This book sucks ass, as does its author. I did my best, but I was able to get only to page 18.
Trying to buck the criticism that those of us on the left never expose ourselves to views on the right (and vice-versa), I recently bought a copy of John Avlon’s Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.
I like and I often use the term “wingnut” myself, and I bought Avlon’s book even though he (incorrectly) redefines the term “wingnut” to include those on either far side of the political ideology spectrum. (Actually, the commonly accepted meaning of the term “wingnut” is an individual who is to the far right, and the term “moonbat” would be applied to one on the far left.)
Despite the fact that I disagree with Avlon’s retooling of the vernacular to suit his own purposes, and despite the fact that his book puts Keith Olbermann on its cover with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin — a strikingly false equivalency — I bought his book at full cover price.
Can you say “buyer’s remorse”?
After several pages of reading Avlon’s false equivalencies — for instance, he implies that what he calls “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was/is anything like what he calls “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” which we have been witnessing for some time now* – I finally had to literally toss Avlon’s book aside when, on page 18, I read Avlon refer to the democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as “Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.”
I mean, as U.S. Sen. Al Franken has put it, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.
Hugo Chavez has been elected and re-elected by a strong majority of Venezuela’s voters and he has the support of a strong majority of the people of Venezuela.
Chavez has been clamping down on his right-wing political opposition (who did, after all, illegally and treasonously attempt to overthrow him in 2002), and Venezuela needs to be monitored for human rights abuses (just as every nation does, and nothing has gone on in Venezuela under Chavez’s watch that has even approached what happened at the Abu Ghraib House of Horrors or at the Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp during the eight long nightmarish years of rule by the unelected Bush regime).
But Hugo Chavez is far away from having earned the title of “dictator.” To call Chavez a “dictator” isn’t just against my belief that a nation’s government should work for the benefit of the most number of the nation’s people instead of for the benefit of the minority plutocrats and corporatocrats, as Chavez believes, but it is blatantly factually incorrect, and I can’t handle “non-fiction” books containing such glaring factual errors.
Nor does Avlon bother to explain why he uses the term “dictator” — he just throws it out there for no other apparent reason than that the members of the Bush regime (and George W. Bush, never having been legitimately elected, having started a bogus war that has cost thousands upon thousands of lives and billions upon billions of dollars, having shit and pissed all over the U.S. Constitution, and having left the nation in much, much worse shape than he got it, certainly comes closer to the dictionary definition of “dictator” than does Chavez ) and their allies at FOX “News” falsely called Chavez a “dictator” for several years. (To the right wing you are a “dictator,” you see, if you refuse to kiss U.S. corporate ass and refuse to surrender your nation’s natural resources and other wealth to U.S. corporations; that you have been democratically elected by your people is irrelevant to the democracy-hating, election-stealing right wing.)
But Avlon already demonstrates, before he calls Hugo Chavez a “dictator,” that he’s no more than a smug pretty boy who is posing as an expert on politics.
About all that he points to, in the 18 pages that I was able to stomach, in order to exemplify the far left or the far right are some examples of some political figure, usually George W. Bush or Barack Obama, being compared to Adolf Hitler. Ooooo! Insightful!
However, while skimming through his book, I noted that apparently anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is a “wingnut”** for having stood up against the Bush regime’s bogus Vietraq War that killed her son — a war that the majority of Americans now acknowledge, fucking finally, was a bogus war.
Hmmm… A woman’s young son is killed for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Dick Cheney’s Halliburton profits obscenely in that bogus war (as do the BushCheneyCorp’s other oily subsidiaries), and because she has the gall to protest her son’s pointless death, that makes Sheehan a “wingnut,” according to Avlon, who, I take it, hasn’t had a loved one killed in the Vietraq War or ever even been in harm’s way himself.
Overall, Avlon reminds me of a lazy, mediocre parent or teacher who witnesses two children fighting, and, because he doesn’t want to bother to try to figure out what they’re fighting about — and whether one child might actually be in the right and the other child might actually be in the wrong — he labels both fighting children as equally guilty. There. Done with it. Why bother to unravel the facts? And why take sides?
Except that the real world is so much more complex than that, and our crumbling democracy didn’t really need another book put out there to tell people that instead of closely examining the facts and taking a principled stand on important issues based upon the facts, they need to just join the mushy middle, because obviously there’s no difference between the impassioned right and the impassioned left (or, as Avlon calls everyone who isn’t a milquetoast, apolitical, apathetic sleepwalker, the “wingnuts”).
