to be drain on society in his sunset years.

Posted by: Crid at October 6, 2006 9:49 PM

Let me translate: "While I, in my deeply personal, tightly-reflexed excellence, am able to see through the tissue of lies and distortions which characterize this-or-that broadcaster, there are millions and millions of lesser minds who cannot resist these simplistic temptations!"...Since well before Nixon was re-elected, I've known that almost anyone who uses the word "corporate" in such a condescending tone is full of shit...

Speaking of reverse-snobbery...

Posted by: LYT at October 7, 2006 3:01 AM

Absolutely! And it works, too! If you don't pay attention to these people, they don't ex

Posted by: Crid at October 7, 2006 7:02 AM

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