Bill O'Reilly (Credit: Fox News)

Bill O'Reilly's making this up: His latest racial bloviating is just plain fiction

Scaring Fox News viewers with tales of black thuggery and anti-white violence is central to his gimmick


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Chauncey DeVega
May 28, 2016 12:41AM (UTC)

From the end of the Civil War to the first few decades of the 20th century, white mobs killed many thousands of black Americans across the United States.

White newspapers played a key role in encouraging white mob violence, racial pogroms, and other acts of white racial terrorism.

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For example, in 1906, Atlanta’s newspapers incited anti-black violence with stories and headlines such as:

"Extra! Third Assault on White Woman by a Negro Brute!"

"Extra! Bold Negro Kisses White Girl's Hand!"

'Extra! Bright Mulatto Insults White Girls!"

"Vigorous Appeal for White Supremacy"

Priming the white residents of Atlanta to kill black people en masse, these newspapers also including demands for vigilante justice:

"Men of Fulton, what will you do to stop these outrages against the women? ... Shall these black devils be permitted to assault and almost kill our women, and go unpunished?"

If transported to an earlier era, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly would have been a perfect fit for such publications.

On Wednesday’s edition of his show, O’Reilly drew inspiration from his racist journalism ancestors when he sounded the cries of alarm about “a violent subculture in the African-American community that should be exposed and confronted”:

First, the stats, and they are stunning. Since the Ferguson chaos, murders in the USA's 15 largest cities are up close to 17 percent. And much higher in cities with large black populations. In Chicago, for example, this year alone, shootings up around 80 percent.. Why? Because Chicago police have stopped stopping suspicious people.

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So-called pedestrians stops are down 90 percent in the windy city. When you fail to police people proactively, people commit more crimes. The media will not spotlight that much of the violent crime in America is being committed right now by young black men. In fact, Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at a rate 10 times higher than White and Hispanic male teenagers combined. And Blacks of all ages commit homicide at a rate of eight times higher than Whites and Hispanics combined.

Conclusion? There is a violent subculture in the African-American community that should be exposed and confronted. Enter the Black Lives Matter crew which roams around the country promoting a false narrative that American police officers are actively hunting down and killing blacks. Here's the truth. Police shot Whites at a rate of 50 percent in 2015. Police shot blacks at a rate of 26 percent. In addition, Black Lives Matter is now infringing on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression…

So, summing up, thousands more Americans are being murdered because police are being more passive. Since the Ferguson situation and the Black Lives Matter protests. Talking Points believes every American should know that, should know the truth. Sympathetic media and many race hustlers are backing Black Lives Matter and the final indignity, members of the group have even been invited to the White House. And that's “The Memo.”

Instead of fears and rumors of “negro uprisings” and “black beast rapists”, O’Reilly has chosen to focus on the imagined bogeyman “Black Lives Matter.”

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This is not the first time that Bill O’Reilly has trafficked in anti-black animus. Scaring the viewers of Fox News with tales of black thuggery and anti-white violence is central to his gimmick and shtick.

Of course, Bill O’Reilly’s claim that “Black Lives Matter” is “killing” “Americans” is fantastical and untrue. His “logic” is desperate and bizarre: he conflates black college students protesting a conservative propagandist with street violence by drug dealers and gang members. And based on his use of “statistics” about “black crime,” it is also apparent that Bill O’Reilly does not understand the difference between correlation and causation.

In all, O’Reilly most recent act of racist bloviating is a hodgepodge of white supremacist talking points and fictions pulled from the Right-wing “news” echo chamber. It is also proof of the harm that white racial paranoiac thinking can do to both a person’s understanding of empirical reality and personal ethics.

Bill O’Reilly’s fixation on Black Lives Matter is based on a belief that it is a violent organization. In reality, Black Lives Matter is a loose umbrella coalition of individuals of all colors who believe that police thuggery and other state sponsored abuse and killings of African-Americans must end. Based on their own statements and other material, the Black Lives Matter movement rejects violence.

O’Reilly’s argument on Wednesday’s edition of his TV show pivots on a belief in the “Ferguson effect”. This is the erroneous idea that the uprising against a racist and out of control police force in Ferguson, Missouri, one that was operating a de facto debt peonage collection racket against the black community in that area, has spread across America and has made the country’s police afraid to do their jobs. Of course, there is no such data to support such an assertion; the claim of a so-called Ferguson effect has been repeatedly exposed by criminologists and other experts as a lie. If anything, America’s police are refusing to do their jobs in an act of protest against being held to be basic standards of professional accountability.

