Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” sometimes gets it wrong. On one issue, I think he’s half right and half wrong, so I’m going to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here. O’Reilly complains that people in public life, including him, often get unfairly bashed by their critics. He mentioned certain attacks on Arnold Schwarzenegger that have little to do with how Schwarzenegger might perform as governor of California. Fair enough. But then O’Reilly makes two further claims. One, that it’s largely the Internet’s fault as if public figures never got bashed before the 1990s. And two, that “too little” is being done to protect public figures from the ravages of this Wild Cyber-West.
It seems that there is a lot of very open, uninhibited discussion out there, and O’Reilly is miffed about it. He says, “the court system in this country does not protect anybody in the public arena. [W]ith the rise of the Internet . . . you could say anything you want about anybody. And it just goes unchecked. Shouldn’t there be a check and balance in this?”
But what checks and balances does O’Reilly want? There are already laws against libel and slander in this country he’s welcome to use them. But he seems to be hinting that there must be some form of prior restraint that people must be stopped from having their forums even before they open their mouths.
A lot of people would like to gag O’Reilly too, so why don’t we have a peace treaty that goes like this: we let Bill O’Reilly talk, and he lets all the rest of us talk.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.