Welcome Will Bunch and Host, Cliff Schecter.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, Hi-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

It’s been quite a few years. While the usual suspects on the Professional Right threaten to burn books, those of us in the reality-based community sometimes peer at them to try and make sense of an ongoing economic disaster and resulting surge in right-wing populism. These two gale-wind crises, working in unison, have given rise to both an inexorable oligarchic elite on the one hand, and on the other, a cavalcade of angry, middle-aged, portly, pasty whites wearing funny hats and saying not-so funny things about Americans and America.

Luckily for us, the past few months have provided some masterful works that have provided insight both into what has happened and what will happen, if we don’t take the violent and sometimes merely threatening deadly serious.

That’s where the great Will Bunch comes in–hang gliding into our super-egos with his brilliant analysis and addictive prose that lay bare the epic convulsions our nation is enduring. In The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama, Will provides us with the kind of inside view that comes with a first-rate journalist with the courage and moxie to engage in badinage with the Tea Lovers where they live and breath. But it is his superb analysis that still takes the day, impressively applying the works of a half-century ago by Pulitzer Prize winning Historian Richard Hofstadter on “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” I must admit to being rather partial to Hofstadter myself as a Ph.D student in American History a few years back, as there was simply nobody else I came across who had read, lived and could feel the pulse of our political age.

As Will points out in the book, Hofstadter wasn’t “clairvoyant,” and could not have predicted a 24-hour television station whose entire business model is, quite frankly, the paranoid style (he died of leukemia in 1970). Or other technological and cultural changes that have placed us at this political fork in the road. But he did provide some clues, a code if you will, which Bunch has cracked and applied to the lunacy we see engulfing this very nation every day.

As Will acts as your tour guide, even bringing you in further with his use of the 2nd person throughout the book, you find yourself at places you never heard of such as the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in West Point Kentucky. I’d explain, but that one’s a bit self-explanatory. And then, by far, the most frightening place Will takes us: Inside Glenn Beck’s tattered cerebrum. In the chapter “Becklash,” you get as close to Beck’s chilling “thoughts” as any sentient being can–without a valium cocktail and box of scrubbing bubbles.

Suffice it to say that even if you think you know a lot about the Far Right (which I studied as a grad student), you ain’t seen nothing yet. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, Will introduces you to the hucksters trying to flip a quick buck by conning you using the fear and uncertainty of our age as one big con. Ain’t America grand!

This is simply a terrific book. It is engrossing due to all I mentioned above, but also, quite simply, because in addition to being a blogger, columnist, and author, Will is a writer. The vivid descriptions he provides often make you feel like you’re along for the ride, certainly enough so to check twice under your bed and lock the doors before you shuttle off to dreamland.

Will Bunch has done us all a service by writing The Backlash, a book that’s so important, so accessible, and so very timely. I couldn’t recommend buying a book with more enthusiasm. So, um, buy this book!

And with that, I welcome Will Bunch to the FDL book salon bearing his name and work.

145 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Will Bunch, The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, Hi-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama”

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Hi Will! And hi everyone else here to learn more about this important book. Let me start with this question, Will. Do you think the intensity of the Backlash would have been the same if the economic crisis were just as bad but we had a white protestant Democratic President, or even a Republican one in office instead?

More economics or more Obama or equal parts both?

BTW if anyone didn’t know, “schecter” would be me, your humble host, Cliff Schecter

BevW September 12th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Will, Welcome back to the Lake.

Cliff, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

egregious September 12th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Welcome to Firedoglake – so glad you could join us today!

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Hi everybody,

To loosely paraphrase a certain POTUS — I am logged in and ready to go! Fire away about what the Tea Party is all about or Glenn Beck or the radicalization of the GOP, etc, etc!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:02 pm
In response to BevW @ 2

Thanks Bev! It’s my pleasure to be here…

bgrothus September 12th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Welcome to all, I am puzzled by how effective the hucksters have become at turning the Tea Baggage against their own self interests. How does that work?

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Hi Cliff,

That’s a great question — it’s hard to pull those two factors apart. I think at the core, the shock of a non-white president for a group already overwhelmed by cultural change (i.e., America evolving to a non-white majority by 2050, among other things) is the thing that gives the Tea party movement life. I think the economic crisis poured gasoline on that fire — it created more angry people who were not available to donote their time (so many people are unemployed or prematurely retired) to the Tea Parties.

dakine01 September 12th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Will welcome to FDL this afternoon and Cliff, welcome back!

Will, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but looks from Cliff’s intro like I may have to try to find it.

I do have a question and forgive me if you answer in the book but haven’t Hucksters and Paranoia always been prime ingredients in the US political scene with the main difference today being the 24/7/365 nature of their craziness?

bgrothus September 12th, 2010 at 2:07 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 6

I really am thinking about their ECONOMIC self-interest, why do they not see that the rich are not their BFFs?

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:07 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 7

Thx Will. Makes lots of sense.

