The Twitter mob serves a purpose. Bill O’Reilly and United prove it.

The Twitter mob serves a purpose. Bill O’Reilly and United prove it.
By Kathleen Parker
Apr 11 2017

Despite recent revelations that Fox News and anchor Bill O’Reilly had settled five complaints of sexual harassment against him to the tune of millions — his ratings went up. 

A few days later, a United Airlines passenger was dragged from an airplane to make room for crew members on a full flight — and United’s stock initially went up.

And for this we pay good money? 

The shock wasn’t so much that monetary values seem to increase in direct correlation to the diminution of moral values but that we’ve become passive bystanders to appalling behavior and allegations. Well beyond defining deviancy down, as the great statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan once described our cultural devolution — we hardly know what it is anymore.

Which reminds me of another great social observer, author Flannery O’Connor. Frequently asked why Southerners write so much about freaks, she replied that it was because Southerners could still recognize them. Whether this was ever true is debatable only beyond the Confederate states. 

What is true today is that social media has become the church lady and the party-line operator rolled into one. If somebody misbehaves, not just two people know about it. Within hours or minutes, millions do. Like a single organism endowed with the accumulated moral fortitude of human society, Twitter demands justice. 

In viral videos of the airplane fiasco, passengers are heard protesting as security officials drag the man down the aisle toward the exit. But even their objections were relatively muted. Was this a one-off, crazy incident, they must have wondered? Or, was it just a matter of time until the blood-sucking, tentacled tripod machines in “War of the Worlds” reach down to select their next human cocktail to drain? But maybe that’s just me.

Still. It happened. Right here in the USA. On a plane. To a random guy. 

United stocks rallied and the friendly skies were no wiser. 

That is, until the outrage gathering on social media reached investors. By the time the market closed Tuesday, United’s shares were down 1.1 percent and the company had lost $255 million in market value — not because of the airline’s treatment of the passenger but because of investors’ loss of faith in the company’s ability to handle a crisis. 

As for O’Reilly, o’really?

I was beginning to think I was the last person on the planet for whom mention of “O’Reilly” prompted the instant association to “loofah.” O’Reilly. Loofah. O’Reilly. Loofah. Yes, my fellow Americans, not only is O’Reilly a smug, sarcastic, windbag/anchor of the self-promoting commercial called “The O’Reilly Factor,” he is also allegedly a sex talker of some renown. 

Thirteen years ago, O’Reilly settled with a “Factor” associate producer, Andrea Mackris, who sued for sexual harassment. Specifically, she alleged that in telephone conversations, he bragged about his global sexual exploits, encouraged her to release tensions with a mechanical aid, and spoke of a shower fantasy with Mackris and “that little loofah thing.” Later in the same conversation, for reasons unknown, she said he changed his terminology to that “falafel thing” — word of the day, eh? — which falls somewhat short of correcting the record.



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