Column: O’Reilly only serves to antagonize

Our university has become the focus of some of the terrorist investigation going on across the nation. And all thanks to one man.

Bill O’Reilly has done for the institution of American news coverage what Charles Foster Kane could only have dreamed of … taken an apparent, unquenchable thirst for publicity and affected an entire campus and its students, not to mention a professor convicted of nothing, for no reason.

For those of you not familiar with Bill O’Reilly and his show The O’Reilly Factor, one of the highest rated programs on the Fox News Network, you’re missing some of the most pointless screaming matches on cable television.

O’Reilly uses the traditional journalistic format of the interview to espouse his opinion through bullying and railroading guests, many of whom spend less time talking than O’Reilly himself (total word count of the “partial” transcript of his interview with USF Professor Sami Al-Arian on Wednesday as listed on O’Reilly 512, Al-Arian 486).

Usually, the point of an interview is to understand the view in question, not to sound off your opinions with a face on a split-screen opposite yours. Normally, this would qualify as just poor journalism and a ruse to get out a message. But this time, real damage has been done, and the host needs to take some accountability.

Sami Al-Arian was “interviewed” by O’Reilly on Wednesday. By Friday he was placed on leave by USF with pay because of the death threats against him.

Because O’Reilly became aware that the USF professor has had associations with people linked to terrorist activity in the past, he felt compelled to share this knowledge with the entire world. He said, “If I was the CIA, I’d follow you wherever you went.” Hey Bill, did you stop to think that maybe the CIA already might be doing that?

Could it be that the investigative powers of the largest intelligence agency in the world, one that right now is fully focused on preventing any future acts of terrorism, might have a leg up on you when it comes to stopping the work of the Islamic Jihad?

Do you realize you might have done serious harm to an investigation that might have already been underway?

Let’s go through both scenarios here … if Al-Arian is guilty, the odds are pretty good someone in law enforcement knows about him and is tracing him as we speak. With all the added publicity, he certainly won’t do anything now, and any potential information he might have provided through surveillance is now worthless. If he isn’t guilty, an innocent man has had his name tarnished on the basis of “circumstantial evidence” (O’Reilly’s own words), had multiple threats against his life and will continually be viewed through a jaundiced eye with no way to clear his name.

This doesn’t even mention the harm done to the university, as a campus already covered in concern over potential terrorist acts added yet another factor to its collective consciousness.So thanks, Bill. You’ve gotten yourself and your show a lot of publicity in beautiful, sunny Tampa … and done nothing to help end terrorism or make our world safer.

Friday, student body president Mike Griffin came on your program and invited you to our Homecoming game.

I only hope by that first Saturday in November, Al-Arian is either behind bars or in front of a classroom and the ridiculous wave of hysteria you started is behind all of us.

  • Collin Sherwin is a junior majoring in political