When you get a chance, would love to hear about any experiences that might have even opened your eyes. Like, a “wow” moment, this movement really could be dangerous…

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

bgrothus,

It works by creating a climate of non-stop fear and then moving seamlessly and effectively back and forth between generating worry about the collapse of American society — accelerated by the arrival of “socialist” or “communist” Barack Obama — and offering comfort through (overpriced, ripoff) coins from Goldline International or indestructable canisters of “survival seed banks.” To his fans, Beck is a trustworthy figure who can do no wrong, even when he sells them junk!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:08 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 8

Thx for the kind welcome :)

bgrothus September 12th, 2010 at 2:11 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 11

Well, I guess if they are the ones who buy his coins/seeds, then he is the most conflict-of-interest huckster out there. What a bastard. I hope I live to see the day they turn on him.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Cliff, I think I went into it pretty mindful of the dangers — especially the unhinged people like cop-killer Richad Poplawski out in Pittsburgh or Byron Williams in Oakland who take seriously the babblings of people like Glenn Beck.
I was more wowed by the willingness of Tea Parties to believe almost anything to question the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency — the most shocking thing was a long conversation I had with the movement leaders down in Delaware who believed that Obama lost the 2008 election by every masure except the Electorial College (even though in reality he got 53 percent of the vote.)

Watt4Bob September 12th, 2010 at 2:14 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 11

To his fans, Beck is a trustworthy figure who can do no wrong, even when he sells them junk!

Sort of reminds me of the whole Jim and Tammy Fay Baker episode.

I knew some old folks who really ate all that up, and were quite embarassed into silence when the wheels came off.

Of course Beck is a couple orders of magnitude closer to the devil, but the same sort of clients.

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Woot Will Bunch and Schecter, two of my favorite people!

Welcome.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Watt4Bob,

You are right on the mark with that analogy — clearly Beck is consciously modeling his career path right now after the top televangelists. Why? I think for fun — he loves entertainers like the late Orson Welles and people who have the ability to manipulate emotions — and make lots of money. So the affinity with televangelists — which we saw in full bloom on 8/28 — is a natural one!

dakine01 September 12th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 11

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” pre-fills the name of the commenter and the commenter number you are replying to (saves a few key strokes) and allows everyone to more easily follow the ‘conversation’

Note: Some browsers don’t let the Reply work correctly if it is pressed before the page completes loading after it has been refreshed.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Spocko in da house! Whoot!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 14

Yeah, you point out very well in your book that the difference in the “paranoid style” now from different ages is the ability for people to literally get all their news from outlets that cater to it. Rick Perlstein recently wrote a column for the NY Times online basically saying this. That the loons would have been ignored or people would have been warned about them (and were) by a responsible news media not just looking for ratings or ideological soulmates, back in the 50s. Think Murrow and McCarthy, for example. Today, you can literally listen to the radio, watch tv, read a paper, read an online site and everywhere get an exactly alternative view of reality. It is scary. It is something that the Right set out to do (for anyone here interested a) buy Will’s book b) google “The Powell Memo”), and accomplished beyond their wildest dreams…

Antonio Gramsci, “he who controls the culture, controls the politics”…

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:19 pm
In response to spocko @ 16

Hey Spocko. Thanks for the kind hello, ole chap..

bgrothus September 12th, 2010 at 2:21 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 15

And giving new meaning to the “Stations of the CROSS”

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Dakine,

You are absolutely right and I write of this in “The Backlash.” What’s changed since the first heyday of the John Birch Society in the 1960s is that movement had to spread by mimeograph, where now things go viral on the Web and Fox News. And what’s most appalling is that you have supposed adults — people on Fox with a national platform or elected officials like Michele Bachmann or Paul Broun, whom I profile in the book, who fan these flames rather than tamp them.

Will

eCAHNomics September 12th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

So TPers are nuts.

OTOH, the Ds have given us no reason to vote for them. The net result of the TPers is to push the U.S. pols even farther right. The Ds are now to the right of Nixon, if not Reagan.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:23 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 20

Yup — one thing that squelched the John Birch Society by the mid to late 1960s was William F. Buckley and GOP establishment worked against them, while today’s GOP leaders are egging on the Tea Party as a full partner.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 24

Clearly there’s a Democratic fail here, and while it’s not a main focus I certainly note in the book that Beck and Palin know how to reach the disaffected white middle class by manipulation their emotions in ways that “rational” Dems can or won’t do. But emotion almost always trumps reason (think about your own life :-) )

eCAHNomics September 12th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 26

think about your own life

Um, my son, now 29, once called me the most rational person he knows. So the only way I can ‘understand’ these nutcases is intellectually. Nothing about them resonates with me.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:32 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 26

Would some non-robot like Dems be an antidote here Will? If you think about it, in the past progressives had some real barn burners (as opposed to book burners) who stood for good policy but also appealed to people’s passion for social change. There are a few today. But you think if we got some more there wouldn’t have been that empty space that Beck and Palin et al filled with bogus explanations of what went wrong…

Watt4Bob September 12th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 26

But emotion almost always trumps reason …

Emotion is easy, reason takes work and besides the ‘thinkers’ of the right like Buckley, Gingrich and Buchanan didn’t save us from the liberals and their jihadi president did they?

