Fox's Bill O'Reilly: Gadgets got Obama elected

The Fox News presenter says iPads and the like made it easier to present a candidate's image that was "false" to narcissistic young people.

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Raging against the machines. NewsGivenNow/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The more I listen to the wise people of Silicon Valley, the more I realize that technology can do anything.

It has the unique talent of always knowing better and always knowing me better than I do.

There are those, though, who rail at the effects. Some of them work at Fox News.

In an enlightening segment on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," Bill O'Reilly and Megan Kelly discussed how technology has twisted our young.

Of young people, Kelly said: "You can go an entire day without ever having any human interaction. You go to the bank, you deal with an ATM. You go to CVS, you scan your own items. You want groceries, you order them online."

At lunch, she said, you spend half the time on your iPad or iPhone. Or you're texting someone who isn't there about a meeting in which, when you see them, you'll ignore them.

They both agreed that young people would rather photograph the Alps than look at them.

This is, indeed, the modern world, one where people are virtual and reality is a show. It's one whose young inhabitants Kelly called "disconnected" and "disenchanted." She described it as a "dangerous" situation, a world full of narcissists.

O'Reilly believes that our newfangled machines have prevented the young from being able to read people. Their powers of human analysis have been sucked out of them by their addicted burial inside their gadgets.

Some might find this all quite persuasive. Many behaviors that used to be thought human have gone. Kelly believes the gadget-obsessed are fundamentally depressed.

However O'Reilly then took this thought to a politicized conclusion. "And so the voters go and they swallow all of this BS," he said.

Wait, which particular BS is this? I had always thought that voters had swallowed BS since the dawn of democracy. But, no.

"The reason Barack Obama is president for two terms is because of the machines," he said. No, not the electronic voting machines that, in some states, seem to favor candidates endorsed by the people who made the machines.

No, nothing so quaintly sinister. Instead: "The machines have portrayed him (President Obama) in a way that isn't true."

Perhaps he meant that the president's media advisers understood newer forms of media better than those of his opponent.

But media-savviness, the presentation of a candidate in the best possible light, has been an essential component of presidential campaigns ever since humans began to huddle around things that plugged into a socket or made a noise thanks to a battery.

How often have we looked back at our presidents and thought: "Yes, indeedy. That is the man I voted for"?

And how often: "What has the buffoon gone and done this time"?

For as long as there has been a screen, presidents have been selected according to their telegenic quality, their "I'd have a beer with him" quality, their "I like his tie" quality and their "well, at least he didn't say anything stupid" quality.

What the machines have done is created entirely new screens where young people get their news.

Some young people will tell you they don't care about what O'Reilly would call news at all. Instead, they rely on their friends to post interesting things to Facebook. (My engineer friend George is one such young person and proud of it.)

It seems remarkable, though, that anyone in television should feel sore about the ability to charm and persuade through a screen.

On screens, facts tend to take the role of a Japanese emperor's wife, two steps behind the star of the show.

Perhaps they should talk to one of Fox's most celebrated and erudite presenters, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He explained only on Friday that most geeks are Democrats. And geeks have influenced human behavior over the last ten years more than anyone else.

The big struggle for Republicans may not so much be the gadgets, but the people who make them, as well as those who disappear into them.

Why are they the way they are? Is it the gadgets' fault? Or might there be some more penetrating reason, such as feeling that one side's BS is slightly more tolerable than the other's?

 

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