Fox News and Bill O’Reilly

as reported in John Doyle’s television column in April, 2004:

Who’s afraid of the big bad Fox? Certainly not us

Monday, April 19, 2004 – Page R2

The other day I read in this newspaper — an abidingly reliable source — that some honchos in the cable-TV racket are applying for permission to offer the Fox News Channel in Canada.

Beauty. Bring it on, I say. We’re all in need of a good laugh. The barking-mad Fox News Channel is something that most Canadians have only heard about. It’s time we saw it for ourselves, and made up our own minds about the phenomenon. We’ll find out if this Bill O’Reilly fella is as stupendously pompous and preening as he appears to be in the rare clips we see of Fox News.

Me, I’ve seen the Fox News Channel on visits to the United States. It is a splendid thing entirely. You have no idea how funny it is. The Fox News Channel is a kind of live theatre of the airwaves, with right-wing pundits playing journalists in an ongoing soap opera. In this soap opera there are good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are the Democratic Party and a dark force that is sometimes known as The Liberal Media Elite and sometimes known as The Loony Left.

Watching Fox News is like watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Those of you in a certain age group will remember that the brave boys and gals from U.N.C.L.E. were always battling T.H.R.U.S.H. You were never quite sure about the nature and membership of T.H.R.U.S.H., but you were darned sure that they were up to no good.

The Fox News Channel is the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. Bill O’Reilly is the new Napoleon Solo. Seriously. No wonder the channel is so popular in the United States. It is superbly entertaining in an old-fashioned, operatic way. It’s camp, it’s dramatic and as a viewer you are in a constant state of bless-my-soul excitement because you’re wondering just how angry the people playing journalists on Fox are going to get.

They’re saving civilization, so they are definitely going to get pretty mad.

The Fox News slogan is “Fair and Balanced,” which it obviously isn’t. It’s a tip-off that you’re not supposed to take it seriously. The slogan is a joke, a raspberry blown at every other news channel. It’s tongue-in-cheek.

I’m telling you, we would adore it up here. Rick Mercer would never need to do another Talking to Americans routine. Watching Fox News would be a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week version of Talking to Americans.

Please bring it soon. It will be a tonic for all of us and make us realize how different our TV news services are in Canada.


Fox News. Not here yet, but already hilarious

Wednesday, April 21, 2004 – Page R2

I‘ve never been called “a douche-nozzle” before. At least, not that I know about anyway. The insult came from one supporter of the Fox News Channel.

But then I don’t think The Globe and Mail has ever been called “the far-left Toronto Globe and Mail” before. That’s what this great newspaper was called by Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel on Monday night.

Reacting to my column, which cheerfully suggested that the proposal to bring the Fox News Channel to Canada should be acted upon promptly, so that we can all take a look, and get a laugh, O’Reilly gave us a Fox-style whacking. In his segment The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day, he quoted from my column (which called him “pompous”), dismissed The Globe as a lefty outfit and said, “Hey you pinheads up there, I may be pompous, but at least I’m honest.”

Right. But the very idea that The Globe and Mail is “far left” only proves my point that the Fox News Channel is the most hilarious thing on American TV since Seinfeld. When we get to see it, we’ll decide if, like Seinfeld, it’s about nothing.

Spurred by O’Reilly’s remarks, dozens of Fox News viewers wrote to me. Remember now that I only suggested that Fox News be available to us — not only as a vital window on the United States, but as an outright tonic. Before the channel has even appeared, I can tell you I was in stitches reading the voluminous response from Fox News supporters in the U.S. By Monday evening, I was so paralytic with laughter I had to call off the writing of yesterday’s column. I was incapacitated with the hilarity.

Me, I find it quite bracing to be so reviled and it’s very encouraging to know that mere newspaper coverage of a TV news channel can make some people so very angry.

The people who support Fox News must be the most uncivil and foul-mouthed creatures on the planet. This is an informed opinion. They’d give English soccer hooligans a run for their money.

I lost count of the number of times I was called “an a**hole.” It was at least 43 times, anyway. I was called “a pussy,” “a wussy,” “a pr**k,” “a jerk,” “a hack” and “a creep.” A man in Cleveland not only called me “an a**hole” but also wished me a “f***ed-up day.” A lady — and I use the term advisedly — in Colorado wrote to say that all Canadians are “a**holes” and then ordered me not to visit her state. I was also called a Canadian numerous times, as if that were an automatic and withering insult.

In a nice touch, a man from somewhere-in-the-USA opened by cheerfully calling me “sonny bub” and, after some confusing name-calling that involved the word “intellectual,” he rose to a great rhetorical flourish — he asked if I had served in Vietnam! Nothing of the sort has ever come from viewers of Newsworld, CTV Newsnet, CNN, MSNBC or, indeed ROB-TV. My point was that we have a great deal to learn from the Fox News Channel. And I am proved right. Talking to Americans is always a tonic. Bring on Fox News and bring it fast. Let’s see this thing that has so many ardent and incredibly aggressive viewers.


Climate warning looks good but where’s the rage?

Thursday, April 22, 2004 – Page R2


I stand by my statement that, “The people who watch and support the Fox News Channel must be the most uncivil, abusive and foul-mouthed creatures on the planet.” I can assure anyone who thinks I exaggerate that the majority of the pro-Fox News mail was venomous. I have since received many and profuse apologies from American readers, writing to apologize on behalf of their fellow Americans. That’s very nice and I appreciate the gesture. It’s a funny, wacky and often very rude place, the United States. But I thank the apologists.


