Bill O'Reilly Bill O’Reilly of Fox News ( Frank Micelotta / Associated Press)

This week’s fiery race-oriented monologues of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly have worked: Competing cable network MSNBC has been repeating his riffs on its own airwaves.

In a just-concluded segment on MSNBC, for instance, host Martin Bashir addressed O’Reilly’s recent rantings about, among other ills facing blacks, how hip-hop lyrics may be debasing African American culture. Bashir took up the matter with fellow MSNBCer Touré:

Bashir: The Zimmerman trial, the president’s comments, the attorney general’s speech — they all opened up a conversation on profiling, social context and stand-your-ground laws. But Mr. O’Reilly doesn’t want to have that conversation. He wants to have a conversation about single-parent families and the lyrics in hip-hop. Why does he want to have that conversation rather than the one that we’ve all been directed to have?

Touré: Well, that’s a simple question, ’cause he’s an idiot. …

Bashir: Well, you gotta give me a more serious answer than just that he’s an idiot.

Following that request, an informative discussion of race ensued.

Even so, Bashir comes off as an ideal puppet of the state: As if we, as vassals of the White House, should follow instructions as to precisely what conversation we should be having. It’s fine that O’Reilly, on his own program, addresses a set of issues that don’t happen to be dominating the shows on MSNBC and elsewhere in cableland. That’s his prerogative as cable-news host and American citizen.

None of this is to endorse a single word that O’Reilly has uttered in regard to the racial issues on his show this week. That’s for another post.