To give just one of many possible demonstrations of how Avlon shills a false equivalency between the right and the left, right now, as I type this sentence, a book incredibly titled The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists incredibly is No. 13 — thirteen – on amazon.com’s top 100-selling books list.
When does a moonbat title like that ever get that far on any of the mainstream best-selling books lists?
Further, I know that many of us on the left had at least some fear of possible retribution for our outspokenness against the unelected, mass-murdering Bush regime — the Bush regime was, after all, engaging in the illegal surveillance of American citizens in the name of “national security,” and the Abu Ghraib House of Horrors and the Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp certainly demonstrated for us where the Bush regime stood on human rights – yet here is a book out calling President Obama a “Manchurian president,” and I don’t sense that the wingnuts (the right-wing kind) have any real fear of retribution from the Obama administration for their publishing, promoting or purchasing a book thus titled.
And that’s because historically, dictators and tyrants — the kind who, unlike Hugo Chavez, actually steal elections, rule against the wishes of the majority of the ruled, and who actually torture and murder their political opponents — predominantly have been right-wingers, not left-wingers. (The right-wing Chilean Augusto Pinochet, for example, was a dictator.)
The wingnuts (my definition of the term, not Avlon’s) attack Obama unreservedly because they know that those on the left only rarely use what I might call, a la Dick Cheney, the “enhanced” tactics used by those on the right against their political opponents. Paradoxically, if Obama truly were the tyrant the wingnuts say he is, they probably wouldn’t be calling him a “tyrant” or a “Manchurian president” or the like — because if he truly were that, he just might retaliate against them.
As far as “Obama Derangement Syndrome” is concerned, it’s far more virulent and widespread than “Bush Derangement Syndrome” ever was. Not only did anti-Bush books not sell nearly as well as anti-Obama books sell today, but there was no “tea-party”-like “movement” formed by the left in response to Bush. The closest thing to the left’s “tea party” that I can think of is MoveOn.org, which, compared to the den of vipers that comprise the tea party, is a den of garter snakes.
And while the minimum that we factually can say about the 2000 presidential election is that George W. Bush was made president in late 2000 under circumstances that were shady at best, and that in November 2000 he captured only 47.9 percent of the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore’s 48.4 percent, and that he was “re”-elected by only 50.7 percent of the popular vote in 2004, Barack Obama won 52.9 percent of the popular vote in November 2008, a better showing at the polls than “President” Bush ever had, yet far more people have questioned Obama’s presidential legitimacy than questioned Bush’s, even though Bush’s presidential legitimacy was much, much more questionable than Obama’s ever has been.
If you are a right-wing white guy from an oily, rich family, you can “win” the White House without having won the most number of votes (by “winning” the pivotal state of which your brother conveniently is governor, with a little help from that state’s top elections official who also sat on that state’s committee to elect you, and with a lot of help from the recount-quashing U.S. Supreme Court). And that kind of shit is perfectly OK.
But if you’re a black guy, you’re considered illegitimate even if you did better in your presidential election than the last white guy did in his two presidential elections. (But nooooo, racism is dead in the United States of Amnesia!)
For Avlon to make the false equivalency between the far left and the far right — to lump everyone who feels strongly about politics together as “wingnuts” — isn’t only grossly inaccurate, but it’s dangerous to our already endangered, dumbed-down democracy.
If you want to read a real book that’s worth your money, read Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason, now available in paperback.
Pay close attention to her chapter on “junk thought” – a term that describes John Avlon’s book to a “T”.
*Avlon defines “Obama Derangement Syndrome” as “Pathological hatred of President Obama, posing as patriotism,” and “Bush Derangement Syndrome” more or less as a visceral aversion to George W. Bush, of which I myself have been afflicted.
**On page 189, Avlon quotes Sheehan as — gasp! — having called George W. Bush a “bigger terrorist than Osama bin Laden.” Actually, it’s a fucking fact that Bush is reponsible for the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and more than 4,000 of our troops, in his bogus Vietraq War — which is far more people than Osama bin Laden is responsible for having slaughtered on September 11, 2001, which was fewer than 3,000 people. And if we can call bin Laden a terrorist for having masterminded the slaughter of so many innocents, why can’t we call Bush & Co. terrorists for having masterminded the slaughter of so many more innocents? Why the fucking double standard?