A Review Of The Self-Described Jerk's The Joy Of Hate
Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK
It is not insulting Fox News host Greg Gutfeld to say he doesn't know much about the subjects he jokes and chats about for a living. He draws pleasure from saying so himself, over and over again, in a thousand repetitive ways.
Like the network he works for, Gutfeld's shtick is premised on the loud embrace of a pugilistic, media-bubbled conservatism. Gutfeld considered the late Andrew Breitbart a close friend and inspiration, and indeed represents what might be called the Breitbartian wing of the Fox News spectrum: he revels in media war for its own sake, prefers pop culture to political history, and spends his time buried in a trough of Twitter feeds and feuds. His new book, The Joy of Hate, reads like an extended riff on the author's admission to being just an oversexed, Internet-and-TV addicted former lad-mag editor, who not all that long ago was teaching "old people how to do sit-ups on cruise ships," and whose idea of journalistic legwork is using the search box at FoxNews.com.
Gutfeld's winding road to right-wing punditry began as a student at UC-Berkeley during the 1980s. There he developed hatred for the left rooted in splenetic tendencies and cultural resentments more than any engagement with campus protest. Thirty years later, Gutfeld still doesn't know anything about the era he says forged his political identity. In The Joy of Hate, he shrugs off the debate over Reagan's Central America policies by calling it a bunch of "stupid crap" about which he says he'd "be lying if I told you I had a clue." This is just one of many similar asides, and after a while you start to wonder if it's part of an act when he jokes about not knowing the major combatants of World War II. Such self-denigrating honesty might not fortify Gutfeld's qualifications as an ascendant pundit, but it should at least have given his book a sole endearing quality. But it doesn't. The host of Fox News' The Five and Red Eye (and sometimes sub for Bill O'Reilly) isn't really being self-deprecating. He's bragging.
Which makes Gutfeld's book worthy of note when paired with the question: What does it say about the future of conservatism that Fox News keeps expanding the role of a man-child with so little interest in or knowledge about politics?
When pundits like Gutfeld don't have much to say, but want to sell some books, they pilgrimage to the corpse of "political correctness," which the right entombed after the success of Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought To Be launched the conservative publishing boom 20 years ago. The twist distinguishing Gutfeld's paint-by-the-numbers entry from so many other titles in the Crown Forum back catalogue is homoerotic or gay-themed humor, a staple of Gutfeld's on-air personae since he joined Fox in 2007 as the host of Red Eye, following a career in publishing spanning The American Spectator, Men's Health, Prevention, Stuff, and the British edition of Maxim. Last year, he became a co-host of The Five, the fact-challenged panel show that replaced Glenn Beck's vacated 5 p.m. slot.
Like so many have before, Gutfeld argues in his book that America is "under attack" by a liberal "tolerati" that has acquired tyrannical powers to police the boundaries of acceptable speech. He quickly stretches the point into farcical tolerance determinism. The tolerati (led by Media Matters, which he terms "the ventriloquist" while "the liberal media is the dummy") dictates a "fetishized tolerance [that] is at the root of every single major political conflict we're experiencing now -- from terrorism to climate change, from birth control to the left's weird indifference to large-scale, destructive evil." His proposed solution is as simple as it is self-serving: more jerks like Greg Gutfeld. "We need to be jerks, smart intolerant jerks," writes the Fox News star. "We need the idiocy of open-mindedness with happy judgmentalism."
Gutfeld's book is a crash course in Jerk Studies, a collection of conversational riffs and rants on America's "poop stars" and "vagina demagogues." Together they explain why, if you hold The Joy of Hate to your ear like a conch, you will hear not the ocean, but the sound of a particular brand of wiseass white entitlement accelerating its long slide down the wrong side of history.