lördag 18 juni 2011

John Amato and David Neiwert: Over the Cliff. How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane

Do you have high blood pressure? A propensity to get angry? Do you become easily depressed?

Don't read this book, then. In it Amato and Neiwert detail, not so much how the American Right went insane (although there are actually elements of that, as well, but those elements weren't very high on the sanity scale to begin with), but the venality of a very prominent part of the American Right today, from Glenn Beck to Sarah Palin. As a bonus, we also get glimpses of how the traditional media have failed rather shamefully to expose the outright cancer that the right-wing smear machine has become on American political discourse.

Nothing in this book is new, really. If you've read the liberal blogs since President Obama was elected, you're likely aware of most of this stuff, anyway. Neiwert, among others, has covered a lot of it on Amato's Crooks and Liars blog. However, getting so much of it in one helping in a book is... Well, I thought it was so depressing, I had to stretch reading it out over a couple of days, even if it's a pretty easy read.

Anyway, the 270 pages contain nine chapters detailing:

1."It's the end of the world as they know it."  The world is coming to an end after a black man has been elected president – examples of creepy people freaking out over having a black president, insisting that he's a malignant foreign influence. There's arson, vandalism, hate-related crimes, threats of violence, etc, and racial and ethnic animus expressed on the internet and elsewhere.

2. "Into the abyss." The conservative movement chooses which road to take, and goes for ugly smear tactics instead of reviewing its policies. Accusations of socialism, communism, and fascism fly – a lot of them on Fox News. Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck do their stuff, and their stuff is mainly exploiting and fomenting resentment – with very little allegiance to the concept of "truth".

3. "Reaping the whirlwind." Several loonies act out their violent fantasies, and the militia movement experiences a resurgence.

4. "Bloodying the shirt." Conservative hate-spewers accuse those who point out that they're a) lying, b) spewing irresponsible garbage of trying to silence dissent.

5. "Mad hatters and March hares." The "Tea Party" movement gets going, with a large amount of help – funding from astroturf groups (like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks) and and a near-constant propaganda blitz from Fox News.

6. "Right-wing populism and the politics of resentment." The politics of "iberals, feminists and minorities have ruined my America!".

7. "Fox's war on the White House." The Fox propaganda blitz on the White House hasn't been just near-constant, it has been constant. It has provided endless fodder for The Daily Show, but also for resentful creeps all over the U.S.  See also Media Matters (even if they occasionally take up things that are pretty harmless and over-interpret them).

8. "The brakes fail." The Republican Party has problems controlling the Tea Party movement, and parts of the right-wing media machine is getting out of hand even according to some conservative pundits.

9. "The only thing we have to fear." Here, the authors try to tie it all together – or maybe not, either way, it doesn't really work as a tying-together chapter IMO – and then put forth a glimmer of hope: there is a liberal/progressive movement on the internet fighting back at right-wing propaganda and lies. Their solution is for the Democratic Party and liberals to empower their own progressive populist power base, to strengthen their own grassroots, and to stand up against the bullying tactics of the Right.

Me, I look at the way the Republicans blame President Obama for all the ills of today, regardless of most of them having originated during the Bush presidency and how they obstruct all efforts to actually better the situation for ordinary American citizens, and I'm amazed not only at their brazenness but also that they keep getting away with it.


Part of that is IMO that American media generally aren't doing their job. Another important part is that the current administration and the Democratic Party are simply too wussy and not a) condemning the right-wing's appalling behavior strongly enough, b) not putting forth strong enough policies to improve the American economy and the lot of poor and ordinary Americans. Those liberal populists had better get their act together soon – and so does the Obama administration – or a bad situation's bound to get even worse.

Recommended. Amato and Neiwert occasionally overstate their case, IMO, but all in all, they do yeoman work, and the situation they depict is genuinely scary.

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