Central Command (CENTCOM) Initial Briefing
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 thirty 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 sixty-two. 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 forty-six, 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.
At this point, all the conflict has been worth it. The Factor has changed many things in America and put a horde of bad guys on the defensive and some out of business. Of course, some Americans see me as the bad guy. They are entitled to their opinion. But after ten years of unprecedented success, millions of you understand that my programs are trying to fight the good fight. You know the culture war is serious and needs to be fought honestly and effectively. We do that on The Factor. And we do it with no fear.
In this book I will try to put the war into perspective. I will try to avoid cheap shots and vindictiveness. This is definitely not a “hit” book written in an attempt to destroy certain people. I’ll leave that kind of nastiness to smear merchants like Al Franken and Michael Weiner (aka Michael Savage)–people who try to ruin people in order to make money. It would be foolish and a waste of your time to engage the lunatic fringe in these pages, although the temptation is strong. Occasionally, I’ll make an example of a smear merchant to demonstrate a point, but I’ll keep that sort of thing to a minimum.
My reasoning is simple: Why dignify slander and libel by repeating them in print? Yes, I do truly despise the ideological fanatics, the media vermin who couldn’t care less about truth or justice. But you know who they are. I have bigger, more dangerous targets in my sights–establishment players who can change your life with the stroke of a pen, an activist court ruling, or a dishonest article in the press. My goal is to expose and defeat people who have the power to do you great harm. My weapons will be facts and superior analysis based on those facts. It is absolutely fair and vital to democracy to confront people in the arena of ideas. I’ll leave the smears to the yapping character assassins. They will destroy themselves. Just wait and see.
Finally, I want to get back to Howard Cosell for a moment. I consider him one of America’s greatest sports commentators, as well as a man who was absolutely fearless in the broadcast booth. If you missed Cosell on the air, consider this: At one point, according to a poll taken by TV Guide, he was cited as the most disliked sportscaster in America. . . and also the most well liked. In the same poll! Growing up, I had admired his ability to stimulate discussion and provide a vivid, original point of view. He worked without a script, as I often do now. He shouted (I occasionally do that), and he used an extensive vocabulary never before heard in sports broadcasting. It all made an impression on me. I also noticed that my father despised Cosell but watched him every chance he got, complaining about him while enjoying the controversy he engendered.
Shortly before he died in 1995, after being off the air for about ten years, Howard Cosell granted me a rare interview. At that point, his beloved wife had died and he had turned against most of his friends. He had even bitterly denounced his former Monday Night Football broadcast partners Frank Gifford and Don Meredith in print.
I met with Cosell in his New York City apartment. He seemed to be a lonely guy and had little good to say about anyone or anything. At the end of the interview, he remarked bitterly: “I don’t think another Howard Cosell will ever be allowed in the industry, because they don’t want the truth. I mean, the public really doesn’t give a damn about the
Well, Howard may have been wrong on both counts. Certainly, The O’Reilly Factor is as controversial as anything Mr. Cosell was ever involved with, so today’s television industry is open, in some quarters, to strongly stated points of view. And most Americans do want the truth, at least in my experience. My entire presentation is designed to bring you honest information about complicated and important matters (hence the now-famous “No Spin Zone”). Millions of folks are on board with that. In the following pages, we’ll continue that mission–bringing the culture war into vivid focus.
One more thing in this initial briefing. We’re going to get this culture war over with faster than anyone believes. You’ve heard of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? This ancient Chinese how-to book has been a bestseller in many different formats, especially to people who want to compete more effectively in business.
“There is no instance,” wrote the military sage Tzu, “of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.” O’Reilly Tzu agrees (and will have some advice on the subject later on). The culture war must be won quickly and definitively, and the best way to do that is to expose the secular-progressive movement in our country for exactly what it is, to explain why it is so harmful for America, and to identify the movement’s top leaders. So here we go.
From the Hardcover edition.