I’m not often thankful for Bill O’Reilly. He’s a bad guy with bad opinions who does bad stuff to women. But today, I’m thankful.
His rage virus spasm of an essay has laid bare the emptiness at the heart of the pro-gun movement. By penning a sloppy, lazy essay, he shows how little of an argument there is for our lax gun laws.
In his “Bill’s Message of the Day,” “Mass Murder in Las Vegas,” published on Oct. 2 on Billoreilly.com, O’Reilly addressed the day’s awful mass shooting with 346 haphazardly assembled words. A full paragraph of the essay is a bland recitation of the killing that contains no empathy and adheres to few rules of grammar.
I puzzled over the sentence “When it was all over, more than 50 human beings lay dead, 400 plus wounded” for a while, wondering why he wrote “human beings” instead of “people” and how anyone could let the slapdash laziness of the phrase “400 plus wounded” get published on the internet.
The essay has been getting some negative attention for a sentence close to the end where O’Reilly contends that “this is the price of freedom.” It seems heartless, sure, but I think outraged essayists are missing the point. It’s also mindless.
There was no thought put into it. It’s the work of an air-brained TV pundit in auto-pilot.
It’s an attempt to apply evenhanded punditry to a situation where evenhandedness has no right to exist. He’s trying to to balance both sides but, as one side is defending the murder weapons of a mass murder, there’s no balance to be had.
And focusing on that weird rhetorical hiccup obscures a bigger problem: his commonly held misunderstanding of the second Amendment, writing that the NRA’s favorite part of the Bill of Rights “is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”
Nope. As Matt Taibbi noted in Rolling Stone, “the actual Second Amendment argument is probably a canard anyway, given that it protects the rights of citizens to bear arms within the context of a ‘well-regulated militia.’”
Bill O’Reilly has always been stupid and mean but his stupidity and mean-spiritedness finally serve a laudable purpose. His gibberish sentences like “public safety demands logical gun laws but the issue is so polarizing and emotional that little will be accomplished as there is no common ground” accidentally said something good. Yes, it’s delightfully hypocritical that someone who became a billionaire shouting on TV thinks an issue is too emotional.
But more importantly, he’s showing the rot at the heart of the status quo.