Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BC2012: Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America by John Avlon

This book got off to a bad start when Avlon attempted to equate hatred of George W. Bush with hatred of Barack Obama. There is a huge difference, though: people hated Bush for things he actually did, whereas people started hating Obama before he even took office, and they continue to hate him for what they think he is going to do rather than what he's actually done (healthcare reform being a notable exception -- at least Obama did that).

Although Avlon later admits that "Obama Derangement Syndrome" started before Inauguration Day, my initial irritation points to a major flaw in his thesis. As a self-described independent, Avlon tries to stick to the middle of the road and point out radical wingnutiness at both ends of the political spectrum. But here's the problem: while there are crazy people at the far right and far left, the ones at the far left are much less influential in American politics today than those on the far right. This is painfully obvious when Avlon pits Glenn Beck against Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has his fans, but clearly Beck has had much greater influence in "hijacking" American politics. On some level, Avlon must realize this because his book devotes many more pages to right wingnuts (Sarah Palin, teabaggers, Birthers, militias, Michael Savage, et al) than left wingnuts (9/11 Truthers, Code Pink, and a few other briefly mentioned people and groups).

Aside from that flaw (which is much like the ludicrous "he said/she said" equivalence sadly endemic to American journalism these days), Wingnuts isn't a bad book although it probably wasn't worth my time to read it. I learned a few things, but I was already aware of most of the groups and incidents Avlon covers.

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