The Oh, Really! Factor

“Asian people are not liberal, you know, by nature; they’re more industrious and hard working.”

There’s a sort of innocence in that assertion, something naïve and almost childlike in its ignorance. Yet it was uttered by a grown man well into his sixties, Bill O’Reilly, a commentator (often called a “pundit”) who offers his opinions at Fox News. O’Reilly’s a bit of a blowhard and a bully and probably a liar. He has threatened guests on his show and claims to have been in the middle of fire-fights in wars, despite evidence to the contrary.

He also harbors some odd beliefs, judging from the above quotation. O’Reilly was referring to U.S. voting demographics, so he means Asian-Americans, but that’s a minor mistake. The flaws worsen as his quote unfolds. First, he asserts that Asian-Americans are not liberal “by nature,” as if social factors don’t contribute to one’s outlook. This says nothing about his unwarranted view of their political persuasions. Then, even more astonishing, he implies that liberals, presumably also “by nature,” are lazy!

The statement is absurd on its face, so a reply lends it dignity. But I must dignify it. His remark is vulnerable to the principle of falsification: One need only find a single lazy Asian or one industrious liberal to render it false. Unfortunately, I don’t know any lazy Asians, but I’m guessing one could be turned up somewhere. I do know—and know of—plenty of hard-working liberals.

Walter Lippmann, the preeminent columnist of the mid-20th century, was a fair-minded man, judicious, smart, industrious, and liberal. The word pundit was often attached to his name. It means “person of wisdom; a sage.” In recent times the word has been degraded by attachment to those unworthy of holding Lippmann’s pen.

Now you might think I took O’Reilly’s statement out of context. Here’s the context: During the 2014 mid-term elections, O’Reilly and his producer were discussing a study showing that Asian-Americans vote Democratic by a wide margin. Incredulous, both men expressed amazement and disbelief, which led to O’Reilly’s comment. Apparently paralyzed by cognitive dissonance, O’Reilly forgot about another stereotype that explains Asian-Americans voting Democratic: They’re smart. Anyway, that is the context from which the remark was made. It’s like taking poppycock out of the context of balderbash.

Bill O’Reilly is to Walter Lippmann as Marv Throneberry is to Joe DiMaggio.

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