Snark

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

One of the things I’m curious about are how we can link the hosts incitement of violence to the people who then act on it.

Every time there is a “lone wolf” incident of someone on the right attacking the people, the hosts quickly distance themselves from the act.

Any act to suggest the hosts be held responsible for inciting violence is often beat down by people on the left who are free speech advocates– as in “I don’t like what he has to say but I’ll defend to the death his right to say it.”

To counter this I’ve been thinking about another approach. Fox News has spent considerable money to promote events, sometimes using “fighting words”. If there is an incident of violence –say toward a Muslim at one of Fox’s sponsored and promoted events — might their insurance carrier have to pay? Forcing the insurance carriers to calculate the liability and inform the broadcaster of the cost upfront might have an impact.

BTW, I have used this tactic successfully to get a RW radio event held in front of Nancy Pelosi’s office and got it moved to a less deadly location. (I contacted the company that carried the broadcaster’s event liability insurance)

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

eCAHNomics,

It’s hard to get them rationally — illogical things like the “birther theory” is an attempt to develop “facts” to help with their gut reaction that someone like Obama can’t be sitting in the Oval office.

eCAHNomics September 12th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 31

It’s hard to get them rationally

You got that right.

Elliott September 12th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Welcome to the Lake you two,

any comment on the Obama the Kenyan Crazy Train that is now running out of control? Forbes Jumps the Shark

….If Obama shares his father’s anticolonial crusade, that would explain why he wants people who are already paying close to 50% of their income in overall taxes to pay even more….Obama supports the Ground Zero mosque because to him 9/11 is the event that unleashed the American bogey and pushed us into Iraq and Afghanistan. He views some of the Muslims who are fighting against America abroad as resisters of U.S. imperialism….Finally, NASA. No explanation other than anticolonialism makes sense of Obama’s curious mandate to convert a space agency into a Muslim and international outreach.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 28

You bet, Cliff — think about Martin Luther King, who we’ve been talking about so much lately. The clear moral wrong of segregaton, etc., was a chance for liberal to seize America’s emotional high ground, and for a short time they did. But it’s been a long time since a liberal leader has helped people connect emotionally with a progressive agenda, and Obama is probably not your man for that.

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to spocko @ 30

I also like to remind people that this specific tactic was used by the right against the radio station KPFA.

KPFA had to be very careful about even mentioning events and what people should do at those events because of feared, “insurance liability”.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:39 pm
In response to Elliott @ 33

Hi Elliott — as noted, Obama is not their idea of what the American president should look or be like — therefore he must be from Kenya. Of course, it helps when you have former House Speaker Gingrich buying into the crazy.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 36

I notice Dinesh D’Souza wrote that piece. Will probably would have something to say about his Reagan love too :)

I am interested Will if any specific event go you interested in writing this book, or if it was just an overall idea that developed over a while…

donbacon September 12th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 11

It works by creating a climate of non-stop fear

Exactly — and the Bush fear-beat goes on with Obama, including:
* twenty-three (23) current “national emergencies” declared by executive order
* alert code yellow, orange “imminent threat” at airports
* increasing interior highway checkpoints, operated by brown-shirt Border Patrol agents

hackworth1 September 12th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 28

Sounds like Obama you’re describing. Once he got the job, all the progressive change went out the Overton Window.

What merit exists in pointing out the Palin Beck Freak Show, when our guy has ignored The Rule of Law regarding their Adminstration which lied us into perpetual war? (Our guy has continued the Bush Doctrine, for that matter.)

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to spocko @ 30

Spocko,

I would encourage any and all activities that remind Glenn Beck and his cohorts on Fox more responsible — just because they have a right to free speech does not mean they should be allowed without condemnation to incite violence, as they do when they demonize a group like the Tides Foundation or Dr. Tiller or give people permission to believe in FEMA concentration camps. That said, I’m a journalist — the activism piece is up to you :-).

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 37

It was more over a while — I started thinking hard about the war between reason and irrationality during the Palin campaign of ’08, with the inane things that she said and the large numbers of people she could get behind her. Then it was 2009 and the Tea Party was born and while as an American I was somewhat alarmed, as a journalist I knew a great story when I saw one.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to donbacon @ 38

Don, after you buy and read “The Backlash” — :-) — check out “Washington Rules” by Andrew Bacevich, which I just finished last night. It is very depressing on the inability to dump the permanent national security state in this country.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 39

Hackworth, there are a million stories in the naked city, and the rise of the Tea party and the insanity of much of the Obama backlash is the one I chose to tell. I’m sure other authors will tackle the progressive fails of recent years.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 39

Will can explain for himself why he sees the merit in this. As for me, its important for us to know what Obama is up to too, as an educated populace is a better prepared one. And just as some point out where and when Obama is doing bad things, it is important for everone, IMHO, to know what the Beck/Palin faction is up to–and Will does that masterfully. To say any more about this I’d have to write a treatise. And this is Will’s day. So I’ll close my yap…

eblair September 12th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Mr. Bunch, do you think that if the US had a truth commission as Sheldon Whitehouse and Pat Leahy wanted, that that would have mitigated the paranoia that you found in the US?

