Apparently, Bill O'Reilly went on a tear about dKos last night:
"What do you think of someone who says the following: The world would be better off without him? That after Tony Snow announced his cancer had returned. The pope is a primate. Evangelicals are nut cases. Better luck next time after an assassination plot against Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan. And some attacks against coalition forces in Iraq are legitimate.
All of those thoughts were posted on a vicious far-left Web site called the DailyKos, one of the worst examples of hatred America has to offer."
The obvious thing to say about this is that you can find hateful things on the comment threads of any blog, and the people who run the blog are not normally responsible for them. I, for instance, would be kind of upset if Bill O'Reilly attributed to me all the views that had been expressed on ObWi, including, say, the view that I am just like Walter Duranty.
But what struck me was this alleged example of hatefulness: "The pope is a primate." It's not a slip-up: later, one of his reporters tracks down the head of JetBlue, which is sponsoring YearlyKos, and asks him:
"WATTERS: What about the pope is a primate? Do you agree with that kind of thinking?"
I don't know about the head of JetBlue, but I agree with that sort of thinking. And so would Bill O'Reilly, if he or one of his staffers had bothered to open a dictionary. Here are some hints:
When this website posts what it calls "PRIMATE'S MEDITATION", and includes a link where you can "e-mail the Primate", this does not mean that attempts to teach Bonobos to communicate using computers are even further along than we thought.
Nor do headlines like "Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus elects new primate" imply that animal rights activists in Europe have secured the right of non-human great apes to run for office.
And "the primate of the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church" is nothing like the ape-man of Borneo.
Let's leave aside the fact that all humans, including not just Bill O'Reilly and the Pope, but even Christ himself, are primates in the sense I assume O'Reilly and his reporter were thinking of -- "any of an order (Primates) of mammals that are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision, specialization of the appendages for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and that include humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers)". That's the third definition in the dictionary I, unlike Bill O'Reilly, actually checked, even though, also unlike Bill OReilly, I already knew about the original meaning of 'primate', namely: "a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation."
Guess what? One of the Pope's titles is, indeed, "Primate of Italy." And last time I checked, denying the primacy of the Pope was, for Catholics, an act of schism. ('Primacy' is, for Catholics, a technical term; it's related to 'primate' as 'presidency' is to 'President'. In this context it refers to the Pope's role as 'universal primate', not as Primate of Italy.) According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Schism is regarded by the Church as a most serious fault, and is punished with the penalties inflicted on heresy, because heresy usually accompanies it." As a self-described "loyal Catholic", Bill O'Reilly should hope that the Vatican doesn't watch his show: if he says this a few more times, they might decide that it represents not a one-time slip, but the kind of "obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet" that, also according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "is required to make heresy formal."
Bill O'Reilly: Catholic schismatic, or merely ignorant? We report; you decide.