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Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America [Paperback]

John Avlon , Tina Brown
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 23 2010
What's a Wingnut? It's someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum - the professional partisans and the unhinged activists, the hardcore haters and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They're the people who always try to divide us instead of unite us.

Wingnuts looks at the outbreak of extremism in the opening years of the Obama administration - from the unprecedented government spending that spurred the Tea-Party protests to the onset of Obama Derangement Syndrome. John Avlon explains how hate-fueled rumors take hold (one section is called "How Obama Became Hitler, a Communist and the Antichrist"), looks at the 'hunt for heretics' that is taking place inside both parties and details the rise of hyper-partisan media.Avlon profiles preachers who are praying for the president's death, goes inside the growing "Hatriot" movement and parallels the "Birthers" and the "9/11 Truthers." The book compares current merchants of political paranoia with past fear-mongers and finds that divisive demagogues have sold this snake oil before. But the two parties' increased polarization and the echo-chamber of the internet are helping the fringe blur with the base, making the Wingnuts more powerful than ever before.

We are allowing paranoids, hysterics and hyper-partisans to hijack our politics - but it doesn't have to be this way. Avlon asserts that centrists need to stand up to the extremes on both sides and declare their independence. The book ends on a hopeful note - the conclusion is "How to Take America Back from the Lunatic Fringe."

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Review

President Bill Clinton
"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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A summary of what's wrong with American politics July 29 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Pulls together the range of fridge elements in today's American politics and analyses why they're different from the past radical elements. As background to the current dysfunctional legislatures and upcoming elections it's worth reading.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced views - good read March 1 2011
By PAW
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It criticizes the divisive attitudes embraced by people on the far left and right of the political spectrum in the United States. It points out some of the methods used by these people to try to steer the course of their respective parties, and public opinion. I found myself viewing the news with a new perspective.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  71 reviews
142 of 159 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I think he got it right March 23 2010
By Stephen Tobey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Conservatives will probably say the book has a liberal bias. Liberals will probably be somewhat disappointed.
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.
64 of 77 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wingnuts brings us no closer to the middle April 19 2010
By Andrew - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Avlon has his heart in the right place, but the execution misses the mark. When bookshelves are dominated by legitimate wingnuts, its refreshing to see this book, calling for what essentially amounts to a third-party, one not beholden to irrational extremists. Millions of independents are waiting for a group of intellectual leaders preaching moderation and rationality. I certainly appreciate Avlon as he attempts to lead the charge.

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.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Picture of Olbermann on the cover ???? June 4 2010
By Alex K - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Lets be honest, this book is about wingnuts of the right. Olbermann on the cover may be advertizing trick, attempt to look balanced or whatever, the book is not about people like him. Actually, only couple of pages even mention him and the biggest "wingnutty" thing that Olbermann has done ? Writing an angry special comment against Don Rumsfeld when Rummie compared anti-war people with Nazi appeasers. Seriously ??? THAT is the biggest thing about person you put on over, in the world of millions birthers and truthers ?
79 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avalon's Wingnuts: Right on the Money March 17 2010
By Joseph A. Domino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mr. Avalon has parsed and dissected the lunatic fringe on both extremes of the political spectrum. The problem is that these extremes are pushing in on the center, driving out reason, logic, and objectivity. Picture the center as the scene in the first Star Wars when the characters are trapped in the giant trash compactor. Obama derangement syndrome is right on target: the financial/corporate sector continues its criminal abuse on the consumer, but almost everyone from the top to the bottom of the food chain is more worried about imaginary government death panels and Obama morphing into Hitler. No one seems to object if they even notice that the real death panels have existed in private health insurance companies for a long time. But that's capitalism at work, so it's all right. Mr. Avalon's style is lively, concise, analytical. You don't know whether to laugh or cry as you read his book.

Joseph A. Domino
Adjunct Professor
Palm Beach State College
Boca Raton FL
(...)
52 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading... March 24 2010
By M. Nicley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book does a good job of exposing the political extremists on both sides, though it spends considerably more time addressing those from the right than from the left, because, as the author says, the right-wing extremists have been "louder" lately.

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.)
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