Sunday, December 18, 2005

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof took a week off from writing about Darfur to write a column about a proposed Pleistocene Park. This week, Kristof is back to what he knows (and cares) much more about. And this time he's picked a fight with Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly to boot.

Huh? What do O'Reilly, Kristof, and Darfur have in common? Actually, not a whole heck of a lot.
Kristof challenges O'Reilly to stop ranting and raving about the atrocity of being wished a Merry X-Mas or, Ishvara forbid, Happy Holidays and to take a trip to Africa to see atrocities in action. Does Kristof believe that there's any chance Bill O'Reilly is going to be rubbing elbows with Sudanese refugees in this lifetime? No. Does Kristof believe that slamming O'Reilly's show, views, and questionable motives is going to change any of those things? Nope. So why waste the ink?

What Kristof seems to have realized is that, despite the real atrocities happening far away in Darfur, the American public (and the media) is more interested in imagined atrocities right here at home. Like the War on Christmas. By goading Bill O'Reilly, Kristof is betting that a well-publicized verbal sparring match, with Darfur as the backdrop, will generate more publicity for the situation there than a month's worth of serious, O'Reilly-free columns on the same topic.

It's an intriguing strategy. It's just a shame that Kristof has to pick a fight in order to get anyone to listen.


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