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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

If you've read or, worse, listened to his book, "Those Who Trespass," on tape (listen to Stephanie Miller's show almost any day for a taste), Bill O'Reilly is fond of using his pole, literarily.

But, if you listen to or watch the Factor, Bill's even more fond of using his poll -- or hiding behind it -- literally.

Here's how it works: Whenever Bill wants to rake someone across the coals without leaving his fingerprints on the rake, he sets it up as a poll to ask "the folks." He then uses these polls to pose a question -- the subject of which he's championed -- with a pre-determined answer. Then he uses the numbers to support his argument. It's a bit like a Vice President feeding a story to a New York Times writer, then refers to the Times to prop it up, say, as a reason to invade a sovereign country. Hypothetically.

For example, railing against a light sentence handed down by a judge to a convicted child molester, Bill posed this question: If Judge Cashman is not removed from hearing criminal cases, will you boycott Vermont? Though, except for not buying those teddy bears, I have no idea how you boycott Vermont, eighty-eight percent of the the poll's respondents voted "yes." To anyone who accused him of calling for a Vermont boycott, Bill responded by saying that he did no such thing. He didn't have to: The folks had spoken. And when the Factor Folks speak, Bill no longer couches their vote in terms of his personal poll. It becomes the way a cross-section of what all of America thinks.

And just who are "the folks?" How many times have "the folks" differed with Bill's analysis, prior to his posing the poll question? I don't know how many of the folks who vote on Factor polls are his diehard fans, but I don't think it would be much of a stretch to figure that the great majority of the voters are regular listeners and agree with Bill on most things. After all, while you don't have to be a $49.95 per year Premium Member to vote in a Factor poll, how many people outside the O'Reilly fan base take time to go to his website and vote?

But this week, his poll question may just have gotten his agenda smacked up the side of its head. The poll question asked, "Did the media overdo the coverage of ABCNews anchor Bob Woodruff's situation?" This was Bill's objective way to slam the "major media," and at the same time, blaspheme the talk of war colored with real blood and pain. The large majority of the folks said "yes," and with that, Bill wondered out loud how would we ever be able to wage a war if we actually showed the horrors of war!

Since Bill has some sort of license to know what people like Cindy Sheehan are thinking, I think Bill thinks that too much information just confuses the folks. But then again, perhaps we wouldn't disagree with the decision to go to war, but before getting in lockstep behind hostilities, at least we would begin to comprehend the genuine consequences of real live warfare. How horrid to go into war with more information rather than less. Not very Fox Newsish.

Now Bill would tell U.S. that this wasn't necessarily the way he felt, but it was what "the folks" thought. Still, clear as the Ohio vote results in 2004, what Bill wanted us to grasp was that he thought the more we knew, the less we'd make a decision he favored. And that is exactly what he stands for. Less truth. More Bill.

But for all the bravado Bill bloviates every show, he's a coward. He hides behind "the folks" without admitting his polls are predisposed to support whatever message he wants to get out. I know Bill would point to one or two polls to show I'm wrong, but that's what he always does. Look at the cherry-picking of the War On Christmas horrors.

Then again, Bill just might do a poll asking the folks if they think his polls are biased. My guess is that "the folks" would l say I'm wrong.

Steve Young, author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" can be read every Sunday in the LA Daily News Op-Ed page (right next to Bill O'Reilly)

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Albion Monitor   February 2, 2006   (

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