Bill O’Reilly’s Bullying Now In Hard Data

Via Carl Bialik, The Wall Street Journal‘s Numbers Guy: Indiana University assistant professor of journalism Mike Conway has released a report calculating the number of times Bill O’Reilly used name-calling and other so-called “propaganda techniques” on his show. The data were gathered by volunteers who catalogued 105 episodes of O’Reilly’s two-minute “Talking Points Memo,” tallying the use of seven rhetorical techniques identified as “elements of propaganda” by the now-defunct Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The results were then compared with those of Father Charles Coughlin, an anti-communist and antisemitic radio personality in the 1930s. The outcome? O’Reilly beat him by a mile.

O’Reilly and Fox News in turn criticized the study’s methodology, arguing that the “insult count” included too-broad words like “left,” “right,” “traditional” and “centrist.” Meanwhile, Conway defends his work, pointing out that O’Reilly’s words are only counted as name-calling if the context supports that classification — if the word “left” is said, e.g., within the phrase “Kool-Aid left.” Even so, counters Fox, one use of the phrase “Kool-Aid left” was counted as two separate name-calling instances, thereby upping the tally considerably. Bialik has a full summary of the debate; it’s worth a read.


Someone should do this study for Daily Kos too.


I'm sorry, what does this have to do with freakonomics? There are plenty of political blogs out there. While I've enjoyed her commentary thus far, I hope our new Huff Puff transport doesn't turn this into one of those.


So if "Kool-Aid left" is counted as one name-calling instance instead of two, will Bill O'Reilly beat Father Charles Coughlin by only a kilometer?


The poll didn't count when I called Bill O'Reilly a dick while watching the show did it? If so, I may have really screwed up the results.


This article is a little like the pot calling the kettle black. O'Reilly is a performance, a fake, a product designed to attract viewers. So the conclusion that he's a bully is now presented in "hard" facts is just as much a performance by WSJ. We would waste our time less if we sat around analyzing each other's fecal extrusions. I don't need a reporter and a journalism professor to "prove" O'Reilly is a waste of my time to listen to, it's obvious.


First, O'Reilly is a dick. He's far too smug for my tastes. Second, somebody needs to apply this methodology to track the candidates in the up-coming elections. You know, find out which party really is a so-called "Propaganda Machine"


I agree with commenter #2 -- this is totally off-topic.


So there is no such thing as political economy; so what then is the Federal Reserve System?

Of course the conservative agenda in journalism is the study of economics!


This isn't off-topic because it has the potential to become freakonomics. Someone just has to find a little spike or trough in the data that marks an interesting event. Voila, freakonomics.


I had written before that I wanted to wait and see in regards to our new editors ability to keep on topic and out of partisian politics.

I think I now see.

As mentioned - how is this topical?

That aside, the post is so hypocritical (labeling a name caller...) as to approach comedy.

Was this a test to see how far a post can go? I think the answer is too far. That said, this is one instance, exploring bounderies perhaps?

I would hate to see this become a pattern. Unlike some others, I won't make a point of no longer coming here. I'll just loose interest.


As a person who reads blogs but rarely comments, I want to make sure my opinion is known concerning this entry. I am not a economist. I am a layman who read Freakonomics and really thought it was informative.

Uh, politics and media are part of life. I don't shut off these areas during the day and only turn them on to read political blogs or watch the news. Personally, I live in a part of the US where a lot of people watch O'Reilly. My in-laws think he is really swell. So seeing data concerning his practises is informative and helpful.

How is that off-topic? I *hope* it is a pattern to post interesting information, and not let other reader's distaste for politics (hello! its part of every American's life) silence information.


To #8. Of course politics and economic issues are correlated. And your example noting the functions of monitary policy is a good one. However, I'm sure you're able to understand the difference between political issues as they relate to the economy and a biased attempt to discredit a political comentator, regardless of how biased that comentator may be himself.

To #9. You're Right! Albeit the manner in which this report and certian extent this post is presented makes it off-topic.


Bill O'Reilly's name-calling statistics seem a trifle irrelevant to the Freakonomics blog to me; anyone capable of navigating here to read it already knows O'Reilly is a complete ass with no credibility to speak of.

More relevant at this point in history would be a freakonomics style interpretation of neocon confirmation bias. 72% of us want to know why some are still listening to O'Reilly's drivel.

Matt W

It's a post about statistics and a method to quantify something that was previously unquantifiable. That's why it's Freakonomics-relevant.

Was the post about it being a bad idea to attack an army base relevant? Did anyone complain about that?

Since when is politics supposed to be off-limits?

Don't get so angry about linking to an interesting story and explaining both sides of it just because you're proud of your signed copy of "Orielly Factor for Kids".

Blogs are sometimes about irrelevance and always about linking to interesting stories.


Isn't Freakonomics, more or less, the art of teasing data to reveal new insights and/or debunk conventional wisdom? Freakonomics is about insights, not quantifying things. How is the observation that O'Reilly favors conservatives or liberals -- which is plain as day -- an insight?


What? The "No Spin Zone" is the all propaganda and name calling zone?

I'm shocked...I tell you...shocked.


Why hasn't anyone chimed in with the point about this all being a plot by that one man axis of evil Soros?

Sure, we all know O'Reilly is a joke but he is effective at swaying the same people who voted for GWB twice (who votes for the shrub twice!?) to his viewpoint.

If you need your memory refreshed regarding O'Reilly's bullying check out Bill Moyer's 'Selling the War' ( audio, video and transcript available). E.g.

BILL O'REILLY (2/27/03): I will call those who publicly criticize their country in a time of military crisis, which this is, bad Americans.

Yep, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...


I agree with #2 - I hope that this blog doesn't descend to the level of any other number of political blogs. I value the information I receive here BECAUSE it is not an echo of Kos or Instapundit, but is much more interesting and informative.

Please don't dilute your quality for quantity's sake. I would rather the original authors post interesting things 5 times a week, than an army of random webheads reposting Digg and Reddit content.


I think a number of these posts are demonstrative of why our country will never have a rational system of politics. For whatever reason, numerous people have commented that this is "off-topic." I couldn't begin to speculate why this point of view is so popular, but it seems to want to ignore certain issues.


Oops. Didn't mean to submit.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that economists shouldn't be worried about being confined to a certain subject matter. Why is a discussion of politics out of their wheelhouse?

Furthermore, it becomes even more ridiculous when the subject isn't even politics. The study that was mentioned had to do with poor journalism. Bill O'Reilly could be berating his guests about health care reform and most people would still hate him. His annoyance does not come from a political standpoint. So, in essence this was a post about journalism which is a subject that one of the Stevens (and possibly both)are very capable of handling.