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How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)
Book Reviews

How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)

Gutfeld serves up more witticisms, hygiene tips, and career advice to unfunny conservatives in his latest.

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It’s not enough to be right these days. Especially when you’re Right.” If Greg Gutfeld, media personality and clam aficionado, demonstrates a clear preference for right-of-centrism, that’s cool, because that’s exactly the audience he’s aiming for in How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct, his latest assemblage of words and thoughts.

Part survival guide for conservatives and libertarians (and maybe conservative libertarians) hoping to survive in the ongoing culture wars, Gutfeld aims his rapier wit and unicorn-drenched dispatches at those hapless souls who always manage to snatch electoral defeat from the jaws of victory. Doing so means playing up the funny – and the absurd. “Absurdity always ends up servicing your point better (at least among the intelligent) than if you were to voice sincere, even appropriate anger.

This not only disarms your opponents, often hysterically, but helps quash otherwise avoidable low-hanging fruit like social (media) faux paux, off-color quips, and plenty of other stupid crap from derailing future employment and happy marriages. As Gutfeld tells it “Republicans handle humor the way Democrats handle your money: badly.

So for these folks he cuts a wide selection of expected talking points, tackling everything from white privilege, feminism, Obama, microaggressions, climate change, gun control, free speech, more Obama, immigration, fracking, and more Obama still.

The other, more interesting part (for me, anyway), is Greg’s biographical insight, where he not only reveals the magic and mystery behind his impressive body (of work), but how he got there, and offers pointers how budding writers can avoid the perils and pitfalls that so easily lead to failure. And how, in a pinch, it never hurts to keep your dear old mom in mind.

Fact: conservative media, Fox News in particular, has been selling Gutfeld as their side’s own version of the Jon Stewart / Stephen Colbert model, or even a slightly pudgier, less British John Oliver. The ideal talking head on your Squawk Box, telling you what to think, how to think it, and – with any luck – having you do the same for others. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The format is solid gold: a likable host humorously satirizing the news, engineered for maximum sharing and dissemination. That none of these shows is a rating bonanza matters much (none attract the sustained viewership of Fox News’ The Five, co-hosted by Gutfeld). They don’t need to. A readymade army of ideologically-minded websites, blogs, social-media, cable news and other streaming-friendly outlets are only too happy to share marquee clips to countless millions of readers, watchers, fans and friends alike. As Gutfeld points out, “an entire industry/delivery system that agrees with them (the media, minus Fox News).” Gutfeld also asserts that without them (the GOP and conservative pundits) their shows would eventually fade away, too. He’s got a point.

In raw numbers, the cult of personality is strong with them: both Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show and Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show have seen catastrophic drops in ratings, both shows averaging roughly 30 – 40 percent less viewers under their new leaders. Worse, it looks like younger viewers aren’t tuning in like before as neither host seems to generate the buzz-worthy clippage that came so easily to Stewart and Colbert. In many respects, John Oliver’s HBO show, Last Week Tonight, appears to have assumed this role nicely (hardly shocking, given that Oliver was always Stewart’s true heir apparent). Sometimes it’s the message; most times, however, it’s the messenger.

Meanwhile, conservative media, at least mainstream household name-type conservative media (read: television) is almost entirely comprised of Fox News and, well, that’s about it. But when it comes to spreading Gutfeld over the masses, like garlic butter, those programs featuring him as a draw, ones like The Five, Red Eye, and his latest, The Greg Gutfeld Show, rely almost entirely on a single news outlet: Fox News itself.

If you’re seeing Gutfeld clips outside this bubble they’re usually on rival, if not outright hostile, networks, blogs, social-media feeds or Cat Fancy forums (they are legion). For them, anything Gutfeld says easily slips right into the template of perpetual outrage, rich in the saliva of pre-chewed opinion.

In short, it’s the complete inverse of what happens with the Stewarts and Colberts of the world; for these willing sycophants, many force-fed a steady diet of empty calories built on personality and acceptance, nothing Gutfeld or his peers say will ever be ‘funny’ enough for them, despite often playing by the exact same template. Conservatives and liberals simply aren’t funny, and never will be. And Greg Gutfeld is a toad. That probably won’t change. Whatever, you’ll never convince me that Bill O’Reilly’s infamous “We’ll Do It Live (Fuck It)” remix isn’t hilarious. Look it up.