Curling, Canadian Tire and other Commie plots

Friday, April 23, 2004 – Page R2


Well, it seemed that we could leave this Fox News to one side for a while, but no such luck.

I am informed that on Wednesday evening on the Fox News Channel, chief ranter Bill O’Reilly took a swing at me, The Globe and Mail, and the CBC. I’ll admit that I’ve been baited into paying attention.

O’Reilly quoted from my column and, referring to The Globe, proclaimed: “That paper has consistently taken liberal positions on almost every issue. And Doyle strikes up the band.”

Honestly, I had no idea that people knew this. I thought it was a secret that the editorial board takes all its instructions from me.

Then O’Reilly quoted from a letter he said he received from a viewer watching him on an illegal satellite dish in Toronto. The viewer claimed that in Canada the CBC is known as “the Communist Broadcasting Corporation.” Then, with a dash of pith and vinegar, O’Reillly concluded by saying, “So Doyle, spin that, partner. You’re clueless, could be ridiculous.”

Bill, you are brilliantly funny. It is little wonder that I’m all in favour of Fox News Channel being available in Canada. We need this kind of insight into Canadian matters. The fact that the CBC is run by the Communist Party of Canada has been ignored for too long. It’s time that Pastor Mansbridge was revealed to be the Trotskyite that he is.

Come on up here, Bill O’Reilly, and check out that Canadian Tire outfit. There’s something fishy going on there. It could be a Commie plot to take over the world — they’re already printing their own money!

But O’Reilly would be best advised to tell his viewers to expand their vocabulary beyond “a**hole” and things related to “douche bag.” And I have to inform him that, as a result of his rants and the attention he has paid to me, The Globe and Mail, and Canada, I’ve heard from dozens of Americans who want to move here. Me, I’m still laughing.


And the laugh was still there
Thursday, April 29, 2004 – Page R2

Let’s start with a conclusion. The Fox News Channel, its chief ranter Bill O’Reilly and the channel’s rabid followers are the lunatic fringe of the American culture.

I can say this with certainty because I’ve now got an earful from O’Reilly several times over, but I’ve also heard from thousands of American readers who view Fox News and O’Reilly with utter loathing and deep embarrassment.

I think Fox News Channel is comically overheated with its wailing about “left-wingers” and “elites.” I also think O’Reilly is nothing more than an intolerant windbag, what the Irish astutely call a gobshite.

If somebody wants to make the Fox News Channel available in Canada, fine. Believe me, if you thought Dan Rather’s occasional outbursts of jittery, googly-eyed American jingoism were comical, you haven’t seen anything yet. O’Reilly makes our Ed the Sock look like a reasonable chap.

The Fox News philosophy of finger-pointing about perceived lapses in patriotism and suspicion of outsiders is no more representative of the true spirit of the United States than the Taliban represents Islam.

A week ago, I wrote about how my mockery of Fox News and O’Reilly had resulted in some highly abusive and comically ill-written e-mail from the United States.

This stirred many Americans to write and apologize for their fellow Americans, and for the existence of Fox News. That was the story so far. Then The New York Times called.

Last Sunday, the Times carried a feature about my mockery of Fox News and O’Reilly, the expletive-filled responses from his followers and the apologies that followed. The Times found it funny, and it was. It turns out that a lot of Americans read The New York Times on a Sunday.

Since then I have received thousands upon thousands of e-mails from Americans who are mortified. People in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Denver and Phoenix have invited me out to dinner. Many others have invited me to stay in their homes.

I’ve been invited to give a talk in Denver. Schoolchildren, retirees, registered Republicans and Democrats have written to apologize for the abusive mail I received from Fox News fans.

Many join in my amusement at the barking-mad antics on Fox News. They know, as Americans usually do, that by laughing we drain the fanatics of their significance.

This past week, Bill O’Reilly seems obsessed with Canada. This probably mystifies many of his American viewers. On Tuesday, Globe columnist Rick Salutin was on his radio show. On Tuesday evening, my fellow Globe columnist and friend Heather Mallick was on his TV show. In all instances, he attacked Canada and The Globe and Mail. When he spoke to . Mallick, he proclaimed that if Canada harbours two “deserters” from the U.S. military who don’t want to return to duty in Iraq, there would be a nationwide boycott of Canada, which will result in a recession.

The threatening, hectoring hysteria is precisely what makes much of Fox News Channel amusing to Canadians and mortifies many Americans. Most of us, no matter what way we lean politically, believe in Canada as a just society. Tolerance, kindness and respect are more valued than shouted attacks and threats. Mistakes are allowed. Forgiveness exists.

Bill O’Reilly is now obsessed with Canada for several reasons. First, he’s stung by the realization that Canadians might laugh at his aggressiveness. Second, The Times piece about the abusive letters revealed that many of his supporters are foul-mouthed fanatics. Third, Canada represents an irritating calmness and assuredness at a time when the American culture is in crisis. To paraphrase W. B. Yeats (an Irish writer who the American-Irish O’Reilly should acquaint himself with), our hearts have not grown brutal from the fray.

In the midst of all those thousands of e-mails from sympathetic, embarrassed Americans, I also received a handful of abusive insults, both personal and directed at Canada. One man wrote: “Canada is little more than a pimple on the Earth’s ass.” Well, we know we irritate you. And we know we’ll laugh when Fox News comes to Canada.

From the volume of apologetic mail I’ve received, it seems certain that the generous, humorous spirit of the United States is not dead and has not been lost. The shrill minority of the lunatic fringe that follows and supports Fox News has merely temporarily shouted it down. Bring Fox News here by all means, and let’s have a laugh. Americans can learn from that.