Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America Paperback – Dec 22 2009
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"Wingnuts offers a clear and comprehensive review of the forces on the outer edges of the political spectrum that shape and distort our political debate. Shedding more heat than light they drive frustrated alienated citizens away from the reasoned discourse that can produce real solutions to our problems."
About the Author
John Avlon is senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He lives in New York City.
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The author tries very hard to go after extremists on both sides. The problem, however, is that if you don't clearly take a side, everyone assumes you're biased against their side.
He tries to be a voice of sanity and goes after truthers as well as birthers (and also correctly points out that the birther movement was started by a Hillary Clinton suppoter).
I especially like the part where he examines three of the most over-the-top complaints about Obama: that he's a Communist, a Nazi and the Antichrist, talking to actual Communists and Nazis.
I doubt the book will change many minds. I've long felt that as much as people say they want civility, they really don't. They want the name-calling and demonizing of the opposition. Many of them, I'm sure, would think less of Ronald Reagan if they knew he routinely had a beer with Tip O'Neil at the end of the workday (or deny that ever happened).
Still, when all you hear from one side or the other is how the country is being destroyed and the sky is falling, it's refreshing to hear some more reasonable voices.
Content-wise, I found the first half of the book uninspired. He spends endless pages quoting the nutcases he finds at rallies and town halls. Sadly, he adds little of his own insight. The net effect is that you feel like you're at a zoo, marveling at curious creatures from a distance. Fine, but we've all been exposed to these "wing-nuts" on television (either put into positive light by Fox News or cast as morons by MSNBC). If you're politically aware enough to pick up this book, you're already aware of all of its contents. This book is essentially a series of conceits, an opportunity to look down on the Sarah Palin's and Glenn Beck's of the world in order to feel some sense of moral superiority. When Avlon DOES come up with his own hypothesis, it is merely a rehash of Paul Krugman's theory that Republicanism has devolved into racial fear-mongering (to be fair to Avlon, he only really pins this generalization on the new fringe of conservatives). I wasn't impressed when Krugman wrote his political theory, and I'm not impressed now.
Stylistically, I understand what the Daily Beast is doing. They want to translate a series of blog articles into the print world, increasing the speed of publication, allowing on-topic books to hit the shelves while they're still pertinent, while gaining some intellectual capital. This didn't work for me. The chapters FELT like blog posts, meant to generate google hits, Diggs, Facebook mentions and reTweets, but not necessarily to form air-tight arguments. Whenever Avlon threw out a half-baked conjecture, I instinctively looked for a comment box below to vent my frustation. His thoughts needed more time to develop, as well as real discussions with a series of editors.
I respect Mr. Avlon and wish him the best. Hopefully, his next effort will put more of an emphasis on a new direction the country can take, and can offer something positive, instead of taking snipes from a distance.
Joseph A. Domino
Palm Beach State College
Boca Raton FL
Makes some good arguments, especially against districting laws.
If you're a centrist, this book will probably confirm your beliefs. If you're not, you will probably see some arguments against the other side and ignore those against yours.
When it's all said and done, it's worth the read.
I received the book in a timely fashion, and it was in great condition. (Good work, Amazon.)