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 2:52 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 39

What merit exists in pointing out the Palin Beck Freak Show, when our guy has ignored The Rule of Law regarding their Adminstration which lied us into perpetual war?

You describe very closely what went through my mind yesterday, as I decided not to drive the ten miles from my house to watch Palin in Wasilla, then drive 50 miles to Anchorage and witness the Palin-Beck event on 9-11 that they claimed was “inadvertent” and to then write about it. Reading Greenwald on how Obama has immunized the worst of Bush’s worst on a day about which we’re forced to believe a pack of fucking lies bothered me too, and they all came together, so I took my dog to the mountains and hiked all day.

That being said, as with Will Bunch, reading Richard Hofstadter at an early age forever changed how I look at American politics, and I look forward to reading The Backlash, even though I see no hope at all for our political future.

Lorraine Watkins September 12th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

But it’s been a long time since a liberal leader has helped people connect emotionally with a progressive agenda, and Obama is probably not your man for that.

Well said. That describes the situation for liberals.as we speak. And no effective spokesman is likely to emerge until Obama leaves the scene.

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 40

Thanks. Since it’s here in San Francisco, I found the planned attack on the Tides Foundation very chilling. The ongoing violence directed toward abortion doctors and clinics is also disturbing. Having read the FCC regulations closely I know how weak they are regarding incitement of violence.

I also find it rather fascinating that remnants of truth in advertising laws haven’t been used against Beck and his ilk. But since they happen during the “editorial” part of the show they are ignored.

GlenJo September 12th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Will, Cliff, thanks for being here today.

There are many angry people out there (I’m going to have to put myself in this category, to a lesser degree) including many Democrats.

Why didn’t Obama go FDR populist? He could have stolen the teabagger thunder in 2009 if he had just gone there first.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to eblair @ 45

Well, I certainly think there should have been (and still should be) a Truth Commission to explore the many crimes of the Bush years. But I don’t think that would have affected the things that really animate the Tea Party, especially their fears about cultural change — multiculturalism, Spanish-speaking immigration, gay marriage, etc. — and their notion that “I want my country back!”

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 49

Thx GlenJo. Always good to be back here.

Will – I have a question for you (only if you’re comfortable answering). Being that so much of the MSM has fallen into the “he said, she said” model of “balance” and not really telling us anything, have you ever felt like the fact that you tell it like it is, and call out people in an informative way, leads others among the MSM to view you suspiciously–like you’re not playing by village (or Village) rules?

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 46

Edward,
I share your frustrations with the immunization of the Bush/Cheney war crimes, etc.
Remember what Dylan said — “Don’t follow leaders — watch the parking meters.” The only person you can trust to fight for the right things is..yourself. Don’t give up.

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Will, you mentioned the fear of Spanish-speaking immigration. Did you get a sense of talking to any of the tea partiers of ones that are more apt to use a “second amendment solution” to their perceived problems?

hackworth1 September 12th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Those are thoughtful answers. I was concerned that (in an effort to point to the effects and circus antics of the clown posse) you may have succumbed to the Obamabot disease.

Glenn Greenwald taught me that we need not like or dislike the “personality” of any President – that is pointless. We should concern ourselves with policies. That is not an easy lesson for the public, generally.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 49

GlenJo — I think we should see how the next few weeks plays out. I can’t imagine Obama ever saying what FDR said — “I welcome their hatred” — but he started the fall on a much more populist note, so I think he’s moving in the right direction…he can got a lot farther!

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:03 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 54

Hackworth — my point exactly!

eblair September 12th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

To what extent do you think the Tea Party has been co-opted? Aren’t there many Tea Parties? And so isn’t it a oversimplification to treat it as univocal? After all, the “Tea Party” was originally associated with Ron Paul, but now has become associated with Beck and Palin. If we are really opposed to vilification, then shouldn’t we be making these finer distinctions?

eCAHNomics September 12th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I’d point out that despite all the fearmongering by W & O, Americans are a lot more rational than you think. Only 1% think terrorism is a big problem. In fact, more people were killed by dog bites in the U.S. last year than by terrorism (25), leading me to suggest that terrorists should replace dogs as man’s best friend. Furthermore, the TP rallies have been pretty much of a bust despite huge $$ poured in by Koch et al. (Disclosure: I was jogging south next to East River around 60th St. when first plane hit WTC. When I traveled around after that, I noticed that non-Manhattanites seemed to be much more scared about terrorism than Manhattanites.)

Scarecrow September 12th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Will, Cliff — an unanswered question is how much is true craziness unable to recognize itself and how much is cynical manipulation of the crazies by those who realize their objects are crazy but are more than willing to exploit them. e.g., there’s Newt Gingrich and there’s Fox News and All Stars. Seems to me the more dangerous are the cynical manipupulators, not the crazies themselves.

How do you see this difference? Which is the more dangerous? And how does our strategy change, depending on which is the greater danger?

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 46

What? You didn’t go? I wanted to see some laugh a minute videos! I guess I’ll just have to watch another episode of “OWw! My Balls!”

