You Go, Oprah

I have long thought that whatever else the wondrous worldwide Web is it is a lunatic asylum, where mean-spirited cretins roam its dark halls and smash against padded walls spewing hate all over the place pretty much for just one reason:  They disagree with you.

I speak from first-hand experience.

If you honestly believe there’s a liberal bias in the so-called mainstream media, as I do, the reaction by the anonymous critics on the Web is not that I’m simply wrong, it’s that I’m a freaking fill in the blank – and they’re not so polite as to use the word “freaking.”

Jon Stewart is a smart guy who thinks deeply about important issues, but a lot of his most passionate fans apparently have vocabularies that consist of just two words:  the first starts with F and the second is You!  I discovered this one night when I (politely) noted that Jon wasn’t nearly as cutting edge and courageous as his unsophisticated fans thought since he gave his liberal friends a much easier ride than his conservative foes.

I think it was the word “unsophisticated” that touched them off.  Within minutes, the F bombs were flying.

Anyone who has ever written anything even vaguely controversial knows what I’m talking about and has encountered these profiles in cowardice.

“We’re braver when we type.  We don’t have to look someone in their eyes.  It’s easier to be vicious, to cross the line between funny and cruel,” according to Parry Aftab, a cyber-security lawyer who spoke to the Wall Street Journal last year for a piece entitled, “Surviving the Age of Humiliation.”

Humiliation pre-dates the Internet, of course.  There has always been a dark need for some troubled souls to humiliate and embarrass others.  But in the Internet age, as the Journal put it, “All of us now live under the threat of easy and instant humiliation.”

In the old days we used to say nasty things about someone we didn’t like over the backyard fence.  Today, all we need is a modem and a computer and we can humiliate and embarrass anyone we want and our potential audience is the whole wide world.  And here’s the “best” part:  we can do it while wearing a mask so no one knows who we are.  I’m not sure if technology made us meaner.  But it certainly made the dirty work of cowards easier.

I’m also not sure why the culture got so crummy.  But I know it happened slowly, in tiny increments, so that we hardly noticed the change.  Imagine that you slid into a coma back in 1963, right after JFK was shot, and woke up today.  You would think you were on a different planet, let alone a different country; that’s how much the culture has changed.

And over the years, while we were becoming tolerant of all the right things – like civil rights and women’s rights and gay rights – I think we became indiscriminately tolerant.  We started to tolerate everything, including the crap that was sliming our culture.

Enter Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah began her new cable television network – OWN – at noon on New Year’s Day, a network dedicated to the total and complete absence of mean-spiritedness.  “OWN is a place where cynicism takes a holiday and mockery hasn’t yet been invented,” as the New York Times television writer Allesandra Stanley put it.

“There is no Chelsea Handler baring her big, sharp teeth on OWN; no Kathy Griffin or Joan Rivers standing up to take a crack at other people’s appearances or ages,” Ms. Stanley tells us.

But there will be Rosie O’Donnell.  Hmmm!

I never watched the old Oprah show.  I wasn’t part of Oprah’s target audience.  But, boy, do I wish her well.  I hope her idealism, her desire for more civility in our culture, is contagious.  I hope it spreads – to other cable channels, to the guy walking down the street dropping F bombs while shouting into his cell phone, and also to the dark halls of the worldwide Web.

Hey, it’s a brand new year.  A guy can hope, can’t he?  Sooner or later, I suspect, reality with smack me in the face. Until then, You go, Oprah!

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  • michele

    Dear Bernie,
    I am very sad that you have to make a living criticizing people. You and Keith O. appear to be cut of the same cloth. This type of discourse is the underbelly of American culture. Keith’s diatribes were cut. My hope is that you retire to the Bahamas or some place soon. It can’t be too soon.

  • Nancy

    Happy New Year Bernie!

    Some things have gotten better over the years, some things worse, much worse. Bottom line is to pray for those who cast the stones, turn the other cheek and enjoy the dance when you can, while you can. Oh and carry as much light as your arms and heart can hold, which, it appears, you are doing :-)

  • Negev

    Here’s a serious idea: why not allow comments only to registered uses. This way you can block hate posts.
    I know It’s not easy, and that one can always open a new account in a second, but I think most will get tired after few tries.
    The rest of us, I hope, will be comfortable using true identity.

  • BARB

    I gave up on Oprah many years ago when someone asked her why her staff was all white…her answer was reportedly “I only hire the best”. Then…there’s “relationship” with her best friend Gail. It has left me wondering if she is really a closet Rachel Maddow. Why all the tears when at a recent interview with Barbara Walters…she was asked if she and Gail were lesbians.

