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Bill O'Reilly: the Anti-Spinmeister Has Been Caught Spinning

Definition of Working Class
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Bill O'Reilly, cable talk show star of The O'Reilly Factor, spoke in his first book of having a "working class" background. Michael Kinsley of the on-line magazine Slate challenged him on this, and O'Reilly went ballistic.

Putting their obvious personal animosity aside, the entire brouhaha boils down to this: Kinsley doesn't challenge the facts O'Reilly presents about his upbringing, only the label O'Reilly attaches to them. I would suggest that O'Reilly uses a definition of "working class" different than that of most people.

Definition of "Working Class"

"Working class" is formally defined as follows:

The part of society consisting of those who work for wages, especially manual or industrial laborers. The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition

The class of people who work for wages usually at manual labor. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary

The class of people who are engaged in manual labor, or are dependent upon it for support; laborers; operatives. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Two indications of being "working class" are, therefore, working for wages, and the type of job (manual labor).

Bill O'Reilly's father was an accountant. An accountant is not doing manual labor.

As for working for wages, it would seem clear that not everyone who works for wages is working class, if the wages are high enough. But if a person's wages are similar to those for doing manual labor, then perhaps the appellation "working class" could be applied to such a person, even if manual labor is not involved.

Under this analysis, an accountant who worked, for example, at a non-profit organization might, conceivably, be paid so little that he could be considered working class, even if his job itself isn't manual labor. But one has to assume that an accountant for an oil company who commutes to New York City every day from suburban Long Island, such as O'Reilly's father, would be paid wages far above those accorded manual laborers.

If such was not the case, Bill O'Reilly can produce evidence as to his father's working-class-level salary during those years. Otherwise, the assumption that his father's salary was far above "working class" must stand.

And further on this point, O'Reilly has already stated that his father's salary was at one point $35,000 a year. Not realizing he was hoisting himself on his own petard, O'Reilly apparently didn't think to compute that in today's dollars, that would be about $100,000, hardly a salary level associated with the "working class."

It seems, therefore, that the creator of the "No-Spin Zone" has himself done some spinning about his past. Maybe it's unconscious, and O'Reilly honestly believes that if he wasn't wealthy, if his family wasn't "rolling in dough" when he grew up, he was from the "working class." But that's just not the way most people think about these things.

Most generously to Bill O'Reilly's position, he may have been "lower middle class" as opposed to "upper middle class," but only someone with spin doctor skills, if not conscious spin doctor intent, would insist on labeling an oil company accountant "working class!"

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