August 5th, 2008


I'm going fighting in the Culture War

You know, the problem with having ironic interests is that you have to wonder whether people think you like these things un-ironically. Today, I checked out Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior from the library, and I hope the librarian didn't think that I actually like him. Not that it's a big deal or anything, but still. You may recall that I didn't think The O'Reilly Factor for Kids was that bad, aside from his awkward attempts to speak to kids in their own language. With Culture Warrior, though, I've only read the introduction and the first chapter, and there are already about a zillion crazy things I want to comment on.

In the introduction, Bill introduces "the vicious culture war that is currently under way in the United States of America," and then goes on to talk about how he had a bunch of ancestors who were Irish warriors. (He doesn't specify whether Cúchulainn was one of them.) He later says that he'll "try to avoid cheap shots and vindictiveness," admitting that he'll sometimes "make an example of a smear merchant to demonstrate a point." He's apparently had several such points to demonstrate in the first chapter alone, since he mentions how Air America is "shrill, pitiful, and hateful" (pot calling the kettle black, anyone?), incorporates some pro-communist comments from the leader of the ACLU, and discusses how George Soros was convicted of insider trading.

Part 1 of the book begins with a fake State of the Union address from the future (although I guess that's redundant, since I assume Bill doesn't have access to a time machine), given by secular-progressive straw man (or, more accurately, straw WOMAN) President Gloria Hernandez. Hmm, a villain with a Hispanic name from someone who's always complaining about illegal immigrants. Coincidence? Anyway, what's crazy is that I actually agree with a lot of what this straw woman says, aside from a few ridiculous things that I don't think anyone actually believes (like that public school students should have total freedom to choose their own curricula). Come on, if you're going to create a secular straw man, learn from the master! Have your character turn out to be a demon wearing a mask, or have them punch evangelists for no reason, or scream at elementary school students who are misguided about science.

And now, on to the first chapter. As might be expected, O'Reilly attacks the ACLU, saying that "they seek to impose their worldview on America--not by the popular vote, which is the way it is supposed to be done in a democracy, but by 'gaming' the legal system." Later, he talks about how slavery was a blight on the country's record. But slavery wasn't ended by the popular vote, was it? And it was those darned activist judges who decided that segregated schools were unconstitutional. So it was okay for them to extend civil rights to blacks, but not to gays?

Another attack on the ACLU involves their defending NAMBLA pro bono in a case where a rapist and murderer claimed to have been encouraged by material from NAMBLA, which he found on a library computer. O'Reilly writes, "Think about it. What if Jeffrey Curley [the victim] had been your child?" But doesn't that argument work both ways? What if one of the murderer/rapists had been your child? Why do people who use this argument from emotion never extend it to that possibility? Besides, there's a reason why our legal system is supposed to be impartial, and NOT based completely on emotional reactions. Yes, I'd be really pissed off if Curley had been my child. In fact, I'm pissed off about it anyway, and I don't even know him. But NAMBLA, as profoundly awful a group as it is, still deserves fair legal representation. If we don't extend those rights to people we disagree with, who's to say they'll be there for us?

After a long spiel about the left-leaning media, and the identification of Joe Lieberman as a "liberal traditionalist" (although I'm not sure what universe it is in which he would be considered "liberal"; I have no clue why Gore chose him for a running mate), Bill gets back to the ACLU, and sarcastically says that the organization is "wrapping itself in the flag and defending the rights of the 'folks.' Unless, of course, the folks are Christian, Boy Scouts, parents who want to know if their underage daughters are having abortions, or concerned Americans who want sexual predators who hurt children held accountable." Um, I don't know all the details, but I'm pretty sure the ACLU has defended persecuted Christians. He also invites the head of the ACLU to "come on the program anytime to set me straight," a favorite offer of O'Reilly's. Of course, the whole thing would be stacked against him, but hey. I know I'd do terribly on The O'Reilly Factor, even if I had done shitloads of research and had well-thought-out opinions. I'm easily flustered and not good at thinking on my feet (or even in a chair), and would probably come off as an idiot. Even a more even-handed debate doesn't actually show who's right, just who's better at selling their arguments.

O'Reilly then complains about the socialist beliefs of George Lakoff, writing, "His vision is that first and foremost, a central government should make sure we all have fulfilling lives. Talk about a nanny state! No, this is worse, much worse--this is a Dr. Phil state!...What Lakoff wants to do is set up an enormous central government that provides...cradle-to-grave security and entitlements to 300 million people." I'm sure it's true that this isn't really feasible, but O'Reilly implies that even the IDEA of the government owing its citizens a decent living is absurd. He quotes an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article that claims that the gains of the rich are "not due entirely to their own talent and effort, as many would have us believe." Bill calls this "standard-issue communist thought," despite the fact that what he quotes of the article says nothing about income redistribution.

Okay, I guess that's enough for one post. I'm sure I'll be tempted to write about stuff in later chapters as well, but I'll spare you (unless someone actually WANTS to see me rant about the book as I read it, but I highly doubt that), although I'll probably have a review of the book in general once I've finished with it.
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