Pros: Well reasoned (if not always convincing) arguments.
Cons: Too poltically incorrect for my tastes in several instances.
I found this one in the bargain bin and made a quick assessment that told me the following: (1) It was a book about political correctness run amuck; (2) It was by an author I'd never heard of; and (3) It was three bucks. I figured at the very least there should be some good stories of people insisting that we call the thing in the street a person-hole cover. When I got the book home and took a closer look, I discovered (in part thanks to the Bill O'Reilly pull quote on the front cover) that Smerconish is a conservative talk radio host, columnist, and lawyer. This made me less confident that I'd spent my $3 wisely, but I decided to give it a shot just the same.
Muzzled is not the kind of book I'm used to seeing from right-wing talking heads. For one thing, Smerconish actually cites his sources. While not all these sources are necessarily trustworthy or unbiased, they are quite a bit better than the purely anecdotal evidence you usually see in books of this sort. More importantly, Smerconish does not simply launch into the expected knee-jerk reaction or GOP talking points about certain issues. For example, though he doesn't support gay marriage (or at least he doesn't want to call it "marriage"), he acknowledges that gay people are, well, people who have rights. He also notes that allowing same sex unions is not going to cause many straight guys to trade in their families for hot man on man action.
Many of the stories that Smerconish covers involve instances where the PC crowd has reacted without first learning the facts. A typical example is the "racist" Philadelphia Daily News cover story about murder suspects being sought by police. All the suspects pictured on the cover were minorities. The reason? The only white murder suspects the police were looking for at the time were already in custody. The paper ended up issuing an apology for printing a story that, when not looked at through knee-jerk political correctness goggles, actually highlights the unfortunate fact that our society produces (perhaps with the help of racially biased police forces) a disproportionate number of minority murder suspects.
Smerconish also talks about many instances of what George Carlin called "the pussification of America"-educators, parents, and even sports coaches who have decided that their precious children should be so equal that it's wrong to admit that some are naturally more talented than others in certain areas. These are the people who want to give trophies to everyone, stop keeping score if one team gets ahead, and get rid of red ink on tests because such a shocking color might upset the precious darlings. As you may have already guessed, I generally agree with Mr. Smerconish that this kind of thing is ultimately bad for the kids involved and for America.
Smerconish organizes the book very smartly. Early in the book, he sticks to situations that most people will agree are taking things too far, providing a nice slippery slope from which to argue against things that aren't so cut and dried. By the end of the book, when Mike fumes because every single terrorist on 24 isn't a Muslim, he gets closer to the crazy right-wing nut I was expecting after seeing the Bill-O endorsement, but such wild-eyed insanity is relatively rare.
While Smerconish arrives at a number of conclusions I strongly disagree with, he at least shows us how he made his decisions, usually in an entertaining way. My biggest gripe about the writing itself is Smerconish's insistence on using the title of the book (in all caps) as often as possible, often in throwaway sentences like "Talk about MUZZLED." I'm not sure whether Smerconish misunderstands basic marketing (I've already bought the book, no need to advertise to me) or just thinks the title is much cleverer than it is, but the constant self-promotion gets old after a while.