    • Erika

      I gave up on her when she actually told a woman that her husband had every right (paraphrasing) to be disgusted with her and it was her fault her marriage was awful – here’s the clincher – because she was overweight! OPRAH SAID THAT! Of course, this was when she was on the downward side of her own weight. Oy vey!

      Over and out Opie.

  • http://happyharry Harold Jaffe

    Go Bernie. Express yourself. Tell it like it is.

  • http://bernardgoldberg daryl duke

    As a person who sometime uses vulgar language. to those I totally despise ( POL/obama ), but I will always leave my name. I would look forward to looking them in the face and say the say thing. I have no fear in telling the truth.

  • David

    It’s about time someone said this. I have been thinking about this very same thing for a long time because of my disgust for the vile things I have read in the comments section(s) and this doesn’t preclude sports columns either, in fact they are just as hate filled as any. I considered the same arguments as the ones here and would certainly agree but I also think our culture is nearing an implosion or total annihilation. Think about it, if you continue to abuse your car eventually it won’t work anymore, in the same sense why would it be any different with people? I see absolutely nothing which proves we are taking a turn for the better. We always, always have to look back to see better things, namely societal morals/behavior. For those of us who believe in God the things we are witnessing are precisely the things foretold 2000 years ago. The sad part of a forum such as this is it reveals just how far the human spirit can plunge but sadly it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Bernie, you asked your reader to envision living in the 60’s then being transported to 2011-just imagine for a moment living now and being transported to 2051. God help us all..wait, he will as he said he’d return and put an end to a terrible experiment gone wrong , human beings left alone to make up their own set of morals. I suppose freedom is only freedom when justice restrains us-or better said, once we allow the God of justice to rule our lives. Could it be that bad? I’ve seen the alternatives and it’s only getting worse.

  • Jay Thompson

    Bernie, a sound byte culture suffering from collective ADHD can produce nothing other than vitriolic impatience. Sound argument and analysis takes too damn much time and effort. We are used to clicking our realities away, and creating new ones with said clicker. Push-button engagement is no real engagement at all. Welcome to the soul-less America, where we privilege technology because it provides us instant gratification without having to think about it. Worse, we are becoming increasingly social misfits, yeah, anti-social. We no longer have to look each other in the eye.
    That being said, I am not an Oprah viewer either. But just as you do, I wish her unparalleled success if her idealism can muster the attention spans of thinking viewers to actually reflect on issues (ah, but that nasty “takes time” thing keeps getting in the way…)!

  • http://VictimComplex Boris

    Dear Bernie,

    I definitely agree with you that the web is increasingly being used for mean spiritness and to some extent you can call them “cowards”. But I hasten to add that you should be somewhat cautious because you may well fall quite snuggly within this category of what you call the “mean spirited coward” that “spews hate” from a “computer”. I am sure that you would not go (i) into the heart of harlem and tell a black congregation that they should “concentrate on black men’s lack of parenting presence” (ii) to an arab american mosque in detroit and tell them that they are a bunch of terrorist loving moslems or (iii) to church in Alabama to tell them that Jesus christ would have been a liberal or (iv) to the poorest county in the US and tell them that they “are the ones not paying their fair share” or (V) to an african american home and call them Negroes to their face because the use of “African American” is subscribing to “political correctness” ( I am sure there are less flattering ways to describe jews but I am sure you will not subscribe to the view that the use of such terms is a repudiation of political correctness).No, I believe that would be an act that would be too brave for you to contemplate. So you have used the relative safety of your site (with modem and computer to boot) and the fox news channel to “spew” your own special brand. Some people of a similar disposition as you would say it is common of people of your culture to have a “victim complex” whilst being oblivious to the effects your “initial” aggresion. But that sounds too bernie-like. Painting an entire group with the traits of a few. I doubt that you would ever get a position on OWN as the lack of mean spiritedness will be too boring for you.

    • Ron Kean

      Boris…and what is your last name?

      So how many mosques or black churches do you suggest he go into? Two? Fifty?

      The fact is that it’s not his place to do what you fault him for. Black leaders should shoulder the burden of admonishing their constituents about community problems. If terrorists come from a particular mosque, it’s the FBI’s job to deal with such consistencies, not Bernie Goldberg’s.

      Bernie’s place is on network TV and here, at least, commenting on events. That’s it. That’s his job. His bravery is evident by allowing you to imply hypocrisy on his part. Who would you freely allow to criticize you?

    • Erika

      This seems ridiculous to me. Why would anyone do those things? He’s got an audience and a way to get points across and he’s using them. Furthermore, there’s a good chance it would be dangerous to do some of those things. That doesn’t mean he would be incorrect! Jese Louise, you’re kinda like a silly little school kid.

  • Ellie Velinska

    ” The first topic is something we always get easy laughs on… We noticed that when professional comedians are on board they always got laughs when one certain thing was said. That would be the F-bomb.

