The recent Washington Post article on Fox News weirdo Bill O'Reilly (click here) first made me smug and then made me think.
O'Reilly gets lots of viewers and he represents the views of the management of Robert Murdock and Roger Ailes. "The central theme of The O’Reilly Factor is that the true America, represented by the elderly whites who make up his audience (the median age of his viewers is 72) is in an unending war with the forces of liberalism, secularism, and any number of other isms."
O'Reilly may be a proven liar but that doesn't matter. The viewers "loyalty to him isn’t based on a spotless record of factual accuracy; it’s based on the fact that O’Reilly is a medium for their anger and resentments."
O'Reilly is one of my Cousin Vinnie’s heroes. To the Cousin Vinnies of America, O'Reilly speaks the truthy truth. He is an oracle. Even Politico says that 22% of American's trust Fox News. That’s why it seems useless to talk with them. O’Reilly’s old white male followers only hear what they want to hear.
On the other hand, (my thinking opposed to my smug brain says) their anger and resentments are real and have a basis. It is just so misdirected because the real sources are covered up by Fox and much of the mainstream media servicing Wall Street and big oil.
How would good organizing engage these folks and refocus their anger? It won’t happen through political parties—especially not the Dems. Or any organization they consider liberal, secular, or unpatriotic. Neither Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton could rally these folks. Maybe Sam Adams or Thomas Payne could.
Should we try to engage evangelical churches? Veterans groups? Gun clubs? Retirement homes? I remember in Chicago on the South West side, we didn't talk or push integration--but quality schools, clean air, and neighborhood safety. Even when we organized in San Jose, we didn't push Farmworker Rights but better schools, better development, maintaining open space. We engaged conservative taxpayer groups who saw that the Chambers of Commerce were pushing an agenda that supported huge real estate development, big sports companies, large company malls, and big banks that would destroy small businesses, neighborhoods, and affordable housing using taxpayer supported policies.
Cousin Vinnie, only educated by FOX News, does not understand the causes of his anger and resentments. He blames minorities, immigrants, labor groups, and poverty advocates for his problems. He directs his anger at those who support the poor and lower middle class. How can we engage him so that he sees those who are really screwing him--those who are paying for the politicians and the policies of political parties--the same folk who are funding the Bill O'Reillys of the world?