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Any consumer of television programming of the past 20 years qualifies to some degree as a TV historian. Examining one slice of that medium, we know that Bill O’Reilly has been a personality for quite some time. When he hosted “Inside Edition,” his manner was much more reserved. Emerging from the dying embers of the Clinton presidency, O’Reilly became a TV icon with his “O’Reilly Factor.” In short, his intelligent, confrontational style came to the fore in dramatic fashion.
No less a success as an author, he has written a collection of bestsellers. His latest, “Pinheads and Patriots – Where You Stand in the Age of Obama,” combines O’Reilly’s pugnacious style with a gritty package of information that paints a clear picture of the implications for individuals.
Some of us love dessert first, and so I confess that upon reading “Pinheads and Patriots,” I went immediately to O’Reilly’s fascinating 2008 interview with Obama; the transcript ends the book and is quite illuminating, now that we are deep into this troubling administration.
O’Reilly makes a fascinating point in the introduction, however, and that’s what I read next. In typical, American-pioneering spirit, he references his own success story, but does it in a compelling way, when discussing the changes that have overtaken our country:
“These changes are not all bad, but they’re not all good, either,” O’Reilly writes. “Many will hurt you and your family. Most media people and politicians won’t tell you that because they don’t care about you. But I do.
“Why? It’s very simple: you guys have made me rich and famous. I worked hard to position myself to succeed, but you made it happen,” he writes.
He goes on to say that he intends to pay us back, to a degree, by giving us facts that will preserve the greatness of America. Fair enough; anyone who is frank enough to thank me for helping make him rich is someone I can believe.
A trademark of O’Reilly’s is his “Pinheads and Patriots” segment that concludes each TV broadcast. It is here he identifies influencers who are either doing something good for the country, or doing something bad. It is this concept that informs the core of this latest book, and it makes for riveting reading.
For example, O’Reilly provides flesh-and-blood folks who personify his P&P concept. One such person is Tony Snow, whom O’Reilly describes as “the bravest man I ever met.” Snow, of course, was the popular print and TV personality who succumbed to cancer in 2008. O’Reilly recounts Snow’s commitment to truth, and he even makes a small-but-important point, providing a detail in the aftermath of Snow’s funeral.
It seems that The Washington Post “covered Tony Snow’s funeral with dignity,” O’Reilly writes. “The New York Times ignored it.”
Do you see how interesting that is? In essence, O’Reilly sees influencers as either bad or good, and the New York Times, that bastion of toxic liberalism, could not even hide its contempt for a pundit like Snow at his funeral!
It’s this kind of observation that makes O’Reilly, and “Pinheads and Patriots,” a compelling social commentator. Even though he has master’s degrees from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and from Boston University (bet you didn’t know that!), his social commentary has a blue-collar feel to it.
By the way, one cannot overstate the unique impact of transcripts from O’Reilly’s own show as an addition to this book. The text is peppered with them and really add to its value.
Interestingly, O’Reilly departs from some of his competitors when it comes to defining Obama. Rather than castigate this polarizing figure, O’Reilly prefers to be more nuanced. He identifies Obama as a “committed left-wing guy,” but pulls back from terming him Karl Marx revisited. Yet, O’Reilly says, “I could be wrong.”
He does, however, point out that an important component to a free country is having a robust media to provide checks and balances to what a president says and does. O’Reilly (one assumes gleefully, we might add) seems to relish the fact that “people are simply walking away” from traditional media outlets who wear their liberalism on their sleeves, pants, lapels and so forth.
Chapter 9, “All-Time Favorite P&Ps,” is probably the best part of this great book, and here O’Reilly identifies not only famous ones but also more obscure examples.
He admits his evaluations are purely subjective. They are free-wheeling, informative and, above all, entertaining!
There are the obvious – George Washington – and others who are not as well-known, but obviously important to O’Reilly’s outlook. His brief look at Cesar Chavez, the migrant worker activist, is a perfect example of O’Reilly’s criteria. Acknowledging that Chavez is not admired by many who considered him too left-leaning, O’Reilly also points out that Chavez’s efforts led to better working conditions for millions. It is a point that the author suggests readers consider, and he is correct.
“Pinheads and Patriots” is a fun, informative read, and should be a popular addition to anyone’s holiday reading. It is a worthy successor to the author’s previous bestsellers.