Book Check: "An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal's Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media" by Joe Muto
Rating Using Random Objects Related to the Book's Subject: 3.75 Hannitys out of 5.
How bad is Sean Hannity? Actually, the book focuses more on Bill O'Reilly, who, despite all deficiencies, is probably not that bad of a guy. Hannity, on the other hand, is portrayed as dumb, petty and ratings obsessed. On which more below.
A Brief Plot Synopsis: A freshly-minted Notre Dame grad who is fairly liberal accepts a job at Fox News in NYC because he has no other options. Over the course of the next eight years, he works there, and it turns out he's got some pretty interesting stories, including how he became the Gawker mole which led to his termination from Fox.
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Subtitle: A Liberal's Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media.
Better Subtitle: Hi, I'm Joe and I'm a liberal. I have some funny stories to tell you about working at Fox News.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The book switches back and forth between Muto's unceremonious exit from Fox -- i.e., the events leading up to his mole status being sniffed out -- and a (largely) chronological journey from being a liberal Notre Dame grad to getting a job as a production assistant at Fox. The first few years are more of a "this is what it's like to work in cable news," but the book really picks up when Muto is promoted to work on Bill O'Reilly's show. Muto works on O'Reilly's show -- the highest rate cable news show for years -- and is privy to a behind-the-scenes look at how the sausage that is Fox News gets made.
"Critical" Analysis: This is a liberal's beach book read: light, easy and mostly fun. (As an aside, I think a conservative might actually find it interesting as well if he or she cares about how cable news gets delivered and the gossipy parts). Muto's problem -- and thankfully it stops about 75 pages into the book (the book is a little over 300 pages) -- is that he tries too hard to be funny, dropping David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes like:
An odd side note -- my interview was Friday, June 4, 2004, the day before Ronald Reagan died. The news reports all gave pneumonia as the cause of death, but I'm like 30 percent certain he ended his own life he'd sensed that Fox was on the verge of hiring a goddamn commie/hippie like me.
You didn't laugh? Me neither. (Also, Wallace's footnotes were usually funny).
Thankfully, as I noted, Muto drops this annoying habit and gets down to business: telling inside stories about what it's like to work at Fox and gossipy tidbits about the personalities ("talent") at Fox. Now, I don't want this review to be a spoiler in case you want to buy the book, but I will whet your appetite: Sean Hannity is dumb and a partisan hack (you already knew that), you'll be surprised about Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly probably isn't a conservative and just playing one on TV, and, if you're interested in how Fox actually produces its shows, you'll be engaged on that point as well.
There really are enough funny stories -- some laugh out loud funny -- to justify buying this book. But buy it used or wait for the trade paperback.
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