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 52

Thanks. I have no intention of giving up, just – like you, I suppose – trying to find a better triage method for picking my next battles.

What do you think it is going to take for the media to finally do their job and collate all the damning information out there on Palin and force her into being relegated to something akin to Aimee Semple McPherson status?

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to spocko @ 60

I didn’t go, but the events were both very fully covered.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to eblair @ 57

Hi eblair — well, of course the book makes a lot of those distinctions — you should buy it! :-) In fact, the activist group I write about in greatest detail is not a “Tea Party” at all but the Delaware 9-12 Patriots, inspired by Glenn Beck. If the movement co-opted. To some degree, the role of big business types like the Kock Brothers is pushing the movement can’t be ignored.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 59

From my perspective they’re not always mutually exclusive. Beck seems to be in it for the money, largely. But if you know his past history (squabbles, drug addiction, etc) its not too hard to determine that perhaps there is something not quite right upstairs…

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 61

The media will not stand for the silencing of Levy Johnson! The good news? Bristol has made the cast of Dancing with the Stars, and will need to do more press interviews. I believe she will crack under the pressure — after her failed Samba routine. Watch for it!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Ok, we’re now a little past the halfway point. So I don’t want to do this, but if everyone reading this doesn’t go and buy Will’s book I am now ready to threaten to hold my breath until this chat is over. It’ll be on your hands folks…

September 12th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 62

I’d have to say Really Good Choice, Sir.
Staying sane is part of what Liberals have to do, too, and also. Too much of the spinning anxiety, and a body can’t make a resonable choice or creative thought. Must recharge once in a while.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 59

Scarecrow,

That is the core theme of the book — that the true villains are the people described in the title as “high-def hucksters,” especially Beck and the rest of Fox News and Palin and their allies in Congress and sleaxy con artists like Goldline making a quick buck off “the movement.” It’s not that the rank and file of the movement shouldn’t be held accountable for racism or abject paranoia — they should — but ripoff artists are also taking advantage of their fears to enrich themselves. Think of all the cash that middle-class folks laid out to get to Bashville to pay Sarah Palin’s $100,000 speaking fee.

Scarecrow September 12th, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 68

Ok, if the worst problem is the cynical hucksters manipulating emotions, then the best line of attack is to explain to the “victims,” the people, “you’re being conned, ripped off, duped,” rather than saying, “you’re stupid, racist, ignornant,” etc. That’s a huge difference in where we target and what arguments we use.

hackworth1 September 12th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 46

You could always move to Yellowknife.

September 12th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 66

There’s a couple of folks on my future gifts list who would probably really enjoy receiving this book.

eblair September 12th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 68

What percentage of the Tea Party would you say are racists? This charge gets made often on the Left, but it has been vehemently disputed by Tea Party leaders and by people like Thomas Sewall. You rightly go after the “high-def hucksters” but you still attribute racism to the rank and file. Given that, I think that it is entirely appropriate to get clear on what you are asserting exactly about the rank and file: what percentage are racists?

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:21 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 63

I did a lot of research on the Tea Party Express. Fun facts?

The group operates as a money making machine for the Republican PR company that started it. Last I checked (2 months ago) they had made 4 million this calender year.

To ensure they couldn’t be called racists they hired two black men to be on stage. One is a singer. The other was paid to produce the TPE photobook.

As they traveled around the country in their $16,000 decal skinned Bus, they used public resources to raise money. They got free police security paid for by the community, free or cheap venues paid for by taxpayers (whereas other money making events had to pay business rates)

They didn’t pay local or state sales taxes on the t-shirts, CDs, stickers, books or pins. (I attended one event and they thought it was hilarious that anyone would pay sales taxes for items sold in a public park they were rallying at)

RevBev September 12th, 2010 at 3:21 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 68

What possibly did they think she could say? She is always having to backtrack, and her whole theme is what? sarcastic? Snark? Loving the troops b/c she the mom of a soldier? What do they think they will get to hear?

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 69

Absolutely — progressives you should doing that. One small window may be when more and more Beck fans realize the extent they were ripped off buying from companies like Goldline, which is why people should get behind the probes of Goldline and publicize the issue.
What if progressives (George Soros, are you reading this> :-) ) ran ads in “red America” that said “Glenn Beck is ripping you off.” Hey Spocko, can you get on that?

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to demi @ 71

I would strongly encourage you to pursue that line of thinking! :-)

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to demi @ 71

Now you’re talking!

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 66

As we watch Cliff turn blue, remember, you can start reading The Backlash on your Kindle in under a minute
Or your ipad or iPod touch or iPhone with the Kindle app.

Cliff’s life depends on it!

