Child Rant And the Murphy/O’Reilly Response

December 9, 2006

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/117169.html

This is some good material for a post. I’d been thinking of a bunch of things to write about lately but with finals I staved off it. But there was a lot just in the last few days. Over at a new blog I’ve added to the compendium of blogs I already read, http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/, has an interesting essay on emptiness (not to be necessarily confused with nothingness) and the first version of a book by McKenzie Wark: GAM3R 7H30RY. Also, Don Norman just wrote an article titled “Simplicity is Highly Overrated” which I haven’t had time to read but it’s a provocative title. And I’m not even mentioning the political and scientific debacles that have happened recently.

I was also thinking about witting about Karl Pilkington. In short, the man is the antithesis to a philosopher. He’s the exact opposite of what we think philosophers are. In one way, a philosopher trusts his ability to reason but is skeptical of information. Karl Pilkington absorbs information like a sponge, takes it as mental fact, and as far as I can tell should have no reason to trust his ability to rationalize. He does, however, think about reality (like philosophers) and thinks critically about it – which is beautiful. The remarkable thing is how he gets from point A to point B. There was an article he read about how scientists developed a telescope so powerful that it could see a dishwasher on Mars. Karl misread this as stating that there are dishwashers on Mars and evaluated this rather absurd situation questioning “How’d it get there?” instead of intuitively reacting to the situation as being what Ricky Gervais calls “absolute rubbish.” What is even more remarkable is that his views on life in terms of morality are fairly sensible. He likes to learn, he likes to think, and he’s aware of the importance of people’s liberty. So he supports those causes even through absurd ramblings and misinterpretations. He’s great, and despite the harsh times Gervais and “Smerch” give him, this beloved guy from Manchester has his own untouched level of original brilliance – sure, it’s flawed but still brilliant.

Well anyways, this anti-religious atheistic child rant spurred off a little debate when Bill O’Reilly (who I don’t watch. Period.) asked a so-called “Child advocate” Wendy Murphy – and that means what exactly? Like Reverend Lovejoy’s wife from The Simpsons is a “child advocate” Please! Please! Think of the children! – the leading Cavuto-esque question “Is this child abuse?” Obviously her response is a little exaggerated: “The ultimate inhumane treatment of a child.” No, getting a getting a kid to mouth off anti-religious rhetoric is not ‘the ultimate inhumane treatment” at all. The child isn’t being sexually mutilated or lobotomized. Heck, what the parent(s) supposedly did I wouldn’t even qualify as “inhumane” whatsoever let alone the “ultimate” inhumane act.

She already stated that the child doesn’t understand anything of what the child is saying, which if it were true – then it wouldn’t be damaging in the slightest. You ask a kid to say “Flimjab Bwonky doo.” It’d have the same effect if the child truly knew nothing of what it was saying. The thing is though, child most likely does understand, at least in part, what she is saying. But if that is true and the child is clearly doing this willingly and enthusiastically, then we can infer that the child not only understands on some level what she is saying but we can also say the child agrees on some level in what she is saying. Not that Wendy said anything about this, but what is her evidence that a child could not comprehend the subject matter in her rant? The child ranted about a “fictitious” God. Now, if that is something a child fundamentally cannot comprehend – then why is there the assumption that a child can comprehend and believe in a God. So is she suggesting that children don’t have the mental capabilities to disbelieve in God but do have the feeble mindedness to believe in God. That’s both self-deprecating and a contradiction.

Then Wendy is slightly worried that since the child is on the “world stage” making “incendiary comments” which makes her vulnerable to the possibility that “some nut” (which I can only infer would either be a republican, Christian, or Nazi) might hunt this little seven or eight year old girl down. Problem I have here is that the kid was not on the “world stage”. She was on a popular internet video site – Youtube – which might get a few thousand views. O’Reilly put her on the “world stage” when he put her on his tv-show which would get more views than if the video was left to the internet. YouTube currently has the girl’s rant as being viewed 163 thousand times since its inception on November 1st. O’Reilly’s response was on December 5th, and according to this: http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/ratings/the_scoreboard_tuesday_december_5_48845.asp#more

(I am assuming the ratings are in thousands – it seems fairly unlikely that only a 442 people saw his show that day…) His ratings for that day were almost half a million. In a single hour O’Reilly doubled this child’s previous chances of being hunted down and murdered by a crazed cue-balled Bush-voting Jesuit.

But the heart of the response is the common ad hominem. Wendy Murphy gives piss-poor responses, as I’ve superficially showed, but at least they are responses regarding the parent’s conduct and role as a parent. O’Reilly interjects in saying that he doesn’t care about the potential safety of the child and instead suggests that these parents or “nuts” are “deeply disturbed.” Unfortunately, the clip ends right when he begins to go into his rantings – I mean his justifications for his rants – I mean his beliefs – but that seems unnecessary as he’s already given us his conclusion that the child was raised by deeply disturbed nutcases.

And that’s strange. That is his initial response. No, far be it from him to evaluate the validity of the claims the child makes in the rant. Far be it from him to refute her response to his own claim that violence comes from children playing games. Games which are inspired by “adult” violence coming from wars, genocide, and religious radicalism. It seems that O’Reilly… and this should come as no shock to anybody… maybe believes that those who believe these things other than what he believes must be mentally disturbed in principle. Right, atheists must suffer from cognitive defect that makes them incapable of believing in God. Or people who recognize that games just simulate the violence that is found throughout society actually suffer from brain disorders. That’s great, Bill. Classic. Why not get a book out on Phrenology so you can complete your Dr. Mengele manifesto. Some call Dr. Phil about the new O’Reilly-approved symptoms for mental disorders: Having your own child record a video talking about atheism, the senseless killings at the hand of religious crusades, and the irrationality of blaming violence on children who play Soul Calibur and watch Family Guy.

Yeah, this is the kind of critical thinking you get on cable news networks. Great. Like I should really be ashamed for watching The Daily Show now.

The term “incendiary comments” I let slip bye. Neither Murphy nor O’Reilly make this argument but it can be deduced that from “incendiary comments” one should not make them. It’s bullshit. It’s antithetical to the 1st amendment to have freedom of speech but in addition to that, believe that certain people should keep their mouth shut about certain things. Sure, you can disagree with them either on principle or via counter-argument but it’s a contradiction to say “You have the freedom of speech, but shut up about X, Y, and Z.” FCC bans swear words (which I still think is rather absurd. Banning it from television does not diminish a child’s chances from hearing and understanding the word “Fucktard”) but afaik, it doesn’t concepts (at least in principle).

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