Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly is the epitome of the relatively new genre of television called infotainment. This genre is a mixture of entertainment and actual current event oriented information and analysis. Make no mistake, ratings and money are the key reason for such a genre.

Bill O'Reilly and his highly viewed cable infotainment show, The O'Reilly Factor, have been riding high for the past several years. No other such show is more viewed in the United States. I rarely view his show on TV but I do check out his "Talking Points" segment online several times a week. I don't care for his personality, he comes off as arrogant and somewhat pompous. At the same time he has his hand on the popular pulse of many people in America, so I am intrigued to hear what he says are the primary issues of the day. From time to time I think he is right on.

This past weekend I was at my in-laws home and saw O'Reilly's latest book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity", so I picked it up and read it. The title comes from something a nun said about him when he was a kid. If you like O'Reilly's style on his show, you'll like this book. If you, like me, find his style mildly to very annoying, you'll hate this book. Frankly I wish I could get back the the few hours I spent reading Bold, Fresh. It's just not a good book. Sure, it's a "best seller", but that doesn't make it a good piece of literature. It reads like O'Reilly "bloviating" (a favorite term of his) on camera. He comes off as the constant hero in every anecdotal interchange he records. The book is basically a manifesto of O'Reilly's worldview explained through a series of experiences he had growing up. While I don't think he made up the various stories he relays from his life, I do think they were recasted to fit what his very marketable message is today. In comparison, when I read Tim Russert's book, Big Russ and Me, it felt genuine and accurately descriptive of who Russert was. Bold, Fresh seems contrived and crafted to contribute to the modern money making persona of Bill O'Reilly. You won't really know the real Bill O'Reilly any better by reading this book.

The book states many times and in many ways the following challenge or thesis that betrays his worldview:

"Design your own life. Never give up trying to make it on your own. Get back up when you get slapped down, and don't waste time buying in to ideological nonsense. Expect- and accept- nothing from anyone. Do it yourself." (p.36)

O'Reilly basically sets himself up to be the perfect model of the aforementioned ideology (while bidding us not to buy in to a particular ideology). When you read this book you can picture O'Reilly saying, "I am an independent thinker..I am balanced..I am a fountain of wise common sense...I am bold..I am fresh..I am convicted based on some innate common sense that was somehow shaped in my upbringing." I think he intends the book to be a sort of self-help tool as we are inspired by his incredible rise.

The book depicts a common weakness in the worldview of many people today, especially those who think of themselves as conservative. The foundation for the various conservative positions promoted is nothing more than some kind of mysterious personal conviction that apparently came from a certain traditional upbringing. This book promotes a common conservative ethic, you know, the "do it yourself, expect a hand out from no one" individual responsibility idea. Why? Well, just because. It feels common sensical enough, but upon analysis, it's hard to know why O'Reilly holds this view other than it being somehow woven in to his childhood and young adulthood. There appears to be no authoritative reason for holding such generally conservative views, just that such a mindset has worked for America for a long time. There is a definite sense that America possesses some kind of innate goodness. Yes, our country isn't guilt-free, but compared to all the others, we're the best. Connected to this ideological commitment it is regularly maintained that our manifold problems as a country are because we have abandoned so many of our traditional views and practices. This is certainly a drumbeat of O'Reilly.

Before this post goes longer than it should, I'll just say there's nothing wrong with viewing O'Reilly in the proper light and with a realistic understanding of what he's out to do- make money entertaining. For Christians however, I hope positions we hold come with more than an argument from tradition. Desperate times can tend to make us romanticize the past to the point of total distortion. I submit one of the main reasons our country has found itself in such a quagmire of challenging and seemingly insurmountable issues is the lack of foundational, demonstrable, timeless, core beliefs. Simply saying "it was better then" with no understanding or explanation as to why, will not ultimately translate in to any positive shift in the way things are going. Frankly, if such a positive shift did ocur, what would O'Reilly (and others) do for a living?


Pugherder said...

Good post, Tony. I have a real hard time watching O'Reilly or Hannity or any of them. It's not that I don't agree with a lot of what they say, I just can't stand them. Your critique is very accurate, I think.

Perry said...

I also don't care for O'Reilly. He does, "bloviate," which makes him a bore. This also made the post read here seem longer than it probably should've been - on and on and on about O'Reilly. But, I do like his show's "Culture Quiz" segment. I much prefer Hannity, overall, though I think both are Roman Catholic. I agree with Hannity more, and he has the right sense of outrage about the issues that I can identify with.

Woody Woodward said...

I will take exception to my otherwise very wise pastor, which is in this case doing some vigorous bloviating himself. We never miss O’Reilly. I think he is anything but boring! And he certainly does “stand up for us little guys!” But I do agree at times he comes off as pompous and his sarcastic, smirkey smile is indeed annoying. But certainly no worse than George W. hacking sarcastic smirk.
I will never forget the “fall of our economy” and O’Reilly’s blasting interview with blowhard Barney Franks. O’Reilly so mad he was yelling! He called Franks a liar and a disgusting cheat to the matt the twisted virtue less Barney Blowhard fell! I think for the most part, O’Reilly is casually and cautiously courteous. And to his credit, he does allows those on the other side to state their beliefs before he comes back at them. Sometime hard, sometimes too condescending for me.
I loved the “Bold Fresh” book and finished a long time ago. So much like myself growing up, I better understand and can appreciate now his sorted, manipulating orneriness. I can overlook his almost non-existent faith, built strictly upon the foundations of Roman Catholic traditions. And no doubt He boldly speaks his political ideas, virtues and philosophy the way he sees it. He certainly takes a strong stand for the rights of the unborn and he protects his family to the upmost. But let’s be honest, bloviating big time is what every right-wing or even left-wing pundit spews forth. That’s how they promulgate their style of radical politics. But we desperately need the O’Reilly’s out there to stand up to the liberal media and make the conservative side known.

Reepicheep said...


The Barney Frank thing was a well timed show for ratings, which he got.

Now, put down that koolaid you're drinking and back away slowly...

Woody Woodward said...

Thanks for the love, but I prefer a fine single-malt over Koolaid!
At least I wasn't the one who sent you the U-Tube about "gay" soccer!

Perry said...

Hey, Mr. Woody, I'm sorry you misunderstood me about O'Reilly. I didn't say he is boring. I said he is a, "bore," because he comes off as a blowhard ("bloviator") and as self-important. And, I do believe there is some credence to the assertions that I've heard that O'Reilly tries to indimidate people with his size (He's 6'8".)(especially if a person is filled with self-importance). These things make O'Reilly unappealing to me to waste my time on (a bore), unlike the pastor did, here, reading O'Reilly's book.

Plus, I don't consider O'Reilly all that conservative. He's not, on at least several issues that I've heard him speak on his show, including homosexuality. While I don't remember how he would've leaned on California's Prop 8, he doesn't hold to the conservative Christian's biblical view of homosexuality. He's much more willing to give homosexuality between consenting adults a pass, at least when I'd heard him he was.

Reepicheep said...

Nothing but love to you Woodster! Being an O'Reilly drone doesn't make me love you less!! Ha ha

William said...

Does that love extend to those of us on this blog (er, one of us) who loves the Clintons???

Woody Woodward said...

Who are the Clintons?