    – Captain Owen Honors announcing a skit (in which he drops fifteen F-bombs) on XO movie night, USS Enterprise, 2007″

  • Honesty

    Dear Bernie,

    I definitely agree with you that the web is increasingly being used for mean spiritness and to some extent you can call them cowards. But i hasten to add you will fall within this category of a mean spirited coward that “spews hate”. I am sure that you would not go into the heart of harlem and tell a black congregation that they should concentrate on black mens lack of father skills. I am also sure you will not go to an arab american mosque in detroit and tell them that they are a bunch of terrorist loving moslems. I am also sure that yu will not go to church in Alabama to tell them that Jesus christ would have been a liberal. I believe that would be too brave an act for you. So you have used the relative safety of your site (with modem and computor to but) and the fox news channel to spew your own special brand. I doubt somehow that you would ever get a position on OWN as the lack of mean spiritedness will betoo boring for you.

    • Cam

      Unfortunately you don’t seem to be able to distinguish between folks like Goldberg who makes an allegation (usually of liberal bias in the press) and then proceeds to substantiate his case with facts and the blogger who simply types obscenities because he/she lacks the intellectual prowess to do otherwise. It is curious to note that in his article Bernard Goldberg is giving full credit to a well lnown liberal namely Oprah.

    • Dan Dennis


      Are you and Boris the same person? Your thought processes seem to run in parallel.

      I would not castigate Bernard Goldberg as one who “spews hate” (unless you’re a big fan of the liberal media). And your examples are silly – no one in their right mind would do such things because of the danger involved. Also, I would respecfully request that you provide examples of Bernard doing or saying such things in his column – your examples are non sequitur and your “facts” are uncoordinated.

      • Paul Macey

        I think the point being made is that it is cowardice when people make comments (either anonymously or from a safe distance) in the knowledge that the person or persons targeted by such comments cannot react in a way that can affect the maker of those comments.

  • Soul

    Nice post. I saw that also about Rosie being on the show and thought that isn’t good. She isn’t what I would consider a great place to start for creating civility. But the premise sounds nice. I have low expectations that civility will spread from the channel, but with that said, can’t help but hope Oprah succeeds with her idea.

    I’m a diet person. I’ve mentioned this before to others, but what I do is read doctors food blogs, their books, and then interact with people on the web that are concerned about what they eat. From my observations, people eating low carb – lower amounts of sugars, and greater amounts of fat – tend to be the most calm.

    With your mention of times past and JFK, it’s just a theory of mine, but suspect our national experiment that began 30 to 40 years ago of eating low fat, high carb foods, little amounts of meat, and along with avoiding sunshine, has contributed to the anger & less civility we see in our society today.

    Just a theory.

    • Ron Kean

      My theory is working moms.

      In one of the seminal books of the women’s liberation movement, ‘Dialectics of Sex’ by S. Firestone, she suggested women abandon the role of motherhood which she said subjugated women and children would be raised in an ambiguous collective.

      In reality, I believe, that collective became the street, the TV or computer screen, or maybe the mall each of which lacks the guiding hand of a mother at her best.

    • Erika

      Very interesting. Walking every day, for me anyway, has incredible results in balancing moods, depression, everything. So simple. Not always easy of course. Thanks for sharing your theory. It’s fun to think about the causes and hopefully come up with some viable ideas.

    • Dan Dennis

      I think your theory is sound. I know in the 60s and 70s there was less emphasis on diet and good nutritional habits than there is today. And it’s a proven fact that highly-processed foods tend to wreak havoc on a person’s system – not just their digestive system, but their emotional well-being as well.

      And to address Ron’s point below about working moms – he’s right on the button as well. Women were told the traditional role of motherhood was “stifling” and “humiliating,” and women were convinced (by women who never had kids, natch) to go out and demand they be treated as equals to men, in terms of pay, job responsibility, etc. Never mind the fact that the role of mother has always been to nurture children, to raise them in an ethical and responsible manner, and to run the household while the man (the hunter-gatherer, if you will) is busy killing lions, or slaying dragons, or bringing home the bacon. No, for the feminist left, that was considered “demeaning.”

      And the kids? As Hillary once famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I disagree vehemently with that statement. A village pollutes a child with its varying biases and opinions. A mother (and by extension a father) focuses the child on one way of being, right or wrong. And a traditional mother exemplifies a more conservative family than one where both spouses work and leave the raising of the kid to Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer.

  • Bob Hadley

    Bernie, Guess what? You probably would not be allowed on Oprah’s network. You go far beyond disagreeing with all liberals and liberal elites in the country, if not in the world. You don’t merely state your opinions and supporting arguments, and objectively criticize your opponents’ ideas. You accuse them of all kinds of vile things. Your criticism frequently drips of sarcasm. Why don’t you read some of your columns? While not justified, you almost invite these reactions. Even when you qualify your bludgeoning allegations with the word “some,” your implication is that your targets are generally representative of their “group.”

