They Think Obama Isn't an American Citizen. They Think Obama Wants to Put Americans in Concentration Camps. They Think Obama Is the Anti-Christ. This Isn't Just the Tea Party—Welcome to the Backlash.
In November 2008, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new age of hope, optimism, and postpartisan politics. Instead it provoked unparalleled anger on the far right that eventually twisted important national discussions and pushed ideas from the conservative fringe into the mainstream media. In the ensuing months, countless pollsters and reporters have tried to understand the heart of this mob that appeared so suddenly, but none of them has successfully accounted for the hard-right movement's rapid growth or explained the hidden connections between its parts. Until now.
In this gripping exposé, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Will Bunch reveals the secrets behind the crusade against Obama, exploring how forces like radical militia groups, the Tea Party, pro-gun zealots, and Glenn Beck have combined old-fashioned populist outrage with digital-age phobias to produce a wave of resentment that many have ridden straight to the bank. Pulling back the curtain on the paranoid politicsof a new generation, Bunch shows how events such as the election of America's first African-American president, the economic recession, the rise of social networking, and the phenomenon of Glenn Beck have created a dangerous political moment that poses legitimate risks to democracy in America.
From conspiracy theorists to secessionists, birthers to "independent" Tea Partiers, Bunch illuminates the ties among this new array of groups. Going beyond easy caricature, he strips away layers of rhetoric to reveal politicians like Paul Broun, who, as one of the most extreme members of Congress, works as hard for right-wing ideologues as he does for his economically battered constituents, and groups like the Oath Keepers, a fast-growing, ultraradical organization that spreads unsubstantiated fears of Obama confiscating guns and placing U.S. citizens in concentration camps. In addition, Bunch exposes the opportunists who have embraced a new brand of apocalyptic fearmongering, which has made them millions but has also led to the widespread paranoia that has helped fuel a rise in antigovernment violence.
The end result shows the true stakes of this political perfect storm, demonstrating how the anger of the far right now threatens to consume America. Powerful, shocking, and thought-provoking, The Backlash is a controversial look at where our democracy is—and where it may be heading.
One of the few nonfiction ebooks at the library that sounded interesting and was also available for checkout. I'm a little torn: some of it was LOLTEAPARTY, but then the last chapter argued that mocking them was a bad idea. And personally, quite a bit was familiar from the last year or two. I will admit that I find it utterly horrifying that Glenn Beck has a book called The Overton Window. (I find him horrifying in general, though.) The second-person POV ("you") was sometimes cloying, but done reasonably well.read more
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Will Bunch has written a decent piece of investigative journalism that covers large swaths of terrain already familiar to most political junkies. Even so, to read his book is instructive. Much of his effort is expended in trying to answer the question of why so many Americans have become acolytes of Glenn Beck and his hokey brand of libertarian politics. It turns out to be a more difficult task than one might expect. To begin with, many of those who self-identify with the "Tea Party" say that they are motivated by existential threats that are impossible to substantiate. Wading through the clutches of conspiracy theorists and profiteers of the apocalypse that populate the right-wing fringe, Bunch ultimately reaches some predictably pedestrian conclusions: people are motivated by fear and uncertainty, and their prophets are driven by profit. Even though Bunch is an avowed progressive, he does a fairly decent job of presenting his case in a relatively objective and straightforward manner. Oddly, as someone who is more sympathetic to liberal ideology generally, by the time I finished the book I found myself less alarmed by the rise of Tea Party activism than I had been previously. Perhaps I'm naturally sympathetic to those who find themselves on the political fringe; which, incidentally, is an impulse manipulated to great advantage by those tasked with bringing fresh recruits into anti-government, anti-elitist, and anti-establishment movements. Mine is, to be sure, a sympathy for the underdog. Even as Bunch desperately tries to convey a sense of import in all this Tea Partying, the unmistakable and lasting impression is that this is a party of outliers and disgruntled misfits who mainly serve the purposes of those who are in the business of selling fear. The almost inevitable obsolescence of the backlash against the Obama administration assumes a kind of omnipresence throughout the book, as Bunch relentlessly references the demographics involved: senior citizens, the unemployed, old school social conservatives, white people, more senior citizens, etc. The available polling data indicates that, over the long term, traditional liberal values and classic freethinking are shaping the country's political future (i.e., increasingly open-minded attitudes towards homosexuality, non-theism, anti-xenophobic immigration policy, health-care reform, environmental law, the rights of women and children, etc.); meanwhile, the expanding Latino population and the social values of younger generations of Americans are threatening to swamp the old political worldview of which "The Backlash" appears to be but a vestigial polyp. Viewed in this light, its hard not to feel some sympathy for the those who insist on haplessly protesting modernity.read more
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