Because We Need More Commentary on Bill O’Reilly
This morning the New York Times reported that, since the lawsuits directed at Bill O’Reilly have become public, there has been a mass exodus of advertisers, but a influx of viewers. The cynic in me wants to immediately assign this to a bunch of misogynist men who, like our President, are more than happy to defend O’Reilly and assume that he did nothing wrong. However, the Times says that viewership is up by more than one million. One million. I’m not sure that she-man-woman-haters can account for that entire number. In fact, for my own sanity and feelings of safety, I can’t believe that.
So who are these people suddenly flocking to O’Reilly’s show? Are they casual watchers who, now that he’s back in the news, have been reminded of how much they enjoyed his show? Probably. Are they the woman haters described above? Probably. Are they people who believe the President when he says that O’Reilly is a ‘nice guy’? Probably.
But I can’t help but wonder if there is another element to this. If there some voyeuristic nature in us that wants to experience O’Reilly now that we know what he’s done. These claims certainly can’t be all that surprising. O’Reilly have been sparking controversy for years and Fox’s record on harassment isn’t squeaky clean to begin with. Is it that hard to believe? For me, its not. We always knew that O’Reilly was playing with fire, but now we’re going to see if he actually gets burned.
And, in all likelihood, he may not. Sexual harassment charges are hard enough to prove, never mind when the target is famous and now even more a cash cow that he previously was. There doesn’t seem to be the same social pressure that helped to push Roger Ailes out. So O’Reilly may stay and continue to host his bombastic show and make more controversial headlines.
And people will continue to watch. Maybe more than who did two weeks ago, before this scandal broke. People who want to see what a man who thinks (allegedly) masturbating on the phone while a colleague talks to him is appropriate looks like. They want to look into the face of a potential harasser. To pretend that the longer we stare at him, the more foreign he will look to us. For women, he won’t look like those men before. The ones who, at work, maybe said something that probably crossed the line, but we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. For men, maybe the longer you look at him, the less of yourself you’ll see in him. You won’t see those comments or catcalls or whatever it was that you did one time that wasn’t a big deal, she just freaked out. You won’t have to wonder if the reason you can’t look away isn’t because of how alien he looks to you, but how familiar.