For a certain kind of conservative, the life lived in anything other than a state of war is hardly worth living. War clarifies things. War divides the world neatly between us and our enemies. War offers a kind of moral cleansing that makes ones own transgressions meaningless in the face of the other sides abominations against all that is right and good. War strips the world of messy, uncomfortable ambiguity.

Culture Warrior - Bill O'Reilly; Broadway - $26And nowhere is ambiguity less welcome than in the world of conservative broadcasting, where Bill OReilly is king. So while pundit after conservative pundit proclaims that we are in the midst of World War III, battling for the survival of civilization itself, this season brings the arrival of Culture Warrior, OReillys latest transposition of his television show (and radio show, and syndicated column) to the pages of a book.

The more important war, OReilly tells us, is being fought here at home. On one side of the battlefield, he writes, are the armies of the traditionalists like me, people who believe the United States was well founded and has done enormous good for the world. On the other side are the committed forces of the secular-progressive movement (also known as the S-P crew) that want to change America dramatically. His goal is to expose and defeat people who have the power to do you great harm. My weapons will be facts and superior analysis based on those facts.

Because lets face it, the War on Terror just doesnt cut it. After all, with an all-volunteer army and a president who encourages us to keep shopping in the face of fear, there isnt much the average citizen can do to join the fight against Islamofascism. If you really want to do some righteous smiting, the best place to aim is at your neighbors.

And smite OReilly does, lashing out not just at plump targets like George Soros, the ACLU, or the standard collection of Hollywood liberal boogeymen, but at almost anyone who has ever criticized him. Indeed, the book is a tribute to bile; it would have more properly been titled, God Damn I Hate Liberals. He refers to those he doesnt like as radical-left guttersnipes, far-left fanatics, or vermin.

Subscribe Online & Save 33%Nonethelessin what is just one among many cases of what psychologists call projectionOReilly writes, I mean, what I dont get about Susan Sarandon and her fellow S-P travelers is the constant anger. Yet anger is the fuel that drives virtually every episode of The OReilly Factor. Without anger, Bill OReilly would be nothing; he certainly wouldnt have so many different media megaphones. Anger is his oeuvre, his milieu, his mise en scene. A few sentences later, OReilly acknowledges that he gets angry because I have to deal with a massive amount of social injustice and chicanery on a daily basis, but doesnt bother to explain why its OK for him to be angry, but not for the S-P crew.

Time for the full disclosure: I work at Media Matters for America, whose staff OReilly has called the most vile, despicable human beings in the country (although in Culture Warrior he goes easy, referring to MMFA only as vile). Ive also been on OReillys show a number of times (though not since I joined Media Mattersthe man who calls people who wont appear on his show cowards refuses to allow anyone from MMFA on).

But being on the receiving end of OReillys sneers and insults isnt the trial it might seem. In fact, there are really only two conclusions one can make about Bill OReilly. Either hes a paranoid, self-deluded bully, brimming with resentment, insecure about his manhood, and consumed by hatred. Or its all an act.

The truth is that Bill OReilly is a character that Bill OReilly plays on TV, an archetype of Average Joe outrage and two-fisted pugnaciousness. Theres a reason Stephen Colbert modeled his own charactera well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idioton the man he calls Papa Bear. But where Colbert goes for laughs, OReilly tries to convince his viewers that he feels their pain.

You can see it in the lengths Culture Warrior goes to match OReillys conversational tone, a blue-collar vernacular meant to signal that the author is just a regular guy. On the air, OReilly is alone among television broadcasters in talking this way, and it is to his credit that he understands how powerful it can be in maintaining the persona he worked so hard to construct. But in print, the effect is so transparently affected it becomes almost laughable. Oh, and one more thing, OReilly will write. Too harsh? No way. Am I wrong here? I mean, come on. So there.

Bill OReilly desperately wants you to believe hes just like you. To get a sense of how important his blue-collar cred is, consider the unsettled issue of exactly where OReilly grew up. In December 2000, a Washington Post story quoted OReillys mother saying that though Bill says he grew up in Levittown, N.Y.; in fact, the family lived in Westbury, a somewhat more affluent town a few miles away. The same Post article noted that although OReilly trumpets the fact that his father never made more than $35,000, he retired in 1978. That works out to just over $100,000 in todays dollarsnot enough to make the OReillys stinking rich, but not paltry enough to send them to the poorhouse, either.

The point is that this issuebecause it bears so directly on OReillys persona as someone who pulled himself up from nothing by his own bootstrapsis one he feels very strongly about. In Culture Warrior, he goes so far as to reproduce the deed to his parents house, with the words Levittown, NY printed in the corner. In case you havent gotten the point, OReilly writes, You are reading the words of the poster boy for U-M [upward mobility], by the way. (The habit of turning ordinary phrases into their initials runs throughout the book. Fewer than 20 pages from the end, he stops saying traditional culture warrior and starts saying T-Warrior. When she interviewed him on 20/20, Barbara Walters said, You call yourself T-Warrior. Im gonna call you T from now on. Okay, T? She then began her next question with, So listen, T There is little indication that she was making fun of him.)

