Tuesday, October 11, 2016

O'Reilly's "Killing" Series

I have read most of the Killing series of books and know that O’Reilly and Dugard can put together compelling stories. I did find a few questionable assertions in the other books (like putting Lincoln in the Oval Office before it existed), but I was disappointed to find many in this one. 

Although it has been said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts, I suppose everyone is entitled to their own version of the facts. My version differs with the authors’ on at least ten occasions. Others have found at least thirty factual errors.

What disturbed me more than factual errors was the obvious negative slant to both opinion and fact in this book. The writers savage Nancy Reagan and attack Ronald Reagan unmercifully long after he is able to defend himself. Bill O’Reilly professes to be a conservative, so I was more than a little surprised that he turned left in this book about one of the greatest conservative leaders of the last century.

Anyone who has heard Bill on television or radio knows that he is egocentric. He doesn’t try to hide it. He knows a lot and is extremely popular and successful, and has come to the conclusion that he knows a lot about almost everything. With that level of narcissism, it is easy to see how he could conflate rumors and unverified sources into facts in his own mind. I.e. “It’s true because it is in my book.” Well no, not really.

Reagan himself said, “It’s not that our liberal friends are ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” Ironically, Reagan’s statement applies to the authors of a book about him.

I really had a hard time with the inclusion of salacious and unproven rumors. For what purpose?  One tells of then Governor Reagan sitting next to an attractive eighteen-year-old at poolside. Years later, the young lady “suggested that intimacy soon followed.” In the next sentence the authors admit that “his personal behavior as governor was so exemplary that few questioned his clearly stated traditional values”. So why even mention an unfounded, malicious rumor?  

I found examples like this one throughout when the authors used terms like “it was widely known” when describing a negative trait or behavior of Reagan or Nancy. Widely known by whom?  They also attribute thoughts and feelings (mostly negative) to the First Couple that could only be known by them.

When George Will questioned Bill’s facts and research in a column and on television, O’Reilly turned red in the face and his hands shook as he called Will a hack. I thought of one word—caught. When Will asked why he did not ask some of Reagan’s closest advisors about some of his assertions, he said it was because “they had skin in the game”. Seriously? How is it then that O’Reilly used sources not only with skin in the game, but with axes to grind? 

If they insisted on putting in the unproven negatives, why not balance it out with a few unproven positives?  Although there is no bibliography, the authors did list sources in the back of the book. Of the fifteen magazines and newspapers listed, twelve are either left or hard left. 

As a writer, I do understand narrative non-fiction and how authors insert the gist of conversations and conditions (which flowers were blooming as the protagonists take a walk) that could not possibly be known. They do this to advance the story. But this is only ethical when such additions are not clear distortions of facts or rumors designed only to titillate readers.  Otherwise, call your work a novel.

Why did they do it? Because the book is called Killing Reagan, so the authors made a decision that the assassination attempt on his life would be the key element. Therefore, the attempt had to be the focus  all the way through his term as president and to the end of his days. And it had to have a major impact on his health, his psychology and his mental capabilities. To hell with whether it did or not. 

I understand that such events can cause severe traumatic stress. Events like that can permanently affect a life. Other people, however, recover to lead normal lives. The evidence is overwhelming that Reagan fit into the latter category. 

O’Reilly and Dugard do give grudging credit to Reagan for bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, but little mention is made of his successes with the economy, major tax reform, and other significant achievements. Why? Because this totally conflicts with the person they portray as a severely damaged, barely competent person who stays in The White House personal residence and watches reruns on television. They seem to imply that Reagan’s achievements were made possible by his wife or by his staff without his leadership. This does not pass the credulity test. 

It also conflicts with the other books written by and about Reagan. Did he suffer from the early stages of Alzheimer’s while president? Nobody really knows. If he did, the symptoms were late in his last term and were minor. Did he suffer some of the normal maladies of aging? Probably, but less so than the general population. And occasional short term memory loss was more than offset by the wisdom of his years. 

Were any mental problems caused by the shooting? Possibly, but again, nothing that can be proven. Reagan’s diaries were clearly written by a lucid man in complete control of all his faculties. O’Reilly’s book devotes one sentence to the journal he kept as president.

As a writer who wrote books while writing a weekly column, I know the time constraints in trying to do both. Bill does radio and television shows every weekday while maintaining a heavy schedule of personal appearances across the country. It is hard to see how it is humanly possible for him to do this while writing a series of books for adults as well as children.  I always assumed he lent his name and celebrity to the covers while Martin Dugard and his staff did the research and writing. I don’t know that to be the case, but common sense says it is.

I am okay with that, I suppose. Many famous folks do the same. However, Bill did write at least one page in the book called The Last Word where he reveals a letter Reagan wrote to close friend and advisor John Koehler. Bill says he includes it to “give Ronald Reagan the last word. He deserves it.” But Reagan’s letter pretty much refutes most of the assertions in this book.

Bill seems to fail to see the irony in that. Reading that part and hearing Bill defend the indefensible assertions in this book while maintaining the book is laudatory of Reagan causes one to wonder if he read the book at all.