September 12th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 76

Will, can share a story that moved you to an idea, but ultimately didn’t use in the book? Ya, know, like throw us a bone. :)

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to eblair @ 72

Eblair — racism in America is a complicated thing in 2010. It is often present, but few people wear their racial ideas on their sleeve. There’s a lot of what people call now “pararacism” — using issues like Obama’s birth certificate or the notion he’s “a secret Muslim” to raise doubts that really trace back to the fact that he’s black. The bottom line is that race isn’t the only factor, but it’s a major factor.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to spocko @ 78

Still..hanging..in..but..more..copies..of..The Backlash..must..be..immediately..bought

perris September 12th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

there will always be a tool for the republicans, with clinton they couldn’t attack his politics since everyone (including the wealthy) were enjoying great economic times, so they invented a sex scandal

with obama, they’re using race to get their “base” fired up

this is what I really don’t understand though;

obama could have run as a republican with the programs and policies he’s proposing and railroading, I am really surprised the far right doesn’t sit back and watch the wolfe in sheeps clothing devour the sheep

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 75

I agree that attempting to explain that Tea Partiers/what have you are being conned and ripped off, rather than saying they’re stupid or racist.

Sadly, though, the dawning realization (if it ever comes) that they’ve been grifted will be very bad time for some. I speak with personal knowledge of a sibling is pretty well unhinged from a steady diet of Glenn Beck, especially, and yeah, the sib owns the ***** goldline “dubloons” (as I call them). Plus the sib utterly worships Palin.

If my sib ever “gets it” that the heros are nothing more than 2-bit shysters… well, it’s gonna be a very bad time. Some of these people are so invested in believing in these con-artists. It’s very sad and makes me quite angry with the grifters.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to demi @ 79

Uh, hopefully all the good stuff is in the book — I didn’t hold anything back. OK, I didn’t write about my embarassing efforts that took me all over the WRONG side of Phoenix at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning to find the Wal-Mart with Mexican day laborers…but I did get there eventually (and thank God).

September 12th, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 84

Such a tease.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to perris @ 82

obama could have run as a republican with the programs and policies he’s proposing and railroading

but there’s the rub: as an African-American, Obama could have never run as a Republican. No matter how rightwing Obama is, the Republics wouldn’t have had enough of a majority to elect him. That’s why he ran as a stealth candidate phony “Democrat.”

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:34 pm
In response to perris @ 82

It doesn’t matter what Obama does policy-wise, no matter how far right he might drift on some issues. For the Tea Partiers, it’s all cultural, and remember — it’s not just his race. He’s also a guy who went to Columbia and then Harvard Law School, two icons of the pointy-headed elites that they also hate.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to Cliff Schecter @ 64

Beck seems to be in it for the money, largely. But if you know his past history (squabbles, drug addiction, etc) its not too hard to determine that perhaps there is something not quite right upstairs…

Beck definitely seems very weird to me, but my “take” is that a large majority of the evangelistic shyster type of “preachers” seem equally weird and sleazy to me, at least. I cannot relate to it, but the folks who “flock” to such types always seem to be entranced by them.

Perhaps it is a form of mutual mental illness? Unsure.

Glenn W. Smith September 12th, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 36

This is a very important point. Obama is their universe turned inside out, their world turned upside down. He violates the natural chain of being. It’s traumatic, and almost any explanation for the trauma has credibility because they at least are aimed at righting the universe, so to speak.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 87

He’s also a guy who went to Columbia and then Harvard Law School, two icons of the pointy-headed elites that they also hate

Yes, but ironically legacy Bush went to Yale & Harvard, and they had not one iota of a problem with that. Riddle me that one, please. It’s mostly about Obama’s race, imo.

RevBev September 12th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Please…can you explain the Palin appeal? You must have firsthand knowledge.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 83

Onitgoes,

You are so right on both points — that it’s going to take some time for the Beck/Palin fans to realize they’re being ripped off, and if and when they do it could get ugly. We’ll see. Someone earlier mentioned Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker — Beck certainly has been prone to self-destructive behavior in the past so who knows…

Teddy Partridge September 12th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Will, thanks for this extraordinary book. You reminded me just how much we all need to remember that these people, the folks attracted to the fringe, are also Americans. It’s important we find a way to reach and ally with them on issues that matter to us all, and learn how to respectfully disagree when we need to.

It all boils down to civics, for me. Removing civics from the classroom has created a void in people’s understanding of how America works, what the constitution is, and how our Republic stands. I hope your book can be a beacon back from the abyss. If it’s possible to save America, your work will be one reason why we did.

Thank you.

Glenn W. Smith September 12th, 2010 at 3:38 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 80

Pararacism. Great term for a real and dangerous phenomena.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:38 pm
In response to RevBev @ 91

Well, I’m a guy, so I do see her appeal on that level (although that dissipates when she opens her mouth…for me, anyway)

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:39 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 14

the most shocking thing was a long conversation I had with the movement leaders down in Delaware who believed that Obama lost the 2008 election by every masure except the Electorial College (even though in reality he got 53 percent of the vote.)

Seriously, I had several conservative friends and relatives who insisted to me that Obama only won by something ridiculous like 1000 votes. Honestly, right after the election, I had quite a few conservatives confront me with this. I could only guess that RushGlenn was spewing forth this LIE, and they all rushed to buy it bc it made them “feel better.”

oldgold September 12th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

The paranoid style of politics, as described by Hofstadter decades ago, was predominately, but not exclusively, a tool of the Right. Today, it continues to be largely a practice of the Right.

