April 21, 2017

The time Bill O’Reilly yelled at a poet


Bill O’Reilly, whose ouster from Fox News this week is worth celebrating, has left an impressive slime-trail of video clips. There is, of course, his infamous Inside Edition flip-out (“WE’LL DO IT LIVE!”), his slavering over the possibility of another civil war, his endless nightclub-act-from-hell of racist one-liners.

Another one to revisit is the time O’Reilly declared poet Bruce Andrews his “disgrace of the week.” Andrews, now sixty-nine, is the author of more than forty books. In 1984, he co-founded with Charles Bernstein the influential magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which gave language poetry its name. His writing seems to reflect dada, no-wave, Russian formalist, and other influences, and rejects the idea that language can directly mirror or describe the external world, treating it instead as autonomous material that operates on its own terms. He has written, “I’m always trying to reorganize my life. And I’m always trying to reorganize the world — words writing writing politics. Incomprehension is the subtitle.”

Andrews is also a political scientist who’s taught at Fordham University for more than four decades, and it is in this capacity that O’Reilly invited him on his show in 2006. Many of O’Reilly’s signature moves are on display here — he talks over his guest, tells someone how to do a job he would not be remotely qualified for, ignores every fact he doesn’t feel like accommodating, and arrives precisely nowhere. And then, at the end of it all, he calls Andrews “a stand-up guy” (which, for the record, he is, not that O’Reilly would know).

The whole clip is… really something.


One of Andrews’s poems from the early nineties begins:

Stalin’s genius consisted of not french-kissing: sometimes I want to be in crud. Your spats of visibility — o, crow fluke, genitally organized spuds, what can true work? Birth is skewed, anon., capital; lose that disembowlment; you must change it by eating it yourself; don’t pick your noses, secrecy thrives on abuse.

In a poem called “flameproof,” he writes:

No verbatim monstrous glee, transparent symptom noise below another
gala. More slur pretext lonely. Tinself half-womb glitter
ahahahahahahahahahah on white mezzotint stirrup merchandise. Headless
lights lay a pretty bitched “let J equal let K”. Value money over
relationships all of a sudden. Tinkly light might simply bring into
play the entire range of paranoid symptoms.

That is much more interesting than anything Bill O’Reilly has ever said.