The Bible of Unspeakable Truths, by Greg Gutfeld (Grand Central Publishing, 304 pp., $24.99)
Greg Gutfeld, to clue in those who make a habit of using the nighttime to sleep, is the host of Fox News’ Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld (weekdays at 3 AM, Eastern!). He presides over the most unpredictable hour of political commentary on the tube, and arguably the funniest. Indeed, in a media universe where the most fawned-over satirists (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher) run from hard to harder left, and where conventional liberal wisdom flatters itself with the fiction that those on the other side of the political spectrum don’t even know the meaning of cutting edge, Gutfeld stands out almost as much for his stunningly frank conservative/libertarian point of view as for his wit and daring. Little wonder that the show appeals to more or less the same demographic as Stewart’s.
In fact, the comparisons with the Comedy Central star are inevitable—except that, lacking a stable of writers and doing his show on a shoestring, Gutfeld is far more spontaneous and, yes, fearless.
In The Bible of Unspeakable Truths, his very funny compendium of life lessons, Gutfeld tells how he began his ideological journey rightward. He was a liberal in his California high school and one day found himself representing the anti-nuke side in a classroom debate on mutually assured destruction—pretty much a gimme, he says, since “no one wants to die” and “weapons only exist to hurt people, and hurting people is wrong.” Not to mention that (and, this being high school, above all) his opponent was a classic nerd. So he won the debate, if only by offering up a series of well-timed wisecracks about the other kid. Yet along the way, Gutfeld realized the nerd was right and he was wrong, because what he said “came from the brain, not from the heart, and it was packed with facts, logic.” And he’d “explained the principles of ‘peace through strength’ so clearly that I could no longer pretend to believe in the bullshit I believed in.”
As the media windbags like to say, full disclosure: a decade or so ago, when Gutfeld was editor of Men’s Health magazine, I not only worked with him, but had a hand in his abrupt departure from the place. I was heading a team of writer/researchers for a back-to-school section entitled “The 10 Most Male-Friendly, and the 10 Most Male-Unfriendly Colleges in America.” The ratings were as impartial as we could make them, based on such factors as the number of male-bashing women’s studies courses, the severity of campus speech codes, and the impact (or relative lack thereof) of Title IX on men’s sports programs. But when the section appeared, the (feminist) head of the family that owned the magazine was the opposite of delighted and, as I later heard, there followed a confrontation in which she and Gutfeld told each other precisely where to go.
In The Bible of Unspeakable Truths, Gutfeld tells all sorts of people where to go, from journalists and assorted politicians to foreign dictators and those who go around claiming to “live life to the fullest.” In fact, he tends to be especially annoyed by the sense of smug satisfaction with which contemporary liberals habitually regard their own most irritating behaviors. Of a self-esteem movement that has everywhere traded the character- building rough and tumble of real life for an idealized world of everybody’s-a-winner, he notes, “we are left with a rotted carcass of a culture where the feeling of accomplishment can be derived without accomplishing anything at all.” All that remains is to “wait for those fanatics who still believe in winning to invade and remind us what it’s like to lose.”
Or take this business of “speaking truth to power,” a bit of sham bravery for liberals that “possesses the risk level of playing solitaire without a helmet.” Why was it, for instance, that when California’s Proposition 8 passed, reversing the right to same-sex marriage in the state, that gays apoplectic about the vote protested—i.e., spoke truth to power—only at white churches, when black churches also overwhelmingly supported the proposition? Simple, says Gutfeld. Protesting at black churches “would be hard, and scary. Many blacks probably don’t enjoy the comparisons between their civil rights crusade and gays’ not being allowed to marry. Yeah, I know gays have been treated like crap over the years, but they were never slaves—unless they asked for it on Craigslist.”
The liberal film classic Twelve Angry Men, in which an all-white male jury debates the fate of a “young ethnic dude,” especially gets under his skin. “There are two witnesses to the crime, and the knife used is exactly the same knife the youth had purchased that day. He was also seen arguing with his dad, the victim. So there was motive, weapon and witnesses. Of the twelve men on the jury, eleven think he’s guilty. But it was the ‘open-minded’ Henry Fonda—the stoic contrarian—who answered every piece of evidence with, ‘What if it’s wrong?’ Over time, through relentless repetition, Fonda’s character gets everyone to change his mind. . . .” Not incidentally, the most stubborn of the men are portrayed as “angry, violent, pigheaded, selfish and borderline psychotic (essentially the modern media portrayal of a Rush Limbaugh fan or a Tea Party attendee). . . . The moral of the movie boils down to this: If you go by what you know and see with your own eyes (or what you’ve learned from your parents), clearly you’re narrow-minded. And a prick. Far better to question everything – which means no one can ever be guilty of anything.”
Not all of Gutfeld’s views are overtly ideological. As a journalist, my personal favorite “truth” has to do with what Gutfeld sees as the difference between real work and fake work—the latter being the kind done by “models, anchors, bloggers, marketing specialists, public relations directors, commodity traders, or anyone who chiefly lives and works in the world of concepts and computer keyboards.” By definition—and here he claims to speak from personal experience—it can be performed nearly as well on a steady diet of vodka or gin. “Compare that to real jobs—bus drivers, mechanics, loggers, riggers. You can’t do those occupations drunk, or you’ll lose your fingers or maybe your whole hand. You never see an editor with a hook for a hand.”
Other musings, especially those pertaining to women or sex or both, are apt to offend the readily offended simply because they’re common-sensical, which is to say, true. For example, he titles one chapter with an observation that’s completely obvious, yet heretofore has mainly been offered only among guys in bars, after a couple of beers: “When a Female Teacher Sleeps With a Male Student, Men Reserve Judgment Until They Find Out How Hot the Teacher Is.” This is the kind of stuff that 28-year-old hipsters, just home after a long night dancing or karaoke-ing or doing whatever they do, presumably hear when they snap on Red Eye on their flat screens. This book lets the rest of us know what we’re missing.