Cable giants Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart enjoy squaring off against each other, as they occasionally do when one is a guest on the other's show, and it often makes for great TV.
Last night's slugfest was no disappointment as O'Reilly appeared on "The Daily Show" for the ostensible purpose of discussing his new book, "Killing Patton." Stewart quickly dispatched with that and steered toward a single topic -- white privilege. The conversation soon turned into a heated confrontation.
Stewart -- "I want you to admit that there is such a thing as white privilege."
"If there's white privilege then there has to be Asian privilege," O'Reilly countered, citing higher incomes among Asian Americans.
Stewart -- Depends on where they're from.
O'Reilly -- They're from Asia, they're Asian Americans. (Zing! That one must have stung).
Their immigrant experience was "very different" from that of blacks, Stewart answered. "They're not equivalent. And either way, white people, males (gesturing toward O'Reilly, as if he's the only white male in the discussion) set the system. So that's what white privilege is, is that white people set the system" that provides them with advantages while blacks have suffered from "systemic" subjugation.
"That was then, this is now," O'Reilly countered. The president, "the most powerful man in the world," is black, as is the most powerful woman in the world,"Oprah Winfrey."
Stewart conceded that slavery and Jim Crow no longer exist, but said "residual effects" from them still plague the country.
Not to the point of keeping any determined individual down, O'Reilly insisted. "America is now a place where if you work hard, get educated, and (are) an honest person, you can succeed."
Stewart -- "You carry more of a burden as a black person in this country than a white person."
"Collectively, yes," O'Reilly conceded.
The white bankers who wrecked our economy don't get stopped by the cops, Stewart said, and while more whites do drugs than blacks, blacks do the time in prison. "It's about real estate to some extent," Stewart said. Blacks have been "ghettoized." Did your upbringing in post-war Levittown, N.Y., leave an impression on you, form your values?
Of course, O'Reilly responded. Could black people live there?, Stewart asked.
Not at that time, O'Reilly answered.
"So that, my friend, is what we call in the business, white privilege," Stewart said.
"That was in 1950, all right!" O'Reilly said, their voices rising. "1950!" Nor were there blacks living there in 1960, Stewart said -- "I read up on it!"
Why would you want to live there? O'Reilly said. "It's a nice place ... but it's not like Bel Air!"
"Because it's a place that built values," Stewart said of that all-white, post-war Levittown.
"There were millions of black neighborhoods that built values," O'Reilly countered, pushing back on Stewart's profiling.
But if you were a GI who had fought in World War II, you could not buy a house there, Stewart said, "because you were less."
"It was unfair," O'Reilly agreed, "it was unfair."
"And the residue of that continues today and that is white privilege," Stewart said emphatically. "I'm not saying it's an excuse, I'm saying it exists."
"But that's not what's happening here in contemporary society," O'Reilly countered.
"Yes it is!" Stewart said, his voice shrill.
O'Reilly, just as emphatic -- "No it's not!"
How about that, Stewart got it right. When he claims white privilege still exists, Stewart is correct -- and he doesn't have to look far for evidence. His own cable show, the one that has made him immensely wealthy and influential, provides it. And since liberals see power, wealth, influence, etc., as zero-sum equations, each must have come to Stewart at the expense of other people. Surely some were people of color./p>
As Joe Concha wrote in a scathing Mediaite post earlier today --
Who exactly is Jon Stewart to be cross-examining anyone (emphasis in original) about white privilege considering his own shop's demographic makeup?
During last night's debate, Stewart specifically pointed out that "white men set the system." Within Comedy Central's "Daily Show" -- its highest-rated program and a cash cow for nearly two decades -- Stewart holds most or all of the power. That includes having major say in who get hired in the most important position (outside of host) on the "Daily Show" staff: The writing team.
... Of Stewart's current batch of 14 writers, 12 are white and two are male. The two non-whites on staff consist of one African-American (Travon Free) and one of Iranian descent (Zhubin Parang).
So the next time Stewart talks about white men "setting the system" during a "Daily Show" broadcast, should his photo be placed over his (emphasis again in the original) shoulder during the broadcast?
Concha linked to a Reuters story from August on lack of diversity among Stewart's guests -- and the numbers "start to look very grim indeed." Sixty-eight percent were white and the few African-American guests were all entertainers. "Out of 45 guests, just three were women of color," according to Reuters, referring to one of the least covered fronts in the war on women.
Since Stewart is so passionate about the corrosive "residue" of white privilege -- wherever it exists -- he surely won't allow it to persist at a workplace where he's been instrumental in perpetuating it.
(h/t, NB reader Thomas Stewart. No relation to Jon, Thomas tells us).