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OC Book Excerpt: Are You Planning On Pounding Nails With That, Jesus, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?


Below is an exerpt from Tyler Graf’s portion of By the Barrel: 25 Years of the Oregon Commentator. On the edge about buying a copy? You could do worse for $10.

I was told to maintain wall-eyed concentration on the video camera in front of me while my interrogator spoke loudly in my ear. His deep voice, bluntly condescending, was another distracting touch to an already surreal scene. The hot studio lights. The crummy backdrop of Mt. Hood behind me. And now, that disembodied voice I’d heard so many times before on the TV, railing in my ear. “Okay, well,” he was speaking, “what if there were a publication at the University of Oregon that published cartoons of Martin Luther King Jr. on a cross with an erection?”

I furrowed my brow and gave some response about the ridiculousness of the question. The interviewer –big-daddy Bill O’Reilly himself—was not having it. He sounded as if he wanted to see these images and was disappointed I couldn’t supply him with them.

But that’s how it went. Question after question. Each one a testament to the limitations of the human brain. For five long minutes, the top-rated basic cable loudmouth gave me a healthy dosing of what for. And, I thought, what for?

It was almost as if I had published those shitty, unfunny cartoons of a naked Jesus on a cross in the Oregon Commentator, the cartoons that led me to defend another student publication on national TV.

But, no, I was only there to stand up for the rights of the assholes who printed the images. There had been so many attempts to drive the OC into the ground over the years, based on our content, that I had to stick by my guns. My point was simple: Speech, no matter how odious, should not be silenced.

That notion is beautiful in its simplicity. But it does not translate well on TV’s highest-rated program for suburbanites, old ladies with blue hair and beer-bellied fat guys with high blood pressure and such a distrust of other people that it verges on agoraphobia.

So I found myself sitting in KATU’s Portland studio, next to a campus Catholic with a comically over-sized cross around his neck, debating him and Bill O’Reilly on whether the Student Insurgent, the campus’ “anarchist” publication, should be run off campus for publishing cartoons of Jesus in full tumescence.

The campus Catholic’s name was, improbably, Jethro Higgins. He was so incensed by these cartoons that he started a campaign to get the Insurgent de-funded. He’d gone so far as to get the Catholic League involved. As a result, the head of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, dispatched a nasty missive to the University of Oregon, calling for the de-funding the Student Insurgent on the grounds that “tax payer” money should not be used for “hate speech.”

Never mind that the Student Insurgent was not funded with tax payer money, but rather a student fee. And never mind that these were artistic images and that there’s no legal definition of hate speech.

These were unreasonable people – Jethro Higgins, Bill Donohue and Bill O’Reilly –and they had unreasonable demands.

Want to read more? Looks like you’ll have to send a check or money order to:

Oregon Commentator

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  1. T says:

    I realized that in all my talk of “Bill” O’Reilly, I accidentally referred to Dave Frohnmayer as “Bill” as well. I’m sure that will be fixed in the second printing.

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