Wednesday, July 28, 2004

O'Reilly Interviews Michael Moore
or: Who's the Liberal Here?

I'm quite the insomniac, so I'm frequently up in the wee hours of the morning, and, consequently, frequently catch fragments of the previous night's news shows. Last night was no exception. I caught clips from Bill O'Reilly's interview of Michael Moore. Now, both of these guys are full of shit. I tend to dislike Moore less since I'm more inclined to agree with many of his conclusions; however I think conclusions are less important than most people think they are. I'm more inclined to identify someone as an ally because his methods of inquiry are rational than I am to identify that person as an ally because I happen to agree with his/her conclusions. Moore is willing to distort the facts when they don't support his preferred conclusion, and that is the cardinal sin in all inquiry, including political inquiry.

The fragment of the interview I caught was a real gem (though I haven't found a transcript of it yet) in which both O'Reilly and Moore ended up adopting the characteristic arguments of the general political positions they are well known for opposing. Moore was expressing disapproval for the war in Iraq, noting that there were no WMDs there. So far, so good. Then O'Reilly started channelling the spirit of Scoop Jackson, trying to get Moore to acknowledge that freeing others from oppression is something worth risking blood and expending treasure for. Moore, however, was having none of it, and--though in the clip I saw he didn't come right out and say this--he strongly suggested that such a risk was only worth taking in order to defend one's own country.

So there you have, it, Bill O'Reilly, interventionist, idealistic liberal hawk; Michael Moore, isolationist conservative realist.

What a crock. If a democratic president had taken us to war, they'd be arguing for the opposite positions, and I'll bet that if we look back to their positions on, say, Kosovo that they DID argue for different positions.

This is the method of inverse criticism with a vengence, and it is this kind of thing--engaging in debate rather than inquiry--that has made our political discourse preposterous (in a more-or-less literal sense). People like O'Reilly and Moore allow their arguments to be determined by the conclusions they like, rather than demanding that their conclusions follow from the arguments that they find most reasonable. That is, they're getting things backwards, and, consequently, not really reasoning at all. This approach guarantees discord and irrationality in our public discussions, and we shouldn't tolerate it in our allies any more than we tolerated in our political opponents.

[Update: Anonymous's comment plus a quick Google search shows that I'm wrong on both counts. Ah, is there anything more beautiful than a crisp, clear refutation? Nothing I can think of...

O'Reilly claims to have been pro-intervention in Kosovo, and Moore was against. Wow. So perhaps O'Reilly really is an idealistic hawkish liberal interventionist and Moore really is a conservative "realist" isolationist... ]


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