On Facebook earlier today I found out that Robert Reich has called Bill O'Reilly to task for calling him a communist...
Why Anyone Should Care that Bill O'Reilly Calls Me A Communist :
Reich is asking people to tweet O'Reilly and ask him to have Reich on to debate so I quickly complied:
@oreillyfactor man up and debate @RBReich #gop #economics #media twitter.com/JimNichols/sta…
— JimNichols (@JimNichols) April 26, 2012
Go do the same, as one tweet doesn't make for #viral demotic action but 1000 can.
But I want to take it up a notch and propose he make it a two segment debate because I want to have O'Reilly engage someone on the question--What does Bill O'Reilly know about Karl Marx that the likes of someone like Karl Popper didn't?
Reich is an economist and his focus is on public policy so I won't begrudge him for brushing off the importance of Marx because such nuances could cause his core message on policy to be blurred by the media spin machine.
But Karl Marx was an extremely important thinker of the nineteenth century and our public discourse should have room for people who can articulate the substance and quality that Marx brought to the table. Marx shouldn't be a dirty word.
Last semester while I was taking a Marxism class in the Georgia State Philosophy Department I emailed the economist Dean Baker on what he thought of Marx:
I found Marx incredibly valuable because he was trying to wrestle big issues and thinking about them in interesting ways. You can find support for almost anything you want to say in Marx because he was writing stuff largely on his own, without a group of academics to rein in and tighten his thinking. Therefore you can find many contradictory strains in his writing.The philosopher Karl Popper in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies wrote of Marx:
Back in the old days there was an active school of Marxoligists who would make an argument and then find the relevant pages of Capital to support their case. This is an unbelievably silly exercise. However, Marx certainly prodded me and many others to think about the world differently.
I actually read Marx before I read Keynes and had largely come to a Keynesian view of the world through Marx. Then when I read Keynes, I was suddenly going "oh yeah, this guy has it down."
There can be no doubt of the humanitarian impulse of Marxism. Moreover...Marx made an honest attempt to apply rational methods to the most urgent problems of social life. The value of this attempt is unimpaired by the fact that it was, as I shall try to show, largely unsuccessful. Science progresses through trial and error. Marx tried, and although he erred in his main doctrines, he did not try in vain. He opened and sharpened our eyes in many ways. A return to pre-Marxian social science is inconceivable. All modern writers are indebted to Marx, even if they do not know it...Now something is amiss.
Dean Baker is a huge champion of harnessing free-markets and has written at length on how the wealthy and powerful harness protectionism to transfer wealth upwards.
Karl Popper was a passionate champion of freedom, democracy, and free markets and his work in political thought focused on working to undermine totalitarianism of all kinds.
If these guys think Marx had something of value to contribute then what is O'Reilly not telling us?
Either O'Reilly doesn't appreciate the intellectual tools, ideas, and frames Marx passed on to him or he knows something that Karl Popper, one of the 20th centuries most regarded champions of markets, freedom, and democracy doesn't.
I'm intrigued to hear more.
So I propose O'Reilly have Reich on to debate public investment but then I think O'Reilly should have a second segment on the "evils of Karl Marx" that he has uncovered, which up till now, has been missed by many of the most educated and articulate champions of markets, freedom, and democracy.
As Reich notes in his post:
The likes of O'Reilly, Neal Boortz, and other media personalities have caused the political debate in this nation to decline to the point that center-right Wall Street Democrats like Obama or Clinton are called "radical socialists" who trying to destroy capitalism and promote "class war," and far too many voters actually believe it.
When I ran for State Senate in 2010 I spent many a late night on the campaign trail closing out events talking to voters who were truly concerned about utterly nonsensical quandaries--which was time not spent talking about actually substantive changes that can and should be taking place.
Its a politics of distraction and that's why i'm glad Reich called O'Reilly to task for it.
Some people say we shouldn't feed the demagogues by engaging them in their "hillbilly politics" as one of my teachers has called it.
But I think the realities of modern media and the challenges of money-politics mean we have to attack the right wing directly one tweet--and TV appearance-- at a time if we are ever to reawaken our democracy and create the educated and empowered populace a flourishing society requires.
So I nominate either Corey Robin, Daniel Little, David Harvey, or Brian Leiter (though i'm not sure any of them would take me up on it) but am open to other nominations on academics who might go toe to toe with O'Reilly on Marx.