|Bill O'Reilly - Culture Terrorist
by Chris Seidel
I'm a researcher. Bad information is like poison to me. It causes me to waste time and effort. It is damaging to progress. Bad information from a poorly designed experiment is one thing, but bad information from a disingenuos "authority" is entirely something else.
Bill O'Reilly hosts a show called the "no spin zone" in which he claims to be fighting the good fight, offering information without spin or bias. He's so convinced of the sanctity of his cause that he just wrote a book called "Bill O'Reilly, Culture Warrior". He thinks he's fighting to save our culture. (And maybe he is, but in his zealousness, he sometimes blows a hole in the side of the ship.)
However, during one of his recent shows, I watched as he purposefully and maliciously put out false information about a non-profit medical research institute. In November 2006, Missouri had a ballot intitiative to ammend the state constitution to keep early stem cell research legal. In Kansas City, Missouri, there is a non-profit research institute funded by a several billion dollar endowment, which was a gift from a billionaire.
Kansas City Missouri is home to the American Century Mutual Funds, a successful fund group which over the years has made their founder a multibillionaire. In the 1990s, the founder and his wife were both stricken with cancer. Alarmed at how few options they had, and nearing the end of their lives, they gave their fortune to an endowment and established a non-profit medical research institute. The institute carries out basic research in the life sciences, studying the basic molecules of life from yeast cells to stem cells. There is no profit motive. However, there is also a sister organization which has been established to license any findings made by the institute. The sister organization is a charity. It is owned by no person. Profits from commercialization of any findings go towards the endowment of the institute, which funds more research. The founders of the institute get nothing.
Kansas City can be a tough place to do cutting edge life science research. The area is conservative. Consistently for the past 6 years, measures to ban research on human stem cells have been proposed in the legislature. It's hard to recruit researchers to set up a research program if they see persistent efforts to ban their research. So the founders of the research institute poured tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to pass an intitiative to ammend the constitution of the state to keep stem cell research legal. It's an effort to keep the doors of research open, to keep progress alive, to speed cures for human ailments.
Bill O'Reilly on the other hand would prefer to mislead you about why people want to study stem cells. In a report dated 11-1-06 he claimed that the reason why money was being poured into a campaign to keep stem cell research legal was so the founders of a non-profit institute could "line their own pockets" (his words). When it was pointed out that they may have another motivation, that they themselves had suffered from cancer, Bill O'Reilly's response was, "Oh that's just a sob story!"
Several days before his "detailed report" on the institute, Bill O'Reilly was given information detailing how the founders stood to make no commercial profit from the institute. Instead of using this information, he spun things as far in the opposite direction as they could go. He poisoned the intellectual atmosphere with bad information. He deliberately undermined one's ability to think clearly about the situation by introducing false information and obfuscating the facts. Is this the action of someone who is a warrior for culture? What kind of culture is Bill O'Reilly fighting for when he goes out of his way to lie about philanthropists? For that, as much as he considers himself a warrior, I consider him a cultural terrorist.
I'm at a loss to explain why he would do this, unless he is simply so drunk in his cynicism he couldn't help himself. When I heard that the institute had received several phone calls after his show aired, I thought maybe he had succeeded. I thought people were calling up to express their discust that a non-profit research entity was really just in it for the money, and how horrible it was that they would grind up human stem cells for profit. But when I heard why they had called, I realized how far Bill O'Reilly had missed the mark with his audience. People were so misled, they were calling to find out how they could buy stock in the institute. Note: you can't buy stock in a non-prfoit research institute.