Why?

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 87

it’s all cultural

Max Blumenthal in Republican Gomorrah seems to think it is partially cultural, but that an important ingredient, especially among the Christanists, is catharsis. It makes their dealing with their own fears and the way they project fears rather complex.

Do you take up that idea in The Backlash?

RevBev September 12th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 95

O That? But what about her women fans who are a big part of her following….Do not get it…..

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 83

If anyone wants to write some of the Tea Partiers and suggest they were conned, well here are their addresses.

The Tea Party Express funnels the money to the PAC Our Country Deserves Better. That PAC must disclose the data of their donors and where the money goes. I have been reading these files to find out exactly how much money they pay black people to attend and how much money they don’t pay to the good tax payers of the communities whose services they use for free.

Here is the link to their July quarterly filing.

You will note that there are several people who have asked for refunds and received them. Imagine other donors getting letters. “This is how your money was spent, if you don’t like it, you can ask for a refund, here is how.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 92

Beck certainly has been prone to self-destructive behavior in the past so who knows…

It would have to be something spectacular to get his fans to turn against him. Witness Rush’s drug addiction, which his fans endlessly bent themselves into pretzels to justify/explain/ignore/make light of.

Conservatives who enjoy being conned and grifted cling to their tin-pot heros like no one else. aka Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker – some of their fans still venerate them and make excuses. Ted Haggard, I believe, is back in the pulpit preaching once again. there’s no end to it.

eblair September 12th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 80

Questioning someone’s birth certificate does not make one a racist. John McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal zone has been questioned also vis a vis the Presidency and had he become President, there is little doubt that some would have kept that question alive. Understand that this is a serious charge that you are making that racism is a “major factor” for the “Tea Party”. You name no names but you have made this assertion here today. I’ll leave it at that.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Teddy. You also make a great point — one of the many things that progressives should be re-thinking in 2010 is the importance of education, and especially American history. One thing that Beck was moving toward as I was finishing up my reporting — I do get into this some in the final chapter centered on Beck’s “American Revival” — is really pushing his warped version of US history, from the bogus founding of America as a “Christian nation” to the distortions of the 20th Century progressive movement. Not only is there no pushback from liberals, but it’s noton the radar screen!

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to spocko @ 100

thanks for that info. interesting. I doubt it would do much in terms of turning my sibling against Beck, but it might be useful for others. I will check it out.

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 90

Bush when to Harvard and Yale? That’s crazy talk. He is a cowboy from Texas who probably when to Texas A&M or Texas Tech. And he rides horses on his ranch while watching John Wayne movies. He’s a simple man of few words. Like Gary Cooper.

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 80

Do you categorize Robert Stacy McCain among the “pararacists?”

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to RevBev @ 99

RevBev, in addition to “The Backlash” you should read “Nixonland,” by Rick Perlstein, which explains the roots of right-wing working class resentment of elites that has grown stronger since that era. That is what Palin taps into so well, for women as well as men.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:46 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 103

Bruce Fein in yesterday’s book salon also spoke about how poor this country’s education system is, and how too many citizens are ignorant about our government, how the government is supposed to operate, etc.

Mr. Fein suggested that it would be good to organize 50,000 civics teach-ins as a first step to educating the population and encouraging them to become much more active and aware. I think it’s a great idea. The women’s movement got most of its momentum in the late 60s and early 70s from small consciousness raising groups. Much the same is needed now to educate citizens so that they can be more informed in their decision making.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to eblair @ 102

Really? Given all the evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii, it’s hard for me to imagine a valid reason to continue to believe he was born in Kenya other than a form of racism — the belief that a person like this cannot validly be the president.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 107

I agree. It only took me 30 seconds of watching her first speech at the Rethug convention in 2008 to know that they’d hit on a winner. I knew my rightwing fundie family would be eating out of her hand, and they are.

I cannot explain her appeal; I never saw her as anything more than a 2 bit grifter out to make a buck for herself alone.

But that’s what these people love for some reason. It is one of the cosmic disconnects between the left and the right, I believe.

Teddy Partridge September 12th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 103

Beck’s fans are hearing this version of American history as their first introduction to the topic. And, as they put it, “Glenn backs up his stuff with facts.” Even when the facts are from his lunatic ‘historians.’

We really need to resume educating people about how citizenship works in America. People think voting means calling American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance to pick their favorite.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 109

I agree. That’s such a false equivalency.

It’s undeniable that McCain was born in Panama (or the Canal zone or whatever), and it’s equally undeniable that Obama was born in Hawaii.

There is a huge world of difference between sticking to facts and making up fiction to suit your political ends.

RevBev September 12th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 107

Thank you…good point. Reminds me of how much Hillary was hated as well.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 98

A little bit, Edward — one thing that I write about in the conclusion is the way that people like Beck and the GOP in general tap into fears of death and hopes of immortality to hold the movement together — you should read a 2004 article by Judis from the New Republic called “Death Grip” that goes deep on this issue, and how a more fearful voter is a conservative voter.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to spocko @ 105

LOL!! Point taken.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 114

people like Beck and the GOP in general tap into fears of death and hopes of immortality to hold the movement together

Most interesting, and I’ll check out the articles (and your book) that you suggest. I’ve long felt this way – well most anger is a “cover” for fear, and usually the biggest “fear” is of death.

