Profile Distortion: Creating A Narrative For Bill O'Reilly
Tweeting A New Self
I recently joined twitter and have noticed a number of strange things coming through my feed betwixt images of babies being cute and cats. Though strange comments and childish insults are akin to twitter, my attention was grabbed by a recent post from none other than Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly felt it was necessary to post personal letters written to him from various coworkers while he was still working at Fox news. These letter depicted him in a kind and forgiving light showing him to be far different than the man many had come to know through reports of sexual harassment and coworker abuse. I personally do not want to write a hit piece or write inflammatory commentary on someone who has already passed through the news cycle. As stated in my bio, my goal is to evoke critical thought, not to be divisive or further useless controversy. I felt that Mr. O’Reilly’s attempts to reinvent himself since his recent fall from grace was a perfect example of a concept I had previously written about;the construction and use of a narrative.
In a previous article I discussed how a narrative is constructed and how it can be used to alter the publics perception of an event or specific individual. I found that in the case of Mr. O’Reilly, we are seeing perfect illustration of this process. I wanted to take this as an opportunity to illustrate the process of narrative construction as well as why it is important to keep a tight grip on information that is known to be true. We can do this by examining the key components of this event which for the sake of this article we will break up into three parts: the events themselves, what has happened since, and the narrative.
Remind Me Again Mr. Oreilly...
Because I do not see any reason to drudge up the sad events between Mr. O’Reilly and his coworkers, and also feel that because the mainstream media has done well at reporting all of the information regarding this case, I will not be restating what occurred outside of a short summary. Mr. O’Reilly paid roughly thirty-two million dollars in settlements involving claims against him of sexual harassment. I have read some of the court transcripts myself and found the accusations to be quite offensive. What we all know at this point is that Mr. O’Reillywas removed from Fox news and has recently been committed to providing news and commentary through another outlet of his own creation. This is nothing more than a summary and I am sure that there is far more information out there that could be included. However, remember that our purpose here is to remember the past and to recall factual events. Bill O’Reilly is nothing more than an example of narrative creation and introduction.
As previously stated, O’Reilly has begun to post various articles and letters that reflect him in a much different light than what many of those that followed his case remember may. It is at this point that we see an introduction of a new narrative. Just after what appeared to be a short time away from the public spotlight, O’Reilly returns and attempts to be taken seriously in the realm of political commentary once again. I would like to highlight once again that this is just after he had been silent and gone for a short period of time in what can be seen as an attempt to let the media storm that he created die down. Now that he has been slowly pushed out of the news cycle, we see that he is attempting to reenter it on his terms. By posting the letters from his coworkers and presenting himself a moral paragon, we have an example of an individual reshaping past events by disregarding them and providing a separate narrative.
This separate narrative does not seem to respond to the events of the past nor does it reconcile them with his current/future ambitions. It is difficult to combat such a narrative because any attempts against it will be disregarded. The next step to ensuring that this narrative is successful will be in the consistent repetition of the narrative to the masses. As I am sure we all know, news comes fast and is forgotten at twice the speed. By repeating a more favorable narrative, Bill O’Reillyhas the chance to utilize the forgetfulness of the public and change their view of him. If you believe that this is not possible, look at all of the celebrities and politicians that have committed obscene acts that have returned to the spotlight or reinvented themselves in recent years. A perfect example is the reemergence of Former President Bill Clinton who has shot himself in the foot multiple times through sexual harassmentallegations. Instead of being outright shunned or hated for his past activities, many have either been forgotten or allowed those allegations to become the subject of dirty jokes.
Remember The Facts
The case of Bill O’Reilly is an exercise in a much grander process through which we can hold our news representatives and politicians accountable. We must remember the truth and do not allow it to be changed or buried under false representation. Causing a narrative to fail can only be done by testing the narrative against the facts of an event. Preventing the resurgence of a narrative can only be done by always challenging it against the facts it seeks to reshape every time it is presented. Always remember that successful narratives start as slight distortions of information that may appear to be incorrect but irrelevant. They can be shifts in descriptions, times tables, or self-representations. Once these shifts have been made, the changesthen become more sweeping to the point that the original story becomes either buried under a large amount of false information or is forgotten due to a constructed social refocusing on alternative version of events.
The most important thing to remember from this article is this: the truth is not subject to convenience nor public interest.The truth does not change because no one shares it for a period of time and it cannot be altered otherwise it would become something other than truth. However, the true goings on during any event can be forgotten and it is up to us as consumers of media to hold those who provide news accountable. Consistentlycheck the narratives that are given because. We should never take for granted that we live in information age which means that no other age before us has had the ability to test an verify information that we do today. It is up to us to make sure that the information we receive remains consistent and true.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matter cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein 1878 - 1955