A debate on whether or not a mosque should be built at Ground Zero in New York City devolved into an angry walkout by “The View” co-hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg after conservative talk show host and guest Bill O’Reilly made a few pointed remarks that didn’t go over too well. The walkout even caused matriarch of the show Barbara Walters to note that Behar and Goldberg’s act was unprofessional.
It all started when Whoopi Goldberg asked Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’ popular “The O’Reilly Factor,” if he really believed that the reason President Obama’s approval ratings were dropping was because of his ambiguous remarks on the Ground Zero mosque. O’Reilly said that people wanted to know where Obama stood on the issue and that most Americans were against a mosque being built there.
The set erupted into verbal chaos, with O’Reilly yelling that 70 percent of Americans don’t want the mosque built near Ground Zero because the construction of it is seen as “inappropriate.” Behar said she wanted to see the poll O’Reilly was quoting. Goldberg asked how building the mosque was “inappropriate.”
Bill O’Reilly: “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”
Goldberg threw her hands up. “No. Oh my god! That’s such b******t!” she yelled.
When O’Reilly played to the audience, “Muslims didn’t kill us on 9/11? Is that what you’re saying?”
Goldberg yelled, “Excuse me, extremists! Muslim extremists did that!”
Barbarba Walters, attempting to get control of the panel, was motioning with her extended hands in a lowering gesture. But settled down was not where events were headed.
Behar got up from the couch. “I’m not going to sit here,” she said. She added that she was outraged by O’Reilly’s remarks.
As she turned to walk away, Goldberg also got up. They walked off the set together.
The crowd was going wild throughout the exchange.
Walters, obviously annoyed with her co-hosts, stated, “You have just seen what should not happen … we should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and screaming and walking off stage. I love my colleagues, but that should not have happened.”
Walters then took O’Reilly to task over placing all Muslims in his statement, to which he later admitted he did not mean to include all Muslims, just the “fanatics” like those who were involved in the attack on 9/11.
But did either side of the heated debate get their point across? Or was the point missed — or never clearly presented? In the end, both points were made, but Goldberg and Behar’s would have not been had not the cooler head of Barbara Walters presented O’Reilly with the perception of his own words.
O’Reilly, like many who look back on the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, see the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (and the Pentagon) through a religious lens. Many see the attacks as an Islamic attack on a Christian nation. Some do not draw a distinction between average Muslims and extremist Muslims.
Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar take a more pragmatic view of 9/11, not willing to paint all Muslims with the broad stroke of religious extremism. Goldberg and Behar seem to see the terrorist attacks more of an act of political and religious extremism than an act indicative of a cohesive hateful religion.
But Goldberg and Behar’s storming off “The View” set might not have gotten their message across (had it not been for Barbara Walters). Getting into a shouting match with Bill O’Reilly is generally a no-win situation, usually because he is bigger and louder than his opponent. But you do not win a public debate by refusing to debate or walking away from the argument. In fact, you don’t even reach stalemate.
To change people’s minds about issues, especially issues driven primarily by emotion and lack of information (like the events of 9/11 and those who were involved) and contrary to popular opinion, one has to present the issues and opinions on those issues as plainly and as coherently as possible. That isn’t done by engaging the proponent of the more popular stance in a yelling competition. It isn’t done by cursing and stomping away in an angry huff, refusing to continue jockeying for a more tenable position.
Ignorance isn’t erased by silence, yelling louder than someone else, or recusing oneself from the debate. Ignorance is combated best with information.
The argument between O’Reilly and the ladies of “The View” is indicative of much when it comes to current political and ideological matters in the U. S. The two opposing sides yell until one side decides not to yell any longer or both sides retreat, grumbling about the idiocy of their opponents to people who are already allied to their position.
Somewhere in all the vitriol and hyperbole and rhetoric, intelligent reciprocating dialogue is being lost, issues being drowned in a flood of distraction, misdirection, misinformation, emotional errancy, and uncorrected ignorance. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a calm and reasonable mediator — like Barbara Walters — to be found to bring an argument to a rational resolution. Even more unfortunate, the First Amendment does not guarantee everyone the right — or the ability — to engage in or witness intelligent opposing dialogue.
“The View,” ABC Television