Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The O'Reilly Factor by Bill O'Reilly



Bill O'Reilly is the host of the O'Reilly Factor, an hour-long nightly talk show on FOX News that has been the highest-rated cable news program for quite a while now. Over the years, O'Reilly's name has become synonymous with the phrase "The No-Spin Zone," which he uses to refer to his show. According to O'Reilly, most of what you read in the newspapers or hear on other television news programs has been spun and doctored by professionals who are more concerned with protecting their own interests rather than telling the truth. He claims that his show is different because he won't allow guests to get away with "spinning."

In his book of the same title, O'Reilly gives readers an overview of his opinions on a variety of different social, economic, and political problems in the United States. There are 20 chapters in the book, and each chapter talks about a separate "factor" that O'Reilly considers to be important. For example, there are chapters called: The Money Factor, The Religion Factor, The Spouse Factor, The Success Factor, and even The Friendship Factor. Then within each of those chapters, O'Reilly discourses about the subject, giving not only suggestions on how to deal with each of these factors accordingly, but also giving examples, both from the public sector and from his personal life, of what he perceives to be the right and the wrong way to do things.

Since O'Reilly is such a loud, in-your-face kind of guy, most people seem to have a definite opinion about him one way or the other. They either love him or hate him; I don't know that there are many who can remain on the fence where he is concerned. Because of this, there have been some very conflicting reviews of O'Reilly's book. The O'Reilly Factor was a bestseller on the New York Times List for many months after it was first published in 2000, and has been both highly praised and completely condemned by fans and detractors.

For the record, I want to say that I don't consider myself to be a fan of Bill O'Reilly. I have watched his television show in the past, but haven't seen it in at least four years because I haven't had access to a cable service.

That being said, however, I found O'Reilly's book to be an enjoyable read. First of all, it was well-paced. As I mentioned above, there are 20 chapters in the book, but the whole thing is only 214 pages long (I'm talking about the hardcover edition), meaning each chapter averages slightly over 10 pages or so. That's a perfect amount for most readers with relatively short attention spans, including myself. In addition, each chapter is broken up by lots of white space, which makes the reading proceed even more quickly. If you're looking for a dense tome, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you want something that you can get through in a couple of days without having to focus 100 percent of your attention to every single page, then you'll probably like The O'Reilly Factor.

I found that I didn't agree with O'Reilly's views on a lot of the subjects that he talks about, but I have to give him credit for going a step farther than most people and actually offering suggestions rather than just criticisms. Anyone can point to a particular facet of American life and say that they don't like it because it's not perfect. Not everyone, however, takes the time to analyze the problem and present ideas about how to fix things. That's not to say that O'Reilly's suggestions are smart or viable; I'm just pointing out that he's at least willing to go on the record with these suggestions, which means that he actually has thought about them and isn't just giving America's problems some lip service.

Another thing I liked about The O'Reilly Factor were the chapters dealing with some of the things that O'Reilly deems ridiculous, good, and bad. These were close to the end of the book and consisted of a paragraph devoted to random people or things that O'Reilly personally feels fit into each of the categories. For example, in the Ridiculous chapter, we are treated to O'Reilly's feelings about Janet Reno, South Park, and Pamela Anderson, among others. In the bad, he lists things like NFL gear, Leonardo DiCaprio, and phone solicitors. And in the good, he talks about Michael Jordan, Tom Hanks, and The Doors (although he voices disapproval over Jim Morrison's lifestyle).

One thing that I didn't particularly like was the tone of O'Reilly's writing. Throughout the book, O'Reilly uses a pretty conversational style. While this works in most places, it came off as extremely condescending in others. Although most books benefit from a uniform tone, I think that a bit of variation would have helped with this particular work. For example, O'Reilly uses the same conversational tone when talking about something as trivial as celebrities and when talking about something as serious as race relations. That kind of juxtaposition simply didn't work for me.

Overall, I think The O'Reilly Factor is an interesting book that touches on a wide variety of subjects that are relevant to the mainstream population. You don't have to be a fan of O'Reilly or even a regular viewer of his television show to learn something from his book. Because of that, I give it my recommendation.  

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