The irony, of course, is that many conservatives are Christians (of one variety or another), and the “big ticket” with Christianity is the promise of a fabulous “after life.” The whole point of Xtianity is getting to “go home” to Jesus. Yet these people (my family included) seem much more afraid of death than many atheists I know.

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Remember, Teddy — a lot of these people only want an American history that conforms to their pre-existing ideas and notions. In other words, they may not accept or be interested in any factual version of history that we sought to offer them. It’s important that students in school get better history education but that won’t impact the current political situation, would it?

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

When I interviewed and surveyed about 80 attendees at the Anchorage and Wasilla April 15th events this year, I was surprised at how much esteem so many had for Beck. Had I asked the question “Do you believe the statement ‘Glenn Beck is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life’? – most would have unflinchingly answered “Yes!”

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:54 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 109

We all know that time travelers from the future planted birth announcements in two Hawaiian newspapers. It is the only logical explanation for them.

Get with the program!

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:54 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 108

I’d like to go back and read Fein’s comments — that sounds like an excellent idea!

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to spocko @ 119

LOL!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 117

Good luck on that in Texas, right? That is the problem, the Right knows that a less educated populace, one ruled more by superstition, is gonna be with them. I really believe its not just about cutting public ed for the sake of tax cuts forever and ever. Its that less knowledge = more Gingrich

spocko September 12th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 118

I’ll bet they liked Sinatra music too!

RevBev September 12th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 114

Does the article include any discussion of how that fear could be addressed in the public arena? Reminds me of the outrageous fear/debate on immigration….the fears of the foreigner and of scarcity.

perris September 12th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 87

you’re giving the tea partiers far too much credit, they are marionettes, their puppeteers are the koch brothers and obama is doing exactly what the koch brothers want

BevW September 12th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

As we come to the end of this lively Book Salon,

Will, Thank you for coming back and discussing your new book with us.

Cliff, Thank you again for returning and Hosting Will’s Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like to know more:
Will’s website
Cliff’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 120

definitely read thru yesterday’s book salon. Fein made some good points. Something that annoyed me slightly was that Fein didn’t offer a lot of practical steps to redressing the current imbalance, esp in terms of dealing with the radical right. Nonetheless, it was an interesting discussion.

The civic teach-ins, I feel, are something that could and should be pursued.

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 114

I read Death Grip when it came out. Back before they completely killed TNR. Great read.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:58 pm
In response to spocko @ 123

Hey now wait a minute: some lefties like the Chairman of the Board, too! But I get where you’re coming from on that… har!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

As we close in on the 3 minute left mark, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t inform you all that if you buy The Backlash RIGHT NOW, there’s at least a 20% chance Glenn Beck will become mute in bizarre gardening accident.

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to spocko @ 123

I’ll bring my cards with to the next Tea Party gathering, to see if anyone is ready to play some solitaire.

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Bruce Fein actually talked about that, too… the lowered standards of education and how our citizens aren’t getting educated well enough anymore. He would agree that it’s done for the purposes of manipulation.

papau September 12th, 2010 at 4:00 pm
In response to Will Bunch @ 14

When the facts and the narrative do not agree – change the “facts”

It is the Fox SOP as seen with Beck and the rest – and of course with Rush.

EdwardTeller September 12th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Now that is some imaginative marketing, Cliff.

atillathebun September 12th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Beck amd Rush, and the rest of the “Palin Family Values” CLAN..are, … like most of the Right Wing Nut Case Religious Folks.. entertaining. Nothing more, nothing less. Palin and Boner and the rest of them only realize it when one of their own “go total whacko” and threaten to burn books (notice the hitler connection?), then they do what all other turtles do…retract their necks and deny it all… ha ha, go figure eh?

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 4:01 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 135

Lots of practice doing progressive pr :)

Will Bunch September 12th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Hey. thanks everybody — this was a great discussion, and a lot of fun. Feel free to stay in touch — follow @will_bunch on Twitter, etc. — Will

egregious September 12th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Cliff you’re cracking me up. But suddenly I want to go out and buy this book.

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Thanks so much once again everyone! This has been a pleasure as it always is here. Once again, last plug:

BUY THIS BOOK!

Cliff Schecter September 12th, 2010 at 4:03 pm
In response to egregious @ 139

:)

onitgoes September 12th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Thanks very much. I came “late to the party,” but it has been a good discussion. I will buy the book and check out some of the articles mentioned herein.

Teddy Partridge September 12th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I would like to add my voice to the chorus encouraging people to buy and read this book. Also, give it as gifts to people you love on both sides of the current divide. It’s really educational. And fun.

(Thank you, too, Cliff, it’s great to see your pixels around here!)

GlenJo September 12th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Thanks!

egregious September 12th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Great Salon – thanks folks!

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post