Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Inside the Alleged Mind of Bill O'Reilly
by JOSEPH MINTON AMANN & TOM BREUER
[posted online on August 22, 2006]
When we decided to write Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly for Nation Books, we realized that simply harvesting O'Reilly's usual TV and radio insanity would not be enough. We'd have to venture farther--deep into the steaming, muddy jungles of Bill's prose.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the world of literature, the best thing you can say about Bill is that he's written five times as many books as Paris Hilton's dog. Even more unfortunately, we had to read them--all of them. Here are a few liberally edited excerpts from our book's reviews of Bill's horrible, horrible body of work:
The O'Reilly Factor for Kids
The first line in the foreword to Bill O'Reilly's latest opus starts out "I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager." Really Bill? You wish you'd had a book written by you as a fifty-five-year-old man? You know, I also wish that as a teenager I'd had a book written by a future me. The first line of my book would have been, "In about twenty years, a spectacularly obtuse TV personality named Bill O'Reilly will write a piece of dreck called The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. Whatever you do, for the love of Jehovah, DON'T READ IT."
The O'Reilly Factor For Kids's putative purpose is to give teens some honest, straightforward advice from a guy who has been there and who, as a father himself, knows how to rap with the kids. Instead, it's a deeply confused tract on everything from sharing, to reasoning with bullies, to proper skin care. At times, Bill sounds like he's talking to five-year-olds ("You have to learn--and believe me, I know how awful these words can be when you want something--to share").
Sometimes he appears to be counseling the elderly ("But excessive sun exposure, according to the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General, can lead to skin cancer and other skin growths, cataracts, premature aging of the skin, and several other types of health problems"). But most of the time he sounds like a deranged Carmelite nun trying to relate to teenagers on their own level ("The adult doesn't have to be in the room snappin' to OutKast, but one of these specimens must be somewhere on the premises"). Is this a joke? Wait, perhaps I haven't explored that possibility thoroughly enough. Bill, seriously, is this a joke?
Well, it must be a joke, because there's a belly laugh on every page. Don't believe me?
Page 3: "Almost everybody watched the TV show Friends on NBC. Unfortunately, some kids think that's what real friends are like.... In real life, true friends stand by you when things get rough." (Yes. Now let's go visit Mr. Green Jeans and see what he thinks.)
Page 4: "Okay, you know I've made money. It was a long time coming, so I don't usually spend much of it and I certainly don't show it off." (Okay, Bill, obviously you do show it off. You're now averaging one reference to your huge salary every two pages. For God's sake, Bill, these are kids! Can you possibly be this insecure? Do you flash a fat roll of Benjamins in front of the dog every morning, cooing, "Who's your daddy?")
Page 5: "Now, I don't want you to think that I sat around when I was your age and carefully chose my companions because of their virtues." (Carefully chose my companions because of their virtues? Are you kidding with this? Who are you talking to? 'Cause I guarantee you, all the kids have left. You sound like Truman Capote, for God's sake. Can you possibly be this tone deaf? You might as well quote Ralph Waldo Emerson while you're at it.)
Throughout the book there are "instant messages" from O'Reilly in which he delineates the difference between "pinheads" and "smart operators."
In "Pinheads and Smart Operators: Instant Message Number 3," Bill writes:
IMNSHO [which O'Reilly and all teens apparently know means 'In my not-so-humble opinion'], a pinhead gets sunburned. Okay, a nice even tan can make you look healthy and sexy. Or it can advertise to your friends that you've had a great winter vacation at the beach. But excessive sun exposure, according to the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General. . . .and then on he goes about those legendary teen bugaboos, cataracts.
Bill, I hate to be crass, but have you seen your skin? You look like something Ed Gein made after he was finished upholstering the settee. Do you think you're really going to reel kids in with your thoughts on proper skin care? If they didn't bail out after your take on gangsta rap (page 85, I'm not kidding), you've definitely lost them now.
Secondly, these kids are teenagers. Honestly, what do you think you're accomplishing? Why not just write, "A pinhead finds blood in his stool and ignores it. A smart operator gets regular colorectal screenings and eats a diet rich in fiber"? This book will impress no one--not the teens whom it's supposedly written for nor the grandparents whom O'Reilly was probably actually hoping to fleece. It's just plain too stupid.
Who's Looking Out for You?
While there's off-the-charts, brimming-drool-cup lunacy on nearly every page of Who's Looking Out for You?, the penultimate work in the O'Reilly oeuvre, it's perhaps most remarkable for its flat-out terrible writing.
Reading The O'Reilly Factor for Kids, one got the impression that O'Reilly was dumbing down his writing to appeal to youngsters. One is stunned to discover after just a few pages of Who's that it's just the way he writes. Indeed, this "adult" book is basically the same as the children's drivel, only with more politics, more on Clinton's blow job, and, bizarrely enough, less advice on how to avoid cataracts.
After Who's Looking Out for You? had spent twenty-three weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, O'Reilly made much of the Times's lack of interest in reviewing it. No doubt O'Reilly imagines that the Old Gray Lady ignored his magnum opus because of some institutional left-wing bias. Please. Three pages into Who's, you'll realize that the Times chose not to review it for the same reason they don't send a food critic to Chili's or an art critic to check out a potato chip that looks like Dale Earnhardt.
