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HillWalk Versus JayWalk

November 10, 2009

He's back. Sort of...

Bill O’Reilly has boasted how “The Factor” is doing so well that its ratings surpass those of NBC’s “Jay Leno Show.” It is an apt comparison, since O’Reilly seems intent on co-opting one of Leno’s trademark skits, “Jaywalk,” in which ignorant individuals are asked about topical issues and give ludicrous answers.

How else can O’Reilly explain his decision to bring back the hip hop associate professor Mark Lamont Hill to opine on Iran?

Although fired by Fox News just a few weeks ago, Hill re-appeared last night on “The Factor” in place of Fox News political contributor Juan Williams.  In his own “Hillwalk” version of the Jay Leno bit, O’Reilly let Hill make a complete fool of himself, zig-zagging wildly between taking a super-hawkish stance against Iran to impress the Fox audience and the ‘lets continue to talk’ approach of Barack Obama.  But unlike “Jaywalk,” in which the individuals whom Leno interviews seem to know their limitations and are willing to embarrass themselves on national TV to get their 15 minutes of fame, Hill is so impressed with his doctorate that he thinks his opinions should actually be taken seriously.

To try and give Hill his due, I went to his website to see what issues are of real concern to him.  Hill describes himself there as

one of the leading hip-hop generation intellectuals in the country

On Hill’s homepage, right under a picture of his appearance on Fox News, there are a series of links to something called Sex with Timaree. On his “About” page, Hill elaborated somewhat on his areas of interest beyond Sex with Timaree.   They included:

various sites of possibility for identity work, resistance, and knowledge production outside of formal schooling contexts. Particular sites of inquiry include hip-hop culture, urban fiction, and African American bookstores.

And talking about bookstores, Dr. Hill’s suggested reading list included such academic tomes as:

  • Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity by Marc Lamont Hill;
  • Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought by Melissa Harris-Lacewell;
  • The Yankee Years by Joe Torre;
  • Watch This!: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (Religion, Race, and Ethnicity) by Jonathan L. Walton;
  • Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness by John L. Jackson;
  • Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture) by Eve Rachelle Sanders; and
  • Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal by Laura Ahearn.

If O’Reilly were not trying to entertain his audience with his version of “Jaywalk” by putting this totally unqualified sophist on the air to present his views on Iran, then perhaps he put Hill back on in order to demonstrate his commitment to diversity.   If so, then why not turn to someone who has the credentials to be taken seriously on a life-and-death policy issue like Iran?

Assuming that Colin Powell was not available, why not bring on a liberal black academic with some gravitas such as Dr. Clarence Lusane,  an Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of International Service at American University who has actually written and lectured on foreign policy issues?  Or why not bring on either Professor Cornell West or Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who while not foreign policy experts are at least noted scholars with sharp intellects who can articulate the far left’s perspective?  Or why not go outside of academia and choose a black journalist such as Pulitzer Prize winner and syndicated columnist Clarence Page?

There are certainly more than enough African-American liberals with the knowledge and expertise to speak intelligently about serious issues such as Iran.  It was insulting to his audience for O’Reilly to choose the hip hop expert and devotee of Sex with Timaree instead.

I think the reason is that O’Reilly is not interested in an intellectual challenge.  It’s much easier to use Hill as a foil in order to show off how smart, fair and balanced O’Reilly is compared to the likes of Hannity or Beck. What O’Reilly delivered was a segment deserving no more than an “F.”  If he keeps this up, Beck may be taking his place sooner rather than later.

  1. John Davidson permalink
    November 10, 2009 7:19 am

    For some obvious reason, Bill’s ego has trumped reason and now, he has turned into a politico and thinks he has all the answers to the problems that beset this country. He has openly offered Obama his “expertise” and thense, he has started to slide more to the left in order to continue his climb up the ladder and quite possibly, Sainthood.

  2. Mark Koenig permalink
    November 10, 2009 8:06 am

    I caught this segment last night and had much the same reaction. Why is O’Reilly bringing back this idiot – especially to comment on an area in which he has zero expertise? I must agree that the most plausible reason is that O’Reilly doesn’t wish to be upstaged by someone who clearly knows more than he does on a certain topic. Another inexcusable possibility is that he and/or his staff simply got lazy and fell back on their regular routine of using Hill as their token black leftist, possibly because they had difficulty booking someone with more intellectual heft.

    O’Reilly’s equivocation on issues from foreign policy to the recent Ft. Hood massacre (in an embarrassing segment with Geraldo Rivera) is really getting irritating. I get the distinct impression he is angling for another interview with Obama, and is therefore not willing to criticize him or his administration too harshly. If he keeps this up, I also predict his ratings will suffer.

    • David Forsmark permalink
      November 10, 2009 8:13 am

      Key phrase from the article– “in the Juan Williams slot.” No profiling here! Williams may have many admirable qualities, but his flower child approach to foreign policy is as bad as Hill’s.

      But if people really wanted “intellectual heft,” O’Reilly would not be the King of Cable.

      • Mark Koenig permalink
        November 10, 2009 8:34 am

        “But if people really wanted “intellectual heft,” O’Reilly would not be the King of Cable.” Truer words were never spoken!

    • SanePerson permalink
      November 10, 2009 8:53 am

      O’Reilly hopes to interview Obama again. He’s made that very clear by constantly bringing up his other interview with him. He’s trying his damndest to look “sympathetic” enough for Obama to agree to it. Good luck.

  3. P-Diddle permalink
    November 10, 2009 8:36 am

    Just to play devil’s advocate, because I agree with most of what you’re saying, what qualifies Mary Katherine Ham to analyse Iran as if she were a foreign policy expert? I’m pretty sure all she has is a BA in Journalism. I think it’s more a left vs. right solutions story, which is tirsome in and of itself.

    • SanePerson permalink
      November 10, 2009 8:54 am

      You’re right. The whole segment was ridiculous.

    • Joseph Klein permalink
      November 10, 2009 9:12 am

      P-Diddle – You make a valid point but at least Mary Katherine Ham was able to make some logical points, including bringing up Obama’s failure to provide moral support for the dissidents in Iran rather than trying to negotiate with the mad mullahs.

  4. jochang permalink
    November 10, 2009 11:27 am

    Bill O’Reilly has gone from being a lightweight to an underweight journalist. Last night’s appearance of M.L. Hill on The Factor relegates BOR to BORE, and buffoon status.

  5. David Thomson permalink
    November 10, 2009 11:59 am

    Mark Lamont Hill was introduced as a mere guest—and not a Fox contributor. The network seems to be getting away from the practice of paying experts to appear on their programs. Nonetheless, Hill likely is more than willing to appear free of charge. He can make it up on the college and non-profit lecture circuit. Conservatives usually can’t do this! These lucrative speaking engagements are normally reserved for those of the leftist persuasion.

  6. Cynthia Thornburg permalink
    November 10, 2009 8:43 pm

    Done watching O’Reilly. He’s pandering.

    • jochang permalink
      November 11, 2009 4:48 am

      Right on! Me too.

  7. November 11, 2009 8:21 am

    I fast-forward through more and more of O’Reilly!

Comments are closed.