Bill O’Reilly. The man’s name alone stirs up a medley of emotional responses among many people: hatred, admiration, frustration, fear, gratitude and more. O’Reilly is an enigmatic person who seems to frustrate both sides of the political spectrum, but then a week later might have everybody saying “hear, hear!” with gusto.
However, his recent appearance on “The View” (which can be equally controversial in its own right) was one of those “frustration” moments.
“Muslims killed us on 9/11,” he said. Muslims. Not: “Muslim extremists” or “Muslim terrorists” or even, “some Muslims” to suggest it was a small group. Not even just “terrorists.” No. Apparently, all of Islam is guilty for the atrocities committed on that day.
The statement is not wrong. Yes, Muslims killed people on 9/11. Americans died on 9/11. Both are true statements. However, it is the use of the word “us,” that 9/11 was an affront to all Americans, and that it was committed simply by “Muslims.” The word “us” unifies all Americans, and thus also unifies all Muslims within the sentence.
The reasons this is such a frustrating statement are numerous. First and foremost, to suggest that all of Islam is guilty of the actions on 9/11 is simply offensive, both to me as a non-Muslim and to people in general. Did I kill Iraqis because the military of my country did? No, and just as well, my Muslim peers bear no responsibility for the events of 9/11. However, more importantly, it is frustrating because it is simply sensationalism. He said it to get a reaction (and if you actually watched the episode, you’d have seen Whoopi Goldberg swear, and then she and Joy Behar leave the set). It plays on the deep rooted bigotry that many people grappled with and still grapple with in the wake of 9/11. Worst of all, there are probably many people who would agree with him, and say, “Yeah, but… Muslims did kill us on 9/11!”
Remember the election of 2008. When it was even a slight possibility that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, people (like O’Reilly) used it as evidence that he was unfit to be elected. Why? Because “Muslims killed us on 9/11!” They are not to be trusted. That is what those who brought up his possible faith in Islam said or meant: A Muslim could not be trusted with the Office of the President because all Muslims were guilty of murdering over three thousand people on Sept. 11th, 2001.
People like O’Reilly have a responsibility to the public to be honest. Bill O’Reilly is, whatever you think of him personally, an obviously intelligent man. He may believe that it is inappropriate to have any type of establishment relating to Islam located near Ground Zero. That is a perfectly valid feeling. However, he does not truly believe that all Muslims are guilty of killing people on 9/11. He says it to incense people — it riles up the people who agree with him into saying, “Yes! That’s why it’s wrong!” and it offends enough people who disagree into saying, “I can’t deal with people like him.” He is dishonest. He is sensational, and he does it so that when his show comes on the next day, all those people who watched “The View” will tune in for “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox 11.
Is it a successful tactic to pull in television ratings? Sure. Does it make O’Reilly a good man who’s just honest about how he feels? No. It simply reminds me that whenever I find myself agreeing with Bill O’Reilly, it’s by sheer coincidence, and does not mean that he is any better a man than he was the last time I thought about him. He certainly speaks for a lot of people. Luckily for the rest of us, we do not have to watch his show and can tune into Bill Maher’s instead.