The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life
Now here's what I don't get. They didn't make a sequel to Showgirls, Germany didn't decide to give Nazism another try, the Hindenburg II is not shuttling small children around America's theme parks, and yet O'Reilly has written five books. And I've read three of them. So who's dumber, O'Reilly or me?
While this is the first nonfiction book O'Reilly wrote, it's the third I've read, and ironically, it's a lot more of the same. Indeed, for someone with nothing to say, he sure repeats himself a lot. Yeah, yeah, Bill, I get it. Clinton got a blow job, the elite media are pinheads, your father was mean and loud, you write like an eleven-year-old. How about something new?
Of course, along with the customary tedium, there's also plenty on O'Reilly's wild sexual exploits in The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, The Bad, etc. Indeed, the number of references to O'Reilly's inappropriate sexual conduct are exceeded only by the number of references to Bill Clinton's inappropriate sexual conduct.
He has two chapters, "The Sex Factor" and "The Dating Factor," which he offers as sage advice but which are actually thinly disguised chronicles of what a player O'Reilly used to be during his leisure-suit, Ron Burgundy disco days as a local TV reporter. Following is an excerpt. If you happen to be reciting this as part of a reading at a bookstore or a library, you may want to cover the first two rows of your audience in plastic sheeting. They will get sprayed. I myself have lost every lunch from circa 1979 to the present. Here's Bill:
My thing was the music: I was a dancing machine. Sock it to me, Donna Summer! Let's shake this place, Gloria Gaynor! Get down! Now, this was the lad of a quarter century ago, okay? But I make no apologies. I loved the all-out dancing, and quite a few girls loved to dance with me. The dancing got me dates. The dancing said (since you couldn't hear any words in those places under the rotating mirror balls), Hey, let's have some fun and see what happens next. Even Catholic girls had their inhibitions lowered by the howls of the Bee Gees or Sylvester. A few hours at clubs like Septembers or Shenanigans and most of my dates wanted to extend the evening at their place or mine.
Of course, this was written in 2000, four years before O'Reilly was accused by one of his producers of making inappropriate small talk with her over the phone while he masturbated. In fact, reading this kind of stuff now is a little like reading a 1975 John Wayne Gacy article on how to be a clown at children's birthday parties.
The No Spin Zone
Just inside the front cover of my copy of The No Spin Zone, bought used from Amazon.com for $1.43, which is $23.52 less than the suggested retail price and $1.35 more than it's worth, is scrawled "Happy Birthday Dad! I'm enjoying this book. I hope you do too! Love, Tom and Cindi."
Tom and Cindi, if your stupidity and hatred of your father are congenital defects, I apologize for mentioning this. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent just a few pages into The No Spin Zone that Tom and Cindi's Happy Birthday greeting is the most skillfully written part of the book.
As do his other literary offerings, The No Spin Zone amply demonstrates that O'Reilly continues to be locked in an epic struggle with his fans to determine who's dumber.
I've read four of Bill's books now, which should earn me some sort of medal. I'm sorry to say, however, that out of four glistening gold mines of insanity, I've brought you mere ingots. For the full experience, you'll have to read the books yourself. You can buy most of them on the Web for less than the price of renting Glitter.
Toward the end of The No Spin Zone, Bill treats the reader to a quintessential O'Reilly moment; it's braggadocio, stupidity, insanity, and obtuseness all rolled into one.
After a section on how the intelligentsia resent him and his success, O'Reilly relates his pride over having finally attained the lofty heights of Scooby-Doo and Joey Lawrence:
But the popular media are starting to come around. It took a while and we weathered some withering criticism, but in June 2001 I appeared on the cover of TV Guide, causing weeping and the gnashing of teeth in many quarters."
Wow, TV Guide? Maybe next he can get his old lady into Hustler.
Those Who Trespass
Following are the opening three sentences of Bill O'Reilly's novel, Those Who Trespass:
As Ron Costello saw it, the nighttime media party in Edgartown provided him a wide-open window of opportunity--one he could make the most of. For he was frustrated and fed up, and what he badly needed was to satisfy a basic human need, the need for some kind of physical release. Chasing the Clintons around the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, looking on as a cracker First Family acted out its vacation in front of millions, was not just tiring for him, but unnecessary.
As you can see, before he even broke the hundred-word mark of his great American novel, O'Reilly had already used the same word three times in the space of one sentence, got in a gratuitous shot at the Clintons, and telegraphed his own sick sexual fantasies through a fictional surrogate who, we would soon discover, just happened to be a reporter for a powerful television news network. Unfortunately, it doesn't get much better. Being a work of fiction, however, Those Who Trespass is fair and balanced. Except for that Clinton crack in the first paragraph. But after that it's completely free of petty partisanship. That is, until you get to page 4:
He could thoroughly describe the island--from the wilds of Chappaquiddick, where Edward Kennedy had abandoned a trapped and struggling Mary Jo Kopechne in a car filling with sea water, to the stately homes of Chilmark..."
That does a lot to advance the story. Toward the end of the first six pages of Those Who Trespass, available for free on Amazon.com, an assailant shoves a spoon through the roof of Costello's mouth, penetrating his brain stem. Just before this happens, Costello asks, "Why, why are you doing this to me?" The attacker responds, "For Argentina, that's why." It almost makes you want to track down page 7 and read it. But not quite.