What I wish I could tell the library patron who requested the latest Bill O'Reilly book
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
"I'm sorry. That book is trash. How about we find you something to read that's grounded in reality?"
Of course, I'm a professional, I understand that to work in a public library is to accept that sometimes people read books you won't necessarily enjoy, and that I had no business telling this library user what to read. So this is not how I responded.
But sometimes you just need to let off a little steam beyond the stacks.
The book in question? Killing Reagan, which details the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan, and comes in an installment of O'Reilly titles that refer to the killing or attempted killing of numerous figures tied to the spirit of the American project, including Lincoln, Kennedy, and Jesus. I don't have to read the book to know it's indoctrination of the classic Fox News variety. If it comes from O'Reilly's snarling, belligerent jowls, you can be sure it's not a worthy source.
Like many conservative figures decrying the moral corruption of America, multiple women have accused Mr. O'Reilly of sexual assault. His six publicly known settlements for everything from sexual assault to verbal harassment total about $45 million, and employed all a manner of nasty tactics to silence the women who came forward to speak up about his abuses.
Having built a career on fomenting hatred against immigrants of color among the white American heartland, he and his ilk have paved the way for Trump--the demagogic mouthpiece around which today's white nationalists rally--and the white supremacist violence that constitute the majority of terrorist attacks in 2020. It is difficult to hear someone request a book by him and not think to myself: When will this person end up driving a pickup truck through a crowd of people protesting racial injustice?
Media figures like O'Reilly, Anne Coulter, Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Tucker Carlson, and others have been alarmingly effective in consolidating a white supremacist ideology that considers itself about everything but white nationalism. In the same breath they decry a "Hispanic invasion" of immigrants, they argue white supremacist violence isn't a problem at all. As though their rhetoric is not inexplicably linked to the kinds of nationalist hatred history has shown us to pave the way toward genocidal state policies.
It's hard not to feel, as a politically conscious human, like I am facilitating dangerous ideological exchanges when I hand people books like this. Whether it's true or not. But as a librarian employed to provide people with their requested materials?
"Yes, we have a copy of that book. I'll check and see if it's on the shelf."
As for Mr. O'Reilly. Perhaps his own words encapsulate the special brand of circular, delusional, self-betraying hypocrisy that allow these white nationalist ideological mouthpieces to see themselves as defenders of individual rights and freedoms of all people.
"And guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called 'karma.'"
--Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids