Thursday, February 09, 2006

More on Darfur, Kristof and O'Reilly

I received a thoughtful email from a reader yesterday on my post about Darfur, Kristof and O'Reilly. He writes: "Doesn't it beg the question as to 'the extent [to which] in attacking O'Reilly Kristof is attacking conservatives by proxy'? Mainstream media are indeed disturbing, not least because they set up these facile proxies, which figures like O'Reilly and Kristof are happy to exploit. Certainly O'Reilly, in setting himself up for attack on behalf of his constituency, is likely to be as responsible as Kristof for alienating the conservatives of whom you write."
Good point. I totally agree that it did beg the question. Kristof may not have had the intent to paint with such a broad brush. But whatever his intent, what will his readers think? They will associate O'Reilly with conservatives and draw a connection that O'Reilly and his viewers don't care about this issue.

To his credit, Kristof yesterday clarified on his blog that he is using the O'Reilly funding campaign (now at over $92,000) as a "gimmick" to try to shame "him-and other TV networks--into covering genocide." But if that is his goal, why attack only O'Reilly? Why not have a fund for network television hosts to visit Darfur? Why not just convince Oprah to go to Darfur because she actually might go and make a monumental impact covering the genocide? If Kristof's real goal is getting network coverage, isn't there a better avenue than attacking O'Reilly? It reads like a deliberate attack on O'Reilly, and Fox News, and their viewers.
As for O'Reilly, I frankly don't take O'Reilly very seriously, but I do take Kristof seriously. But I probably should have said more about O'Reilly in retrospect. I did think about saying more yesterday, but I thought it would take me into a domestic discussion about law and order and how obvious it is that a guy like Kristof would care about teen rape in Vermont and anywhere else it happened. Kristof is simply using the power of the pen to focus on the most pressing concerns facing our world. It is totally legitimate for Kristof to focus on Darfur and leave to others to address other significant concerns.
And yes O'Reilly does leave the impression that conservatives don't care about this issue. And yes he is encouraging his viewers to discount the importance of this issue. But O'Reilly is not thinking strategically about Darfur whereas Kristof is.
Incidentally, since I published my post we now discover that O'Reilly suddenly has become an internationalist. As Kristof notes, O'Reilly's response is that "[Kristof] continues to lay the Darfur situation at America's doorstep when the United Nations is where his anger should be directed. Of course that great African Kofi Annan could make Darfur a huge issue at the UN, but has chosen not to do so." So O'Reilly is arguing for the United Nations to take the lead on Darfur and urging a limited role for the United States on this issue. I guess even O'Reilly is an à la carte multilateralist.
UPDATE: As of February 10, the O'Reilly fund was at over $215,000. Kristof reports that he is planning an itinerary that will take O'Reilly out of commission for a year. And the tone of the donors underscores my concerns. One donor insisted that he would give $20,000 if O'Reilly only wore light body armor. Another would donate on the condition that O'Reilly in an economy class seat near a toilet. Yeah, nice gimmick to shame the networks into covering Darfur. That clearly is Kristof's agenda here. It has nothing to do with animus toward O'Reilly or conservatives.
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