I discussed this on KETR.  Listen here

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Narcissism Epidemic

I read this book because of the subtitle, Living in the Age of Entitlement. It seems a lot more folks feel entitled to a lot more things than they used to.

The authors go into detail about helicopter parents who raise their children to believe they are not just queens and kings for a day, but for a lifetime. They book doesn’t deeply examine why this phenomenon came about or how to reverse it. The book's solution: Don't tell your children they are special. I think it could have been said better. 

How about telling them they are special to you, but are still children and must know and understand obedience and effort is necessary for achievement. Or how about, never reward bad behavior. Neither kids nor adults are entitled to everything they want.

The authors deplore the pervasive and silly attitude that everybody gets a trophy whether they achieved anything or not. Awards, money and privileges must be earned. Otherwise, they have no value.

Not all narcissists are psychopaths, but most serial killers are narcissists. Dr. Harold Shipman is known to have killed at least a dozen and is strongly suspected of killing as many as 260. Yet, he remained arrogant even when imprisoned. How dare anyone question him? Did you see the smug smile of the butcher Dr. Kermit Gosnell while he was being led away in cuffs for multiple murders? 
Narcissists seldom apologize or express shame or humiliation for anything. Even when they admit mistakes, they wear their past misdeeds as a badge of honor. 

Take these incidents:  Dennis Rodman stated that he should be on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his befriending and hugging of a North Korean despot. Is that narcissism or just stupidity?
Anthony Weiner continued to publicly display his perversion even after resigning from Congress in disgrace and launching a campaign for Mayor of New York. Then there is Elliot Spitzer. 

At 70, Geraldo Rivera tweeted a photo of himself (a selfie) in his bathroom nude from the waist up. 

How about the legions of sports athletes who think they can commit crimes and get away with it?  664 arrests from 2000 to 2012 in the NFL. Why do we idolize narcissistic criminals? 

The book delves into the "look at me" involved with Facebook and other social media avenues, but it offers little in the way of explanation or solution.

Is social media just narcissism on a grand scale? Am I a narcissist because I use it to try to get more people to read what I write by using social media? My writing colleague Christina Carson recently blogged, “A fine question at this point in human history is, why are we so needful of diversion, of places to hide out? We shouldn’t kid ourselves that just because we see the world and its happenings many times a day and interface with people all over the globe, we are engaged with life. I think we are more afraid, emptier, and unhappier than ever. I love this earth. Its order, its harmony, its beauty astound me. I love human nature and all the amazing stories it can engender through its sometimes hapless, sometimes crazy, sometimes endearing, and always compelling choices it makes. But I’m troubled that we don’t stop enough to examine where, lemming-like, we seem to be headed.”

The authors drift when they get into social security and a few aspects of the economy where they are clearly out of their element and seriously misinformed. They also seem to posit that driving an SUV may be narcissistic, in a stumbling attempt to state one author’s alarmist and inaccurate views on global warming. Even if she were right (which she isn’t), what has that got to do with narcissism? 

They expose what they call myths about narcissists. Myth 1: Narcissists have really high self esteem. In the second sentence debunking this myth, they say and I quote, “Narcissists do have really high self-esteem.” That’s on page 24, so I my antenna went up early. Is it a myth or not? (They say it is; I say it’s not.) They try to explain their own contradiction, but fail.

Myth 2: Narcissists are insecure and have low self-esteem i.e. . . . they use bluster to cover up for deep self-hate and inadequacy. There are a lot of other studies out there that say this is not a myth and this book failed to convince me that it is. If narcissists aren’t just covering up for insecurities, why would they resent and demean other’s accomplishments?   

What is missing from this book is research that has shown that type 1’s seem to all share the same problem—problems with a parent when they were small children (usually abandonment or rejection of another type). The narcissists I worked with all had deeply rooted problems with one parent.

Another myth about narcissists is that they almost never succeed. Unfortunately, sometimes they do, but usually at dire cost to the people (and businesses, cities, counties, states and countries) they leave in their destructive wake. 
I really wanted this book to explore how the epidemic is affecting our nation and how most politicians suffer from some level of narcissism. When two people run for political office, I usually vote for the one who wants it (or needs it) the least, because he/she is always the best qualified. Wanting it or needing the office and the power that goes with it badly always makes for a terrible politician who abuses power because of concern for a personal legacy, not the future of the country (and yes, those two can be in direct conflict).

Why? Many reasons, but one example is that narcissists can take directly opposite (and mutually exclusive) positions on the same issue and feel that both of their opinions are correct and anyone who challenges them is stupid. I suppose anyone who runs for political office has to have a healthy ego, but many, if not most of the bozos who run our country think they’re brilliant. That’s dangerous.

The authors, to their credit, do make several references to the appalling lack of personal responsibility in this country (the heart of free enterprise), but then suggest more regulations and solutions involving collectivism and larger bureaucracies as the answer.  The obvious battle between the authors and the compromise turns the book into illogical conclusions in an attempt to satisfy their opposite political persuasions. 

The psychologist authors of this book said that it would offer solutions to the epidemic. Maybe. Readers will have to judge.