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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.