    As just one example of your accusing large groups of people of vile things, you said “The Rich – otherwise known in liberal circles as the filthy, no good, greedy, heartless rich.” In other words, if you disfavor Bush’s tax cuts for the upper 2% of income earners, you’re full of hate. No one likes to be the object of bigotry. No one. Can’t you disagree with an idea without ignorantly accusing its proponents of vile, hateful things?

    BTW, you characterized Jon Stewart fans as “incredibly unsophisticated,” sandwiched in between sarcastic remarks about Stewart. Yes Bernie, your tone and your words were emotional and provocative. I personally was’t offended, because I only occasionaly find Jon Stewart funny. I watch him for his commentary. But I can see why a few were offended. Incidentally, this does not excuse their actions if as aggregious as you say.

    Yes, you do not sling profanities or hatred at those you assail (who are often large groups of people, many of whom you’ve never seen). You just accuse them of doing so, and then a few of them react in kind. According to you, liberals are at least generally hateful, ignorant and hypocritical. Why don’t you stick to your disagreements?

    For someone who dishes it out so much, you are quick to be offended.

    Nonetheless, i agree with the thrust of yuor article. I, too, wish Oprah much success in her new venture.

    • Ron Kean

      Your response is almost as it should be. That is, reasoned with examples why you think the way you do.

      But to say Bernie provokes vile profane comments is truly blaming the victim in a civilized society.

      Sarcasm does not equal profanity.

      • Bob Hadley

        Thanks for your comment. But I twice stated in my original that such vile responses (if indeed they have been such) are not justified by what Bernie says and the way he says it. Here, you need to keep two competing thoughts in mind at the same time.

        If I go around gratuitously telling people how stupid and ignorant they are in an extremely crass manner, even if I don’t know them, I am being provacative. If a few of these people physically attack me because of this, their actions are not justified and they should be prosecuted. But, what would you say to me if I then went around whining about their violence without acknowledging (or perhaps while minimizing, as Bernie sometimes does) my behavior? In this example, their behavior is of a different class (criminal) than mine. But I still would need to learn responsibility.

        Here, I think even Bernie would agree with me in the abstract.

        And Bernie goes beyond simple sarcasm.

        • Ed Gernstein

          Like Ron, I agree that you are providing intelligent criticism and thought for discussion.

          Nothing that Bernie says or does invites the kind of un-intelligent, cowardly, and profanity laden responses that Bernie has been given on his own website no less. These people won’t even put there real names to the kind of junk they spew. At least Bernie has the guts to say what he says and stand behind it.

          In my personal opinion, being “edgy” even if sarcasm is involved is a good thing when it comes to being a critic and writer that is regularly on tv. Intelligent disagreement is a welcomed thing as opposed to the bottom of the barrel who resort to profanity when the don’t have the intelligence or basis for a legitimate disagreement. And these losers do it anonymously from their mothers basement. Oops. That was sarcasm and a generalization. Maybe only a few are in the basement. The rest are upstairs.

          But seriously… If you are going to change the world, the sign that you are doing a good job is measured by the amount of criticism thrown back at ya. But as Ron Burgundy says, “You stay classy, San Diego.”.

          • Erika

            You wrote: Nothing that Bernie says or does invites the kind of un-intelligent, cowardly, and profanity laden responses that Bernie has been given on his own website no less.

            I agree completely. It’s as though there’s a playbook they take ideas from.

            It reminds me a lot of last October when NPR fired Mr. Williams. You should’ve read the ridiculous rants from not only the readers on their website, but the Ombudsman herself! ??? There’s no way they get these beliefs about Bernie or Juan by the things the two gentlemen have said. Or in how they’ve said it.

    • Wil Burns

      Bob, From the Knoxville church shooter’s manifesto :

      “This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book.

      I think a reasonable argument could be made that Bernie Goldberg, did not intend this, but I believe he had some responsibility, that it happened!

      • Bob Hadley

        First, I haven’t read all of Bernie’s book about the 100 people he thinks are screwing up this country, but I am aware of nothing he said therein that would make him at all responsible for an insane and murderous rampage such as that church shooting by some unhinged maniac. If I’m missing something, let me know.

        Actually, as far as I can tell, Bernie seems to rely more on reason and facts, and less on shrill condemnation and bombastic sarcasm (and an absence of bigoted remarks), in his books. The only one I’ve read thoroughly is Bias, however. I’ve looked through others. Bernie is hard hitting and piercing, and I don’t have a problem with that per se.

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