Best known for his confrontational segment, "The No-Spin Zone" on "The O'Reilly Factor," Bill O'Reilly continues to take no prisoners in his sixth book.
In a "20/20" interview with Barbara Walters, O'Reilly shares his philosophy on the two camps of Americans, which is the idea behind his new book, "Culture Warrior."
Read a chapter from the book: "Culture Warrior."
At times you have to fight. No way around it. At some point, every one of us is confronted with danger or injustice. How we choose to combat that challenge is often life-defining. You can face difficulties head-on, or run from them, or ignore them until they consume you. But no one escapes conflict. No one.
In my experience of more than 30 years of practicing journalism, I've found that most people do not like to fight. No surprise there. Battle is not only exhausting and dangerous; it also requires skill and discipline to emerge victorious, much less unscathed.
That's why few of us, except for some weirdly self-destructive souls, seek out conflict. In fact, putting yourself at risk goes against our natural impulse of self-preservation. Whenever I've witnessed strife, I've met far more villains than heroes, but both are relatively rare. Most human beings are neither heroes nor villains but decent people who choose to sit things out until pushed beyond a reasonable limit.
For a variety of reasons that I will explain, I have chosen to jump into the fray and become a warrior in the vicious culture war that is currently under way in the United States of America. And war is exactly the right term. On one side of the battlefield 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 that want to change America dramatically: mold it in the image of Western Europe. Notice I did not say anything about "conservatives against liberals." This is not the real culture fight, as I'll make clear. The talk-radio mantra of the left versus the right doesn't even come close to defining the culture war in America--it is much more complicated than that.
Rather surprisingly, at least to me, one result of my decision to fight in this war has been financial success. Another result has been a measure of fame. Chances are you know who I am and what I do. But you may not understand why I do what I do. That, as they say on TV, is coming up.
The culture war has also made me perhaps the most controversial broadcaster in the country. That hot-button label "controversial" gives my enemies, they think, the right to attack me and my enterprises ceaselessly, unfairly, even dementedly. I truly drive the opposing force nuts! As you may know, I'm engaged in fighting them on a daily basis, and that warfare is the subject of this book.
Maybe it helps that many of my Irish ancestors were warriors. They lived in County Cavan and fought Oliver Cromwell when he devastated Ireland in the name of the British Commonwealth. They lost that fight. Later, some of them emigrated to America during the great famine of the 1840s. More came later. My paternal grandfather fought in World War I, then became a New York City police officer. He was one tough SOB. I have his billy club in my desk drawer. It was well used. Come to think of it, maybe I was named after that club.
In the next generation's world war, my father was a naval officer and was on the scene during the occupation of Japan. He was by nature a warrior but, in an interesting contradiction, was also frightened by the unknown, the Great Depression having imposed upon my father a fear that he never defeated. Even so, his instincts were to combat injustice and scorn those who ran from necessary conflict. But his reluctance to challenge authority and take chances in his career and life would stifle his potential. I watched throughout my growing years as he was slowly beaten down by the system.
The problem was that Dad was very bright and creative, but his job converting foreign currency into dollars was pure drudgery. My father died young, at age 62. Observing him, I vowed never to allow the "system" to beat me or to let any individual push me around as his direct superiors did him.
So far, I'm ahead on that score.
I can tell you truthfully that I never envisioned myself crusading against establishment forces like the New York Times and today's vast armies of far-left and far-right zealots. Coming out of Boston University with a master's degree in broadcast journalism in 1975, I wanted to be one of the Woodward and Bernstein guys. You know, do serious investigative work and right wrongs by exposing corruption. I also wanted to cover war and study human conflict firsthand. In my journalistic career, I succeeded in reaching those goals and count myself very fortunate to have done so.
Then life, as it usually does, presented me with a completely unanticipated opportunity. After having national success on a syndicated program called Inside Edition, I went back to school. And not just any school: At the age of 46, I earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. It was while studying in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I worked up the game plan for The O'Reilly Factor. The rest, to use a cliché, is history.
The Factor concept is very simple: Watch all of those in power, including and especially the media, so they don't injure or exploit the folks, everyday Americans. Never before in the United States had a television news guy dared to criticize other journalists on a regular basis. The late Peter Jennings, a friend, told me I was crazy to do it. "These people will not allow anyone to scrutinize them," he said. "They will come after you with a vengeance."
And so they have.
In fact, not since the late Howard Cosell has an American broadcaster been so roundly vilified in print as I have been over the past decade. "Gasbag," "blowhard," "demagogue," these are common adjectives used when newspaper writers refer to me. I'm not whining, just stating a fact. Because I criticize what I consider to be dishonest and unfair media, and extremist pundits on both the right and the left as well as corrupt and/or ineffective politicians, there is no shortage of people trying to marginalize me, or worse, destroy me.
Because of the very personal nature of the battle I have chosen to fight, this is a difficult book to write. I don't like to sound bitter, but the truth is, I am bitter to some extent. Although I have won far more battles than I've lost, my life has changed drastically. I am routinely threatened with physical harm and have to employ security. I have to absorb rank defamation in the press, with no legal recourse because I'm a "public figure."
My family has also been threatened and I've 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 conversation--there 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?
Still, to quote Hyman Roth in The Godfather II, "This is the business we've chosen." And it's true. I don't have to be a culture warrior. I could make millions doing straight anchor work or just writing books. But I'm on a mission, one that I'm going to define for you throughout this book, and the mission is important.
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