Fox News continues to be un-phased by the well-known observation that conservatives simply aren't funny, as evidenced by the fact that November 14 will see the debut of "Watters World," hosted by Bill O'Reilly's insufferable sidekick and resident YouTube troll, Jesse Watters.
You might recognize Watters from his various man-on-the-street reports for "The O'Reilly Factor" in which he went around accosting and shaming homeless people in New York City. I know, I know. Hilarious, right? I'll give you a second to compose yourself before we continue.
According to the organizing logic of “Watters World,” there's really nothing funnier than watching a smarmy bro in an expensive tailored suit going around like the world's most annoying hall monitor, scolding homeless people for trespasses such as being homeless and, you know, sleeping indoors -- about which, more in a moment -- all for the gawking enjoyment of Fox News Channel's cranky white retiree target demo.
Watters began his ambushing career at Fox News by confronting no-name local government and school board officials as they walked to their cars. His specialty appears to be verbally poking people in the eye, then reviewing the pokes in studio with O’Reilly, who seems to think of Watters as his Mini-Me. Specifically, Watters is only really capable of confronting those who are mostly incapable of fighting back -- noncombatants who aren't media-trained, nor prepared to be accosted in a parking lot by a smirking Fox News lackey and production crew.
It's really, really easy to punch down, and Watters is nothing if not a master at attacking easy targets.
Beyond school officials, Watters has turned his attention this year to the homelessness problem in Manhattan. But rather than focusing on the systemic issues generating more homelessness, Watters and O'Reilly clearly believe the homeless people themselves are the problem. Back in July, for example, Watters descended upon Penn Station where he tormented unsuspecting homeless individuals. There only infraction? Sleeping inside the station. For this, they were publicly chastised and harassed on the nation's most popular cable news network. Among so much wrongness, the punishment doled out by Watters far exceeded the apparent crime. He managed to humiliate every single one, knowing that public drunkenness and slurry speech would play well for the middle aged white Republicans watching from their suburban McMansions.
Later in the summer, Watters and O'Reilly decided that a homeless man who urinated in the street ought to be treated as a national news story. So Watters toddled off to confront the man, and it went about as well as you'd imagine. Fox News viewers were treated to a delightfully entertaining report featuring Watters lording his jackass gentrification over the man, who was clearly troubled, and who it would later turn out suffers from schizophrenia. Watters repeatedly hectored the unsuspecting man with questions about why he pissed in the street, essentially turning the man into a national punchline.
There are men and women in expensive suits and very serious haircuts right now, at this moment in lower Manhattan, doing irreparable damage to the world that far exceeds by all means and measures a poor son of a bitch who, in one of the worst moments of his life, pissed on Broadway. The fact that Watters, O’Reilly and their dedicated fanboys don’t recognize this important distinction illustrates what’s so badly broken about Fox News, and, in a broader sense, modern conservatism. Rather than participating in rational debate, the far-right has engaged a business model that panders to the basest instincts of its most vocal participants. In so many cases, it's a decency-free movement, where demonizing the underprivileged is applause-worthy.
See, in "Watters World," a crazy peeing hobo is a recipe for comedy. Of course, for anyone with a heart and a brain, it was a flop-sweat inducing tragedy -- the sort of thing that'd make Paddy Chayefsky roll over in his grave.
And make no mistake, people with a heart and a brain are also Watters' targets. The far-right, especially since the ascendancy of Sarah Palin, has decided that deliberately trolling liberals is a newsworthy endeavor. Watters knows his behavior will irritate the left, so he’s been groomed as a weaponized thermonuclear jerk with little talent save for his ability to assemble skits that'll make liberals' skin crawl while getting a chuckle out of Papa Bear O’Reilly. In fact, I'd wager that his liberal trolling includes being painfully unfunny while passing off his shtick as comedy.
So, now, Watters is set to climb out of O'Reilly's back pocket and into his own weekly smarm-cast. It's not enough that Fox News acts as a marketing rep for the GOP's effort to legislate against voting rights; against reproductive rights; against a robust social safety net; against rational academically-endorsed curriculum; against affordable healthcare and scientific consensus. Watters is representative of more than just the GOP’s political agenda, but primarily he’s all about the exploitation of Americans who are the victims of Republican legislative efforts at every level, be it the systemic disintegration of the middle class or the lasting impact of the Great Recession. Instead of merely using "the takers" as a political wedge, Fox News has greenlit a show that'll bully "the takers" for cheap laughs.