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