I was looking for an excuse to write about this, and the inimitable Bill O'Reilly provided it on his show last night when he devoted a segment to expressing his outrage over the web release of a short video production called Prop 8 – The Musical. "Oh my, oh my," opined the balding, Brobdingnagian blowhard, "these mincing, sarcastic Hollywood elitists are calling us all bigots! That's not funny, that's not Christian, they're just promoting the radical homosexual agenda of Hollywood liberalism. The people have spoken on Proposition 8 and democracy matters more than civil rights." Or something to that effect.
His reaction is really a perfect expression of what's wrong with O'Reilly. He's a classic morally conservative populist masquerading as a Republican. At the heart of republicanism is the idea that the rule of law and institutions like the courts exist to protect the rights of minorities from the abuses of majority rule. O'Reilly consistently rejects the idea that minorities or individuals have rights which should be protected and advocates ceaselessly for basing policy on what the majority of the "folks" want. Pure populism. 40 years ago O'Reilly would have been right at home in the Democratic Party. In fact, 40 years ago O'Reilly was writing for leftist underground weeklies and teaching kids to save the future like any good 60s liberal.
His reaction on Proposition 8 is typical, siding with the majority against the rights of the minority, and getting in a dig or two at the Hollywood elite whom he so despises while he's at it. What O'Reilly misses is that the message of this bit of video propaganda is dead on, and that he is exactly the kind of bigot this is directed toward.
The video itself is amusing and very well done, though it arrived about a month too late to make any difference in the election. It also features an amazing cast who you may recognize, including the leading singing comedians of our age. It's the best original Internet musical production since Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible and you can watch it right here.
On the dark side you may notice John C. Reilly as an interloping Morman moralist with Allison Janney (cat, meow) and Kathy Najimy as his two wives. Among the good guys are Neil Patrick Harris (star of Dr. Horrible), Maya Rudolph (of SNL), Lake Bell (from the much lamented Surface), unfunny lesbian comedienne Margaret Cho, and Andy Richter. Jesus in a bad wig is Jack Black in fine vocal and sarcastic form.
This is gentle but pointed satire, and while it doesn't come out and accuse the religious right of bigotry it certainly plays up their hypocrisy very effectively, including getting in digs at both the Mormons who played a big role in promoting Proposition 8 and African American voters who turned out for Obama but also strongly against gay marriage. O'Reilly's offended reaction is perfect, almost putting him on stage with the melodramatic villains of the mini-musical and reminding us that one of the reasons bigotry exists is that the bigots are usually self-righteously unaware of the depth of their own prejudices.