A new study by Indiana University media researchers finds that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly calls “a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.”
The study documented six months worth, or 115 episodes, of O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” editorials “using propaganda analysis techniques made popular after World War I.” Researchers found that O’Reilly “was prone to inject fear into his commentaries and quick to resort to name-calling. He also frequently assigned roles or attributes — such as ‘villians’ or downright ‘evil’ — to people and groups.
Some findings from the study:
— Fear was used in more than half (52.4 percent) of the commentaries, and O’Reilly almost never offered a resolution to the threat. For example, in a commentary on “left-wing” media unfairly criticizing Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales for his role in the Abu Ghraib scandal, O’Reilly considered this an example of America “slowly losing freedom and core values,” and added, “So what can be done? Unfortunately, not much.”
— The researchers identified 22 groups of people that O’Reilly referenced in his commentaries, and while all 22 were described by O’Reilly as bad at some point, the people and groups most frequently labeled bad were the political left — Americans as a group and the media (except those media considered by O’Reilly to be on the right).
— Left-leaning media (21.6 percent) made up the largest portion of bad people/groups, and media without a clear political leaning was the second largest (12.2 percent). When it came to evil people and groups, illegal aliens (26.8 percent) and terrorists (21.4 percent) were the largest groups.
The techniques used by Indiana University researchers to study O’Reilly were also “used during the late 1930s to study another prominent voice in a war-era, Father Charles Coughlin. His sermons evolved into a darker message of anti-Semitism and fascism, and he became a defender of Hitler and Mussolini.” The researchers note, “O’Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.”
UPDATE: O’Reilly, 2/27/06: “I don’t do personal attacks here.”