Bill O'Reilly has declared war against The New York Times for its superb January 31 call-out of those like him who have injected racism into the immigration debate. You can read David Neiwert's excellent overview of the status of that war at Crooks and Liars.
As Bernie Goldberg quite rightly says in the following video-clip of O'Reilly's Foxaganda show Wednesday, reasonable people can disagree about what U.S. immigration policy should be. But if people do disagree, he thinks the war of words should be escalated:
O'Reilly: The New York Times attacks me, Bay Buchanan, Jim Pinkerton. We're all racists, white supremists, because we don't want blanket amnesty, open borders, all of this. Disturbing. We expect these kooks to do that. They're going out of business, we ... we know that. But how should... if you were me and you woke up on Sunday and read that ... how would you have reacted?
Goldberg: Well, I would probably gotten a baseball bat and gone down to The New York Times with it and found the person who wrote the editorial. But that's me. Look, here's the thing: Immmigration is a complicated issue and reasonable people can disagree. All right? But I don't think the people at Mount Olympus, at The New York Times, really want a serious discussion about it ...
O'Reilly: No, they don't.
Goldberg: ...because, because then you'd have to ask some uncomfortable questions. I'll give you one of them right now. May ... should we stop all immigration to the United States from Mexico for 10 years so that the people who are here, the immigrants who are here, can assimilate and become real Americans, and not just Mexicans living in the United States to make money? Now if you ask that, you run the risk of being called a racist, just like you were. You know ...
O'Reilly: Well, I'm going to get your baseball bat. I've got a couple, but I have good ones and I don't want to break them. We'll be down there together. Because I think they are just corrupt.
Just a joke. Right, Bernie? Right, Bill? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Right-wingers love to "joke" about mowing down, rounding up, and otherwise "wiping out" all things liberal. It's become a standard feature of conservative-movement rhetoric. And whenever anyone calls them on it, they have a standard response: "Aw, c'mon -- it's just a joke!"
In reality, of course, rhetoric like this has historically played a critical role in some of the ugliest episodes in American history, as well as thousands of little acts of xenophobic brutality: functionally speaking, it gives violent -- and frequently unstable -- actors permission to act on these impulses. People like this always believe they're standing up for what "real Americans" think -- and the jokes tell them that this is so.
Of course, even though they cablecast their fantasy vendettas to the nation, we all know Bill and Bernie would never personally beat up an editorial writer. Makes no difference. Armchair thugs are still thugs.