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There is a deeper ugliness in O’Reilly’s and other members of the Right-wing news disinformation entertainment media’s fixation on the “Ferguson effect.” It is based on a belief that America’s police are unable to do their jobs properly unless they can beat, abuse, harass, and kill African-Americans and other people of color with impunity. In this worldview, black and brown Americans are not allowed the same civil liberties and constitutionally protected rights as white people. This is the logic of the infamous Dred Scott decision and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney’s decision that “black people “have no rights that the white man is bound to respect” into the Age of Obama.

Bill O’Reilly’s claims about a dramatic increase in “black crime” as spurned on by “Black Lives Matter” represent a failure in inference. There is no evidence of the “Ferguson effect”. Consequently, his basic causal claim is incorrect.

His worries and panic about “black crime” and “black violence” lacks context and are simply a recycling of white supremacist talking points that embody the Right-wing shift from outright bigotry rooted in old fashioned claims of black biological inferiority to the more modern argument that African-Americans possess “bad culture.”

Most importantly, violent crime in the United States is at record lows. If there has been an increase in violent crime in America’s central cities it is likely caused by a seasonal cycle where warmer months bring more people on the streets and into contract with one another.

In his effort to gin up a panic about “black crime”, O’Reilly conveniently ignores how most crime in the United States is intraracial. This is a function of segregation and racially homogeneous social and other inter-personal networks. Moreover, most violent crime is committed by a relative, friend, or acquaintance.

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Bill O’Reilly enthusiastically recites statistics about “violent” “black men”.

It is a given that O’Reilly also does not include how the vast majority of blacks are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. He also does not comment on how black and brown Americans (as well as people who live in working class and poor communities, more broadly) are subjected to “over-policing” which inflates arrest rates as compared to whites, and racist sentencing practices where blacks and Latinos are punished more severely than whites for the same crimes.

O’Reilly’s racist screed about a war on “good” and “law-abiding” (white) Americans by “black criminals” also conveniently ignores that a very small percentage of black people will ever commit a violent crime. As professor Jody Armour argues in his book Negrophobia, O’Reilly and other Right-wing “black crime” provocateurs and hate merchants willfully choose to not understand that one cannot generalize from aggregate data to make reliable predictions about the probability that a given person—in this case an African-American—will commit a criminal act.

Ultimately, social scientists and other researches have repeatedly demonstrated that in these discussions of “black crime,” race is just a proxy variable for poverty, housing segregation, income and wealth disparities, broken schools, and other social dynamics. When those problems are alleviated, the life chances and outcomes of black Americans vastly improve and thus become much more similar to those of white families in the same economic cohort.

There is a base hypocrisy in Bill O’Reilly and other conservatives feigned concerns about bad “black culture” in the United States’ “inner cities”: the Republican Party and the White Right have no interest in fixing America’s broken social safety net, fighting racial discrimination in housing and jobs, correcting income and wealth inequality, restricting easy access to guns, confronting the problem of mass incarceration, or stopping the War on Drugs through legalization.

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Unpacking Bill O’Reilly’s efforts to incite a Jim and Jane Crow style white racial panic (and yes, preemptive violence) against black Americans points to an uncomfortable truth that Bill O’Reilly and other white conservatives are loathe to publicly discuss.

As I have written about repeatedly here at Salon, there are whole categories of crime such as right-wing domestic terrorism, treason, cannibalistic serial killing, and spree shootings in high schools and other places that are dominated by white men and boys.

If Bill O’Reilly is really concerned about crimes that are killing the American people, many more people have been harmed and had their lives stolen both directly and indirectly by the actions of huge corporations and the banking and financier class--a group that is almost exclusively comprised of white men--than by “Black Lives Matter” or “black crime.” While the American corporate news media is momentarily fixated on what it has identified as a “trend” of white suffering and the deaths of despair (suicide; drug and alcohol abuse; opiate addiction) among the “white working class” it has, of course, failed to discuss how it is white men who have created this perilous situation and not black Americans or other people of color.

If there is a “culture” that is “killing” Americans, it is one that on a macro and elite level is led, created, and directed by a group of people who look like Bill O’Reilly.

Fox News and Bill O’Reilly most certainly will not do a feature on that problem.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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