Copyrighted material


by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

You can count on most any talk radio discussion of behavior rights and wrongs, especially child-rearing, to include the host's intense background work on the subject: "I was (fill in Sean Hannity anecdotal experience) and I turned out pretty good," or "if I were that victim I would have (fill in Bill O'Reilly machismo here)."

Inherent in both statements are questions surrounding definition and validity. Is Sean's "pretty good," any good at all? Would Bill ever do anything he says he would do in someone else's situation -- especially a terrified eleven year old kid?

This week, amongst the "I know what's best for you" subjects covered were a four-year-long hostage-ordeal for a young boy and a "spanking is a crime" bill being considered in California.

The Culture Warrior, the No-Spinner, the guy who's looking out for you, the one who tells you that he's a journalist who only deals with the facts, Bill O'Reilly he is, decided this week that he would take it upon himself to attack the most vulnerable of victims. A child who had been terrorized and quite possibly emotionally and sexually abused by an adult kidnapper for four years.

Bill chose to use his bully pulpit against fifteen-year-old Shawn Hornbeck who was kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 11. Bill will claim that he didn't attack Shawn, but "just asked questions" -- although a tape of his Thursday show shows the opposite. Bill always seems to forget about the 21st Century mechanical recording devices that can literally replay his actual words, no matter how often he attempts to contradict them. Bill will claim, as he always does, that it is only the left-wing loons that are out to get him. That he is the victim. This time the tape offers the truth and just what a slime Bill O'Reilly truly is.

What Bill said (and was reported at in Bill's own voice) was that, "I think when it all comes down, what's going to happen is, there was an element here that this kid liked about the circumstances," adding: "The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents."

Shawn Hornbeck had spent the last four years enduring who knows what torturous hell and what did the guy who's looking out for you and your kids and castigates judges who don't give child abusers stiff enough sentences? He exploited Shawn again. Bill O'Reilly: child abuser.

But even worse than his lying was Bill's disgusting choice to use his show to re-abuse the boy: Of course there was no real kidnapping here, O'Reilly was saying, so the kid's no real victim. His "I'd rather be sexually abused by this stranger because it's way more fun than being home with my parents" scenario is so repugnant that it wouldn't be surprising if ABC and CNN fired Glenn Beck and enticed Bill to spread his kind of Culture Warness over there.

But the greater crime is how O'Reilly and the other Lords of Loud teach listeners to make immediate judgements like that. And, of course, the Folks do continue to tune in because the LoL make us feel that it's perfectly valid to have strong opinions on issues we don't know much about. And who doesn't want to feel perfectly validated?

It's go to the gut, direct to where instinct and narcissism live. Where we neither think nor self-examine, let alone research the subjects themselves. Facts can be cherry-picked and opposing information is chucked or demeaned, but none of the details matter, anyway: The Lords of Loud have taught us that louder is righter. Very righter. So righter that any differing opinion is not only wrong, but most likely anti-American.

What a lesson to teach our kids.

Steve Young is author of the wacky new children's novel, "15-Minutes" (HarperCollins)

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   January 18, 2007   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.