All of this is a way of forging connections between OReilly and his audience. His message is, Im one of you. When you get ticked off, I get ticked off. When it seems like there are powerful forces out there that are keeping you down, I feel it, too, and Ill fight them on your behalf. If youre one of the folks, as he calls regular people, Im your guy.

But if you want to join the fight and need to determine just what kind of person to hate, Culture Warrior can be maddeningly vague. First, many of OReillys causes barely exist outside the fevered minds of FOX News hosts; if youd like to enlist in the resistance to the War on Christmas, there isnt much to do unless you want to throw rocks through store windows with Happy Holidays signs. (For the unfamiliar, the phrase Happy Holidays is, according to OReilly, deeply offensive to Christians and represents an assault on our heritage.) Furthermore, OReillys caricature of his opponents beliefs is so ridiculous and hyperbolic that it puts him in an awkward position. If there is no one of any importance who actually advocates capping Americans net worth at $15 million or banning religious expression in the public square (both of which he claims to be part of the secular-progressive agenda), it would seem to be difficult to tar any particular individual with that brush.

So, though OReillys list of offenders is long, for many, he never specifies just what makes them part of the S-P crowd, other than crossing swords with Bill OReilly. Nancy Pelosi criticized OReilly for his on-air comment inviting al Qaeda to attack San Francisco, so she has S-P fever. About Alec Baldwin, he says, the actor is primarily interested in politics, but there is always that progressive crossover: because he is a liberal Democrat, the S-P forces support his philosophy. George Clooney is more of a far-left ideologue than an enlisted S-P culture warrior. What this all means is left unsaid. Even someone like columnist Jimmy Breslin is part of the conspiracy. (When Breslin criticized his last book, The OReilly Factor for Kids, OReilly says, he wrote Breslin a note that read, you have tried to hurt a project that could help many children. Hope you feel good about that. The succor the nations youth derived from The OReilly Factor for Kids is hard to measure, but it seems unlikely that Breslins criticism set back the little ones too much.)

OReilly alternately portrays himself as hero and martyr, the nations savior and a lonely, principled voice with the weight of the world on his sturdy but tired shoulders. There is no shortage of people trying to marginalize me, or worse, destroy me, he tells us. My family has also been threatened and Ive had to change every aspect of my life. No longer can I behave as a regular guy and go out and cut loose with my friends. No longer can I even engage a stranger in conversationthere are too many crazies out there. At work, every call I receive is monitored and every interaction I have has to be witnessed. I am never off the job and am always on guard. Would you want to live that way?

Lashing himself to the rack with the enthusiasm of Mel Gibson, OReilly predicts the firestorm that his book will bring about. The S-P power brokers will be seething, and I guarantee they will command their forces to attack me in every way possible. As in the past, personal smears will rule the day and I will be defamed from all secular directions. Because of his fight, he writes, Ive paid the price, and so have those around me, because the amount of hatred directed my way is staggering.

Yet if he is overcome by these sinister forces, we will know all the good he did. Think about what America would be like now if we [FOX News and The OReilly Factor] had not arrived on the scene and provided Americans with an alternative to the strongly S-P established media, he writes near the books end.

But ultimately, this man of courage isnt too eager to engage his opponents. He says many times that actually arguing with them is pointless, because its virtually impossible to have a reasonable conversation with an S-P fanatic. And he admits he wont allow the
S-Ps on his show, because it is hard to imagine a more loathsome group.

The blurb on Culture Warriors cover, from gossip columnist Liz Smith, is a creepy testament to how OReilly would like to be seen. [Bill OReillys] aura of command is fascinating, she says. I left Mr. OReillys super-hot domain trying to think of whom he reminded me. It came to me: Gen. George S. Patton, complete with ivory-handled revolvers on his hips, couldnt exude more confidence, certainty, and know-how than Bill OReilly. With Bill OReilly, its all about the exuding.

OReilly is nothing if not a self-promoter, and as he did with his previous books, he has been hawking Culture Warrior relentlessly on his television and radio shows. No doubt many of his loyal fans will follow instructions and get their hands on a copy, and it will become, in the term its book jacket uses to describe OReillys previous books, a mega-bestseller. As FOX News recently conceeded, the median age of OReillys viewers is 71. Imagine three million grumpy old men shaking their fists at the television screen, a copy of Culture Warrior in hand, shouting, You said it, Bill! Give ’em hell!

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