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Jewish World Review June 11, 2001 / 21 Sivan, 5761

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reiley
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Consumer Reports

Soundbite nation -- EVERY day here in the New York City area, I wake up and face the Rudy Giuliani soap opera. At six in the morning, I hear about how Mayor Rudy has pulled estranged wife Donna Hanover's Yankee tickets. About how Ms. Hanover has convinced a judge to ban the mayor's lady friend from Gracie Mansion. About how Rudy and Judi -- the lady friend -- may be meeting at the "posh" St. Regis Hotel for late-night frolics. But last week, they told me that Rudy's cancer made frolicking impossible. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about anybody's personal life. And I know it before the morning dew has disappeared.

But I don't know why 60 percent of poor fourth graders can't read, despite record spending on education. And I don't why California has so many power problems. And I don't know why the federal government will not put the military on the border to stop the massive flow of narcotics into New York and every other place in the USA. Why don't I know these things?

The answer to that question is because the media doesn't care much about explaining boring stuff like natural-gas shortages. The media loves explaining why Rudy and Donna dislike each other, but not why Senator Tom Daschle wants more tax money for education, despite the fact that the Department of Education flunked its last three audits and perhaps a billion tax dollars have gone missing. Did you know that? I'm glad I told you.

We are living in a soundbite nation. If it can't be explained in three short sentences -- many of us don't want to hear it. Rudy and Donna don't like each other because Rudy is seeing Judi. Bingo. Everybody gets it. But ask Americans about Title One educational spending, and our brains shut down. Pass the remote control, please.

The politicians love this, of course. It makes their lives so much easier. When they screw up, they can sloganeer their way out of it. "It's only about sex." "Every vote must count." "Fuzzy math." Pithy phrases that are designed to deceive and dismiss. We love 'em. "Get a life." "Get real." "Get over yourself."

Never before in our nation's history have Americans been so unwilling to actually pay attention to important matters. According to newspaper circulation statistics and television-news ratings, only about 20 percent of us actually take the time to be informed. The rest are so busy making a living, shuttling the kids to every kind of activity imaginable and focusing on their partner's emotional needs, that they barely have time to ingest nutrition, must less ingest information.

Again, this makes life for the powerful so much nicer. They can virtually ignore public-policy failures like the drug war, energy development and airline traffic. The pols know that while people may complain, they don't have time to do anything more, and memories are short. Buck up those entitlement promises, and it really doesn't matter whether the poor kids can't read or that heroin is readily available on a street corner near you.

America needs to slow down. Parents should back off the micro-child raising. Sports maniacs need to watch fewer games, and everybody must begin to pay attention to the country.

There is too much power in the hands of the media, the career politicians and shallow entertainers. There is too little power in the hands of working people who fork over trillions of dollars in taxes to a government that wastes billions and insults them with foolish soundbites. PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE! I bet you never thought a column would yell at you.

The next time people tell you to "get a life," ask them what exactly that means. Ask them how they can be so condescending. Request that they explain why your present state offends them. In other words, tell them to either wise up or get lost.

And the next time some callow news vehicle browbeats you with Rudy and Judi and Donna -- write a letter to the editor or producer and tell them that you expect better. Ask them why most poor fourth graders are unable to read about Rudy and Judi and Donna, even if they wanted to. And then ask those media hounds what the heck they're gonna do about that.

JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and The Completely Ridiculous in American Life. Comments by clicking here.


06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
04/20/01: Racism in public education
04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate