Sunday, September 5, 2010
"The Backlash:Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters--
And Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama
Imagine (or maybe you don't have to) that you were curious about the tea-people. You've been wondering why they have beliefs that differ from yours to such a degree, why they hold opinions that seem out of step with reality, and are too easy to label as "uninformed" or "racist". Then, imagine that a journalist with whom you are familiar, Will Bunch, who wrote a well-researched book detailing the successes and the short-comings of the somewhat sainted president Ronald Reagan, had written a book about just that very subject. He managed to be fair in that other book, even-handed, and long on research, so you thought, "Maybe I'll order Backlash."
The book is written in second-person, which is occasionally awkward, but other than that, the book is a well-researched look at what is motivating the people who oppose President Obama, his policies, and the "liberals" in general, labeling the first, "a Muslim, Kenyan, communist" the second, "fascism" or "Communism", depending upon how the mood strikes, and as for liberals? Either "fascists", "useful idiots", or "elites", also depending upon how the mood strikes.
Bunch analyzes the relationship between what these people are hearing through talk radio and cable news to try and relate how some folks have been stirred, shaken, folded, spindled, and mutilated out of tune with objective reality. One main culprit in all this is, naturally Glenn Beck.
He doesn't make Beck out to be a villain, so much as recognizes that Beck is more of a self-seeking personality, a self-described "rodeo clown" who shills for Goldline.com just as easily as he he shills for his vision of God and country--
And then the real picture of "hucksterism" unfolds: who benefits from all this rhetoric that paints a nightmare where everything has changed (when, honestly, very little has--with the exception of the economy starting to gain jobs and the passing of legislation that has strengthened the social safety net) and that the president is not to be trusted? Well, it's the people who try to profit from disaster in general, in some cases, like the aforementioned Goldline and Solutions from Science and are perfectly willing to take a huge profit from their alarmed and misinformed customers while they're at it.
When these people are curling up with radical books like W.Cleon Skousen's The 5,000 Year Leap, or listening to the likes of David Barton's history revisionism (ably contradicted by people like Chris Rodda)--what else might they be soaking up from Glenn Beck University? A pitch! To buy gold, or seeds, or to buy into an idea that America is chaging into something dark and weird. Beck talks about faith, hope, and charity, but he's telling people to put their faith in the idea things will get worse, offers no hope, and, to be charitable, might tithe a little bit while he's raking in Huge Wads of Money but he's making more money for fellow grifters.
I think this is a smart, well-done book. Bunch talked with a number of the people who participate in these Tea Party rallies and affiliated groups, and tried to show how these are just regular folks that have acquired some irregular ideas that they are very, very vocal about. His treatment of them is fair, at times sympathetic but not condescending.
I think this book is pretty good; it's well-written and timely. I recommend it.