Bill O’Reilly has boasted how ”The Factor” is doing so well that its ratings surpass those of NBC’s “Jay Leno Show.” It is an apt comparison, since O’Reilly seems intent on co-opting one of Leno’s trademark skits, “Jaywalk,” in which ignorant individuals are asked about topical issues and give ludicrous answers.
How else can O’Reilly explain his decision to bring back the hip hop associate professor Mark Lamont Hill to opine on Iran?
Although fired by Fox News just a few weeks ago, Hill re-appeared last night on “The Factor” in place of Fox News political contributor Juan Williams. In his own “Hillwalk” version of the Jay Leno bit, O’Reilly let Hill make a complete fool of himself, zig-zagging wildly between taking a super-hawkish stance against Iran to impress the Fox audience and the ‘lets continue to talk’ approach of Barack Obama. But unlike “Jaywalk,” in which the individuals whom Leno interviews seem to know their limitations and are willing to embarrass themselves on national TV to get their 15 minutes of fame, Hill is so impressed with his doctorate that he thinks his opinions should actually be taken seriously.
To try and give Hill his due, I went to his website to see what issues are of real concern to him. Hill describes himself there as
one of the leading hip-hop generation intellectuals in the country
On Hill’s homepage, right under a picture of his appearance on Fox News, there are a series of links to something called Sex with Timaree. On his “About” page, Hill elaborated somewhat on his areas of interest beyond Sex with Timaree. They included:
various sites of possibility for identity work, resistance, and knowledge production outside of formal schooling contexts. Particular sites of inquiry include hip-hop culture, urban fiction, and African American bookstores.
And talking about bookstores, Dr. Hill’s suggested reading list included such academic tomes as:
- Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity by Marc Lamont Hill;
- Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought by Melissa Harris-Lacewell;
- The Yankee Years by Joe Torre;
- Watch This!: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (Religion, Race, and Ethnicity) by Jonathan L. Walton;
- Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness by John L. Jackson;
- Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture) by Eve Rachelle Sanders; and
- Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal by Laura Ahearn.
If O’Reilly were not trying to entertain his audience with his version of “Jaywalk” by putting this totally unqualified sophist on the air to present his views on Iran, then perhaps he put Hill back on in order to demonstrate his commitment to diversity. If so, then why not turn to someone who has the credentials to be taken seriously on a life-and-death policy issue like Iran?
Assuming that Colin Powell was not available, why not bring on a liberal black academic with some gravitas such as Dr. Clarence Lusane, an Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of International Service at American University who has actually written and lectured on foreign policy issues? Or why not bring on either Professor Cornell West or Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who while not foreign policy experts are at least noted scholars with sharp intellects who can articulate the far left’s perspective? Or why not go outside of academia and choose a black journalist such as Pulitzer Prize winner and syndicated columnist Clarence Page?
There are certainly more than enough African-American liberals with the knowledge and expertise to speak intelligently about serious issues such as Iran. It was insulting to his audience for O’Reilly to choose the hip hop expert and devotee of Sex with Timaree instead.
I think the reason is that O’Reilly is not interested in an intellectual challenge. It’s much easier to use Hill as a foil in order to show off how smart, fair and balanced O’Reilly is compared to the likes of Hannity or Beck. What O’Reilly delivered was a segment deserving no more than an “F.” If he keeps this up, Beck may be taking his place sooner rather than later.