Just Get To The Samples, Already

Honestly, there isn’t much here to actually ‘review’ as much as there’s plenty to overview, so I’ll indulge those hoping for a taste of what Gutfeld has engineered this time around. In short, this new book is largely the same as the others, meaning you’ll love/loathe it in equal measure, thus managing to qualify for that most notable of designations: awesome bathroom reading material.

Here’s a few samples, hopelessly out of context, just so I don’t lose your attention. If you’re still interested there’s better, more in-depth analysis and commentary to follow. If, however, any of these bon mots do the trick for you or like-minded loved ones, holiday shopping just got that much easier. Enjoy.

“Why does the left have no Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, or Bruce Willis? Will there ever be a left-wing action figure? (And no, Ed Begley Jr. doesn’t count.)”

“Obama whining about Fox News is like a football player bad-mouthing the only cheerleader who won’t sleep with him.”

US Presidents that would’ve never been elected had there been an internet: “George Washington: wooden teeth, slave owner, powdered wig. Twitter would have eaten him alive.”

Gender differences feminists deny: “Grandmoms are from magical planets while granddads fart.”

On immigration: “I can’t believe for a second that a young Cuban actually looks at an Occupy Wall Streeter and thinks, ‘I want to be like that. I want to crap in the street and eat out of garbage cans.’”

Happy now? For those of you still with me (the check’s in the mail) let’s actually take a look at some of the more substantive goodies here, the ones that may not fit on a bumper sticker but might be better for you.

Chapter 7, “How To Be A Successful Miscreant, Like Me”, is the book’s best, most interesting piece, especially for those looking to break into the industry. Gutfeld admits he wasn’t a likely candidate for fame and fortune, but his slow climb from lowly intern to media celebrity was one of his own choosing, even if he wasn’t always fond of the ladder. “My first HuffPo blog post was a recipe for lemon squares – a splotch of absurdity in a sea of earnest left-wing bullshit.

Here is advice tht just might help you avoid eating cold hot dogs straight from the package, like celery, and fending off armies of cockroaches whilst crashing in abandoned buildings. But keep your expectations – and goals – in check. Gutfeld’s sage advice includes: do anything, anything, you’re asked, write anything. But just keep writing until you’ve got something. “Realistic goals are less paralyzing, and when achieved are every bit as satisfying.”

As important as it might be for aspiring writers to read chapter seven carefully (I’m watching all of you…), Chapter 8’s “How Pretending to Be Stupid Makes You a Winner” may be the book’s real trump card, taking readers on a backyard tour of his (in)famous Fox News late-night show, Red Eye, “the weirdest show on TV.”

The show’s concept, he says, was to break from the safety net of self-congratulatory fawning and applause of lockstep, blind ideology by engaging in what he calls “the kerfuffle of notions.” To help foster dialogue between opposing forces of Left and Right, the idea that “tribalism – or belonging to a team – was secondary to following your gut instinct.

I’m conservative on the economy, but okay with things like drugs, prostitution, and gambling. I’m pro-life but also pro–gay marriage. I can’t stand Al Sharpton but I also have a problem with Cliven Bundy. I didn’t think Trayvon Martin was an innocent, but the dude who shot him was a full-on creep. Not everything is ideologically pure.

Ultimately, Gutfeld suggests, forget killing them with kindness; disarm them with some good, old-fashioned self-induced stupidity. Then go in for the kill. “Win in three,” he says, his formula for cultivating just the right mix of lowered inhibitions in those who might otherwise tear your face off, thus making them susceptible for a proper conversation, are as follows:

People like helping out those they think are slower than them. Be that slow person.
People like pretending to be experts – your dumb questions turn them into experts
When you destroy them, they never see it coming.

If you think Greg Gutfeld is one of the funniest people on television then you’re going to love How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct, as it’s another helping of his unique brand (no, not Russel Brand) of satire, served hot and spicy. If, on the other hand, you find him a smarmy, indulgent, and self-righteous prick, you’ll find all that here, too. I don’t think he’d fault you for either opinion, just as long as you buy the book.

About the Author: Nathan Evans