The O’Reilly Defense and No Comments

There’s an interesting article about the Tiller murder.  More precisely, it’s about how the legal team is going to defend Scott Roeder, the murderer of the abortionist George Tiller.

From the article:

“It’s a variation of a Twinkie Defense,” said legal expert Jonathan Turley. “They will attempt to connect Mr. Roeder’s heavy intake of Bill O’Reilly combined with a talk-radio hate-speak rush to prove that Roeder did not have the capacity to make a rational decision when he shot Dr. Tiller. “The deluge of ‘Tiller is a Nazi, mass murderer, baby killer’ verbiage by Mr. O’Reilly surely can drive one into a state of what we in the legal profession call ‘righteous assassination.'”

Those in the psychology community support the defense.

So the idea is that Mr. O’Reilly’s comments caused Mr. Roeder’s rational decision-making to be skewed.  As wacky as this is, the next part gets crazier:

O’Reilly refused comment but sent his producer Jesse Waters out to ambush Tiller’s widow.

What intrigues me is that O’Reilly refused to comment.  Why didn’t he comment?  If I wrote a book or an article on something philosophical and some crazed fantatic goes on a rampage and claims that it came from me, I would immeidatley denounce that person.  However, O’Reilly refuses to comment.  Why would he do that?  It seems that he loses nothing if he commented that Roeder is crazy and had nothing to do with O’Reilly’s comments.

I can only guess based on these alternatives:

  1. If O’Reilly refuses to comment, then it’s synonymous with not condemning what Roeder did.  Of course, it’s also not condoning it either.  But the refusal to speak seems odd since it would clear up O’Reilly’s name.  If his words did bring about harm, then surely he’d want to clear up the air.  But he didn’t.  It seems that he had no problem with Roeder’s actions.  In this case, O’Reilly knew what he was doing and was basically egging people like Roeder on.  In which case, O’Reilly is guilty.
  2. If O’Reilly comments, then all he can say is that his words didn’t cause Roeder to act as he did.  But the legal defense could easily reply that his words have incited violence as stated in the article: “It stands to reason that in repeating incessantly that Dr. Tiller is a mass murderer, someone would step up to stop the killings. Rather than an assassin, the defendant might see himself as a hero.”  Thus, if O’Reilly commented, he would be lying.

These are the alternatives: O’Reilly is guilty or lying.  Anything that I’m missing?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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12 Responses to The O’Reilly Defense and No Comments

  1. thekillerj says:

    Maybe he didn’t comment because he was trying to make a statement like, “you’re not worth my time.” Of course, sending out a lackey to ambush the fools suggests otherwise but that’s my guess.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    That’s a good point. If this thing goes to trial and the lawyers do present the “O’Reilly Defense,” you can be sure O’Reilly will comment.

  3. Nancy says:

    i think it makes perfect (if reprehensible) sense. consider his audience- if he doesn’t comment, the crazies in his audience can say that he condones it, and is on their side, while he has plausible deniability with everyone else because he hasn’t outright condoned it. he wins with his audience either way.

  4. Kevin says:

    I was actually watching O’Reilly the other day and he was talking about the Tiller murder basically saying that it wasn;t a big deal that he was murdered, saying that the news should have covered the killing of (who I believe was an army private) by a radical muslim in the US recently.
    He did actually condemn the murder of Tiller, right before refering to him as a baby killer.
    People like him are the same people that made bank saying that columbine was caused by Marilyn Manson. If he came out and admitted that the words of somebody famous can;t inspire somebody to kill then he loses 80% of his stories.
    Could also be that he didn’t have any of his writers with him to help him stage intelligence when the reporters asked him for comment, which is the likeliest explanation.

  5. Kevin says:

    Here’s the link of O’Reilly responding to people blaming him for the murder:

  6. aubreycierra says:

    Why it is true that one cannot directly blame a figure head for a death then can be to blame for the message that causes the reactions. There is a level of responsibility that he has due to the mind set he perpetuates. Its all to easy to blame the other side and on many an occasion neo-conservatives have blamed the messages that liberals have ‘propagated’ and when they are to be held to any accountability at all, for their messages, they become aggressively defensive and claim liberals are looking to exploit the situation in order to make ‘them’ look bad.

    • Kevin says:

      I’m a firm believer that no matter what anybody says to you, you are still responsible for your actions. If you buy into a religion that teaches you to make human sacrifices, it’s not the religion’s fault, it’s yours for buying into it. Of course this is idealistic thinking, since the world may never value personal responsibility over personal gain.

  7. shaunmiller says:

    Kevin, I agree with you ideally. However, I think this only works if you’re more educated. The more educated you are, the more you realize that you are in control of your actions. Without education, you’re just passively going by accepting things (in this case, O’Reilly’s words) without thinking about them. It’s sad but I don’t think most of the world is educated.

  8. shaunmiller says:

    Or maybe I can supplement it using Sartre: The defense team would blame O’Reilly, but it was solely Roeder’s fault. In this case, the defense team would be in Bad Faith. Of course, in the legal sense, you’ll take whatever defense you can get. The aspect of where the blame lies, it surely falls on Roeder. Could we say then that O’Reilly bears some responsibility but not as much as Roeder? Maybe as an accomplice? Of course, if we say that, then that means that Roeder wasn’t fully responsible.

    Hmm. . . you got me thinking Kevin. I’m a big believer in Sartre’s notion of responsibility, but it still seems that O’Reilly is somewhat responsible too. Looks like I’ve got to reject Sartre’s philosophy, or reject the notion that O’Reilly has some of the blame.

  9. aubreycierra says:

    There are different aspects to look at this with. Yes Roeder is fully responsible for his actions. However, O’Reilly is fully responsible for what he says and in such leading on the less educated and more susceptible audience. So while I would say that the weight of the murder its self is Roeder’s fault, its O’Reilley’s fault for instituting a pattern of thought that leads to these actions.

  10. Kevin says:

    Shaun, I think a way to determine whether O’Reilly is to blame is to judge him on his intentions. Pundits always say that their shows are just for entertainment. If this truly is the case then it’s easy to say that he’s not to blame, because that would be like Brad Pitt telling someone to kill (which sadly would probably hold a lot of weight in our society haha).
    Is it fair though to say that your show is purely for entertainment when you claim it to be news, and constantly defend everything you say as “facts”? If O’Reilly came out and said “everything I say is opinion, nothing that is presented on my show can be taken as full information, but rather it is all biased half-truths” before every show then he couldn’t possibly be to blame. Maybe he should have a intro like southpark “this show should not be watched by anyone”. God, wouldn’t that be an amazing day?

  11. shaunmiller says:

    I’m not so sure about intentions. If we based ethical actions on intentions, then the Bush administration should not be seen as morally wrong for their invasion in Iraq. After all, they intended to have a good war.

    As for O’Reilly’s warning at the beginning, that would if he told people that everything he’s saying is opinion. Ahh, but notice what he says at the beginning of every show: “Caution: you are about to enter the no-spin zone.” That’s suggesting that what he’s saying is not opinion, but truth or fact. If that’s the case, that could be something the defense team could use against O’Reilly.

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