Looking back over my life, I recall many cringe-worthy moments, mostly composed of ill-informed good intentions.  We're all on that continuum, hopefully learning and growing, but never really "arrived."  I expect plenty of cringe-worthy moments in my future as well, and I'm okay with that, as long as I learn from them, right?  So I can forgive myself for once not knowing what I know now, and for once having been a Fox News viewer. 

In 2003, many of us were watching the war on TV.  "Shock and Awe" was the phrase trumpeted repeatedly on the news, as we flew our yellow ribbons and hoped for the quick "liberation" of Iraq.  The news anchors described the bombings with more than a hint of glee.  They seemed more focused on the technological advances that enabled us to watch the war than on the war itself.   As I watched the dazzling display of pyrotechnics on my TV screen, I couldn't help but notice something missing in the reporting: the Iraqi people.  The light show I was watching was surely connected to painful explosions, death, and destruction of property and lives, yet there was little to no mention of that.  The interviews were largely with U.S. correspondents in deserted streets or motel rooms.  Nobody seemed to ask opinions of the people who actually lived there, but those bombs and missiles were hitting somebody.  I found I just couldn't watch for very long, and an ugly sad feeling was growing inside me, that some fundamental truth was being ignored.  An awareness was growing of an unearned privilege: of not living in a war zone.  I felt a little guilty.

I continued watching Bill O'Reilly's talk show, the "No-Spin Zone," which may well be the most inaccurate description of a show in the entire television industry.  I began to notice that Bill seemed to get lots of kudos for being snarky and mean-spirited.  I noticed that he liked to talk over, interrupt, and belittle his guests.  And it always seemed to be an intelligent, well-spoken guest who was simply trying to complete a statement I was interested in hearing.  I began wondering what he was so frantic to stifle.  It became annoying to hear him refer to anyone he disagreed with as a "pinhead," which seemed more in keeping with the behavior of an unschooled adolescent than a professional commentator.

It was Bill's childish behavior that led me to question his credibility.  The more fact-checking I did, the more disgusted I became with the obscene ways that Bill was spinning and distorting facts.  Bill was lying his tail off, and his cohorts were no better.  I noticed that on Fox News in general, anyone who asked questions that I would ask, such as how liberated the Iraqi people really felt, was ridiculed, yelled over, and roundly dismissed as unpatriotic.

In the course of seeking truth, I rediscovered my old love of reading.  Having always gravitated toward non-fiction, it was a short trip to find articles exposing the truth about the war.  Reading the words of returning U.S. combat veterans and ordinary Iraqi and Afghani people validated my earlier concerns.  My nation had been acting like a bully and I had been unwittingly complicit.  I had always believed strongly in justice and equality, but now I understood patriotism vs. nationalism.  Thanks to Bill O'Reilly, I now also understood news vs. commentary.  There were three t hings to do: quit watching the propaganda machine that is Fox News, keep reading and learning, and speak out against the war machine.

Had he been more likeable, perhaps a little easier to defend, I may have hung around Fox News a little longer, wanting to deny the painful truth and believe them.   So... thank you, Bill O'Reilly, for being indefensible.  Thank you for exemplifying what spin looks like.  Thank you for being rude, arrogant, spiteful, and smug.  Thank you for showing me what laziness in fact-checking looks like, because it made it easy to see the opposite in my sources later.  Thank you especially for being so blatant about it.  Your "news" broadcasts focus mostly on the ego of the broadcaster, rather than actual events, and your buffoonery makes it impossible to take you seriously.  At least it's entertaining if one feels that clowns make great newscasters.  Thank you most of all for re-awakening my love of reading and research, even if it eventually debunked your lies, and created a passionate peacemonger, which I'm sure was not your intention.  In spite of yourself, you managed to serve the higher good for this truth-seeker, and for that I am grateful.

Sincerely, a peace activist who values truth, equality, and justice, or as you would call it, a pinhead.