Journalism Dept. Attacks Bill O'Reilly, Compares Him to Nazi Sympathizer

Many conservatives don't like Bill O'Reilly. He's an advocate for gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, believes in global warming, etc. Still, you have to respect the fact that an entire journalism department just created a "study" which accuses him of being the most vile type of propagandist, going so far as to compare him to a Nazi sympathizer.

You'd think that the Indiana University department has better things to be doing (how about teaching kids about real diversity and fairness in journalism?) than studying a one-hour show on cable, but there it is.

According to the gurus of IU, O'Reilly is eerily similar to Father Charles Coughlin, a Nazi sympathizer during World War II:

"In this study, O'Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin," the geniuses tell us.

I think the operative word is "this study." A more objective department might have compared O'Reilly to a myriad of other media figures such as Bill Moyers or Dan Rather who hardly present the news in an objective fashion, all while saying that's exactly what they do. Click past the jump to read an excerpt.

Bill O'Reilly may proclaim at the beginning of his program that viewers are entering the "No Spin Zone," but a new study by Indiana University media researchers found that the Fox News personality consistently paints certain people and groups as villains and others as victims to present the world, as he sees it, through political rhetoric. [...]

Maria Elizabeth Grabe, associate professor of telecommunications, added, "If one digs further into O'Reilly's rhetoric, it becomes clear that he sets up a pretty simplistic battle between good and evil. Our analysis points to very specific groups and people presented as good and evil."

For their article in the spring issue of Journalism Studies, Conway, Grabe and Kevin Grieves, a doctoral student in journalism, studied six months worth, or 115 episodes, of O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" editorials using propaganda analysis techniques made popular after World War I. [...]

What the IU researchers found in their study, "Villains, Victims and Virtuous in Bill O'Reilly's 'No Spin Zone': Revisiting World War Propaganda Techniques," was that he was prone to inject fear into his commentaries and quick to resort to name-calling. He also frequently assigned roles or attributes -- such as "villians" or downright "evil" -- to people and groups.

Using analysis techniques first developed in the 1930s by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Conway, Grabe and Grieves found that O'Reilly employed six of the seven propaganda devices nearly 13 times each minute in his editorials. His editorials also are presented on his Web site and in his newspaper columns.

The seven propaganda devices include:

  • Name calling -- giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence;
  • Glittering generalities -- the oppositie of name calling;
  • Card stacking -- the selective use of facts and half-truths;
  • Bandwagon -- appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd;
  • Plain folks -- an attempt to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are "of the people";
  • Transfer -- carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect or dispute to something the speaker would want us to accept; and
  • Testimonials -- involving a respected (or disrespected) person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person.

The same techniques were used during the late 1930s to study another prominent voice in a war-era, Father Charles Coughlin. His sermons evolved into a darker message of anti-Semitism and fascism, and he became a defender of Hitler and Mussolini. In this study, O'Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.

Of course, comparing someone to a fascist sympathizer is not spin, not propaganda. Your tax dollars at work, Indiana residents!

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013