Bless you O'Reilly, you #@%!

POOR BILL O'REILLY! Members of the vast left-wing conspiracy really can't stand him. They denounce him, they mock him, and now the final indignity: They study him as a lab specimen.

Three University of Indiana scholars just released a "content analysis" of O'Reilly's trademark "Talking Points Memo," the brief commentary with which he opens his daily Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor." The authors begin by informing us, with some consternation, that four in 10 Americans actually think O'Reilly is "a journalist." But after many charts and numbers, they conclude that he's really just a big right-wing bully.

No, those aren't their words. Being scholarly types, they favor phrases such as "O'Reilly injects fear into his commentaries," and they punctiliously compare O'Reilly's rhetoric to that used by 1930s radio broadcaster Father Charles Coughlin, whose pro-fascist rants made him infamous.

But O'Reilly leaves Coughlin in the shade. When it comes to "name-calling," for instance (which the study helpfully defines as giving "a person or idea a bad label to make the audience reject them without examining the evidence"), Coughlin's radio broadcasts averaged 3.42 incidents per minute, while O'Reilly managed an impressive 8.88 name-calling incidents per minute -- an insult every 6.8 seconds!

In sum, the report concludes, "It is fair to say that O'Reilly emerged as a name-caller."

Well, color me crazy, but I think we need to give the guy a little credit here. Do you think it's easy to engage in name-calling every 6.8 seconds? It's not. To match O'Reilly's performance, I would have to insult people 35.52 times in the course of this column.

You do the math. The average column is 800 words long. The average American's reading speed, I am chagrined to report, is a mere 200 words per minute. At 200 words a minute, it will take you four minutes to read this column (though I'm equally chagrined to report, dear Average Reader, that experts say you generally comprehend only 60% of what you read, so don't blame me if you can't make any sense of this!). Anyway, four minutes with 8.88 insults/minute requires a total of 35.52 insults per column, or one insult every 22.52 words.

I'll be honest: That's a pace I just can't hope to maintain, unless I cheat. So hats off to Bill O'Reilly, that shameless, deceitful, irresponsible, propagandizing right-wing bully!

Hey ... not bad, huh? How's my average looking now?

But since I'm being honest, I should 'fess up to a shameful little secret: I'm fond of O'Reilly, and not just because his insults-per-minute rate so greatly exceeds my own. You see, I am probably the only member of the Left-Wing Media who can truly say that I owe my career in punditry in part to O'Reilly.

Here's how it happened. Two years ago, I was not a member of the Left-Wing Media. I was just a lowly member of a somewhat different left-wing conspiracy, otherwise known as academia, from whence I wrote the occasional radical Op-Ed article, supported various far-left causes and strove ceaselessly to poison the minds of young Americans.

It was hard but rewarding work. Then one day, I got a call inviting me on to "The O'Reilly Factor" as live bait -- excuse me, as a "guest." Because I was perhaps the only person in North America who had never actually seen the show, I foolishly agreed.

I emerged from the experience bloody but still unbowed (we radical leftists are a scrappy lot, when we're not advocating surrender to terrorists). And I was invited back.

This time, I practiced beforehand with my overtired toddler. She'd shriek out meaningless invective, and I'd just keep talking calmly. It must have helped, because by my third O'Reilly appearance, I made it through with hardly a scratch. Bill, though, was spluttering madly.

The "topic" that third time was members of the "left-leaning press," such as Michael Kinsley, then-editorial page editor of The Times who -- unlike Bill -- failed to fully appreciate the terrorist threat (as evidenced by an unpatriotic desire to provide Guantanamo detainees with due process). Bill suggested that Kinsley might find pedagogical value in having his head chopped off by terrorists. I upbraided Bill for going soft and explained that I'd figured him more as a boiling-in-oil kind of guy. Bill appeared disconcerted and abashed and assured me that he, personally, would "never do that to Mr. Kinsley."

I returned home to several hundred e-mails from O'Reilly viewers who felt that I too would benefit greatly from terrorist decapitation. But there was also an e-mail from Kinsley, congratulating me on my survival. Impressed, no doubt, by my tireless efforts to undermine the nation, Kinsley then offered me a job as a columnist for this newspaper. And thus, gentle readers, was another member of the Left-Wing Media born, with Bill O'Reilly as midwife. Bless you, Bill!

Damn it. I've just completely sunk my name-calling average.

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rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com

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