host of the top-rated Fox News talk show "The O'Reilly Factor,"
has not been averse to making statements of dubious accuracy. There
is, for example, his assertion that he comes from a "working
class" background, a claim which has been debunked here and elsewhere.
Yesterday, O'Reilly was
interviewing Malik Shabazz, National Chairman of the New Black Panther
Party. (O'Reilly should be given credit for having Mr. Shabazz on his
program and not limiting his guest list to the slightly-left-of-center to
far-right spectrum of other news outlets.) Here is an exchange between
O'Reilly and Shabazz:
right. Now, you're the history guy, OK?
SHABAZZ: That's correct.
O'REILLY: And this is a little bit off the track. But -- or I was looking
at the countries that are ranked by the U.N., and the last 26 countries
are black African countries in the lowest form of all services.
The whites are out of there, they're gone. These are black-controlled
countries now. But these countries in decades have not been able to
SHABAZZ: But the stench and the legacy of racism and colonialism still
reigns in Africa and in the ghettos...
O'REILLY: All right, let me ask you something...
SHABAZZ: ... of America today.
O'REILLY: ... like that. My people come from Ireland, which was colonized
by the British and brutally, brutally controlled by them.
They've been able to throw that off in 200 years, the blacks haven't. How
SHABAZZ: You have not suffered as Irish under the British nowhere near the
O'REILLY: Oh, you're going to get a debate on that, man. You...
SHABAZZ: ... have suffered under the British or under the Americans.
O'REILLY: Listen, that famine killed millions of people... argument on
SHABAZZ: ... suffering cannot compare to the black holocaust, no way, no
how, Mr. O'Reilly.
O'REILLY: All right, OK...
O'REILLY: ... as always, we appreciate your point of view, and we'll have
you back on, and it's nice to see you.
[The video makes clear that
O'Reilly's "All right, OK..." was not agreement, but a
"Let's wrap it up"-type prelude to his "we'll have you back
on" immediately following].
So O'Reilly is claiming that
the Irish under British rule suffered as much as the Africans under
colonialism. While it's not perfectly clear from the rapid-fire nature
of the exchange, O'Reilly also seems to be claiming that the Irish
experience under the British was as bad as what Africans endured in hundreds
of years of slavery in the United States.
Either way, what O'Reilly is
saying is absurd. I was going to start pointing out how, but why
bother? The most rudimentary knowledge of history reveals the
unsupportable nature of O'Reilly's assertion.
Arguments about which
oppressed people suffered more are not useful. I'm writing about this only
because O'Reilly was making the comparison of the Irish and African
experiences in order to make an invidious point.
I don't know whether O'Reilly
is really this stupid, or just trying to be provocative.
O'Reilly has a segment on his
show called "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." Yesterday
he so outdid himself in making a patently false statement that he should
have put himself in that segment.