Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The No Spin Zone by Bill O'Reilly

Over the years, cable news show host Bill O'Reilly has tried to portray himself as someone who values the unadulterated truth. Towards that end, he has dubbed the set of his show the "no spin zone," which implies that once guests agree to come on and be interviewed by him, the spin must stop while only the truth gets out. This is a rather tall order, particularly considering the fact that most of his guests are politicians, lawyers, and other people whose profession practically requires them to put a good spin on everything that their clients or cronies do.

The No Spin Zone is the second book published by O'Reilly since his show vaulted to the top of the cable news ratings. The subtitle of the book is "Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America," which I think is a rather telling line that describes the way he treats the people he interviews. O'Reilly views everything as a "confrontation," so there is necessarily a lot of yelling, interrupting, and generally rude behavior during the interviews on his show.

That spirit of discontent carries over into the book because the book is essentially a glorified transcript of his television show. Yep, that's right: if you are a regular viewer of The O'Reilly Factor, then you'll probably already be familiar with at least a portion of this book. The No Spin Zone is divided into 16 chapters, and 13 of those contain a rehash of an interview with a powerful or famous person that previously aired on the show! Then one chapter is a "fantasy" interview with Senator Hillary Clinton, where O'Reilly lists the questions he would ask her if she ever appeared on his show. Another chapter is spent dealing with questions from viewers, and the final chapter contains advice from O'Reilly on how readers can "establish [their] own personal No Spin Zone."

Each of the first 13 chapters starts with a snippet from the previously televised interview. Then O'Reilly chimes in with several pages of information that is intended to give the reader some background information about the subject under discussion, as well as to lay the groundwork for his own personal opinion about the matter -- ostensibly so the reader can understand why he takes the position that he does during the interview. After that, he reprints more of the interview, and wraps the chapter up with a few final thoughts on the subject. Some of the subjects covered in The No Spin Zone include sex education in the public schools, graphic content on television, graphic lyrics in rap and other forms of music, and America's so-called "drug culture."

I found the format of the book to be a bit troublesome. After all, O'Reilly was basically dragging his interview opponents back into the ring and dissecting their answers and positions once again. Only now, he obviously has the upper hand because he has had time to think about and plan out a longer response, as well as gather more examples to support his side. And of course, his opponents do not have an opportunity to offer a rebuttal because, well, this is after all O'Reilly's book.

Another thing that really bothered me about this book was the fact that almost all of the issues that O'Reilly addresses in it had previously been discussed at length on this television show. Maybe I didn't read the publisher's description closely enough before ordering it from a website, but I think that if I had known what kind of book this was, I wouldn't have purchased it to begin with. The amount of original content versus previously aired material varies from chapter to chapter. Just from a quick perusal here (and these calculations are by no means scientific), one of the chapters from the book is approximately seven pages long. One of those pages contains transcripts from the TV show, leaving six pages of original text (or, a ratio of 14.3 percent rehashed content to 85.7 percent original content).

I really enjoyed O'Reilly's first effort (The O'Reilly Factor), but I can't give The No Spin Zone the same kind of endorsement. If I were you, I would just skip this one entirely. You wouldn't be missing much, especially if you already watch O'Reilly's television show!

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