Y’all are reading the wrong book

I finished Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House a while back. It was an entertaining soap opera, dishing out the scorn for Trump, but ultimately, it was just kind of like familiar, comforting pop music, where everything is predictable, you already know all the words, and you’re later going to recollect it as an annoying earworm.

Last night I finished a much better book: David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. It’s better written, and it has a more powerful focus. Instead of gossiping about that deplorable scamp in the White House, it’s all about the deplorable electorate that put him there: the right-wing militias that freely trample on the law, the fanatics who cover their cars with slogans, the thugs who are thrilled with Trump’s tacit endorsement of violence against brown people, the Nazis who were orgasming over his election. Wolff’s book makes our current situation seem like an aberration driven by a few horrible people; Neiwert’s tells us that no, there’s something rotten lurking in the heart of America that is making Republican criminality possible.

One book’s message implies that all we need to do is get rid of a few clowns at the top, and the True America will come shining through. The other tells you that the True America has a lot of human infrastructure that needs repair. It sure would be nice if all of our problems could be embodied in one gibbering orange hemorrhoid that could be neatly excised from the body politic, but you know deep down that that is not true. Maybe you should read a book that confronts the realities of our situation.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Thanks for the suggestion, but your highlights are sufficient. I am busy reading Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate which focuses on the traditional left-right political divide as expressed in the reactions Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke had toward the French Revolution.

    I am also trying to read Peter Viereck’s Conservativism Revisited. Viereck’s Metapolitics was an interesting contemporary analysis of the cultural antecedents of Nazi Germany. He was a conservative but not a fan of Buckley or Kirk. Wonder what Viereck would have thought about Trump, alt right, and our present situation.

    Jeff Flake is making waves and George Will bolted over Trump, so Trump is too much to take for more than people on the left portion of the spectrum. After the tea party shift is the GOP beyond reform? Yet they enjoy a strong power base. Scary.

  2. expat says

    “It sure would be nice if all of our problems could be embodied in one gibbering orange hemorrhoid that could be neatly excised from the body politic…”

    Hey now – this offensive to hemorrhoids!

  3. Rob Bos says

    I feel this blog has already been a good education on the rise of the alt-right. We lived through gamergate and similar incidents, we followed Bannon and Breitbart from minor nuisance to driving force, and so on.

  4. robro says

    I’m not reading Wolff’s book. The excerpts are amusing, but enough…I don’t really need to know all the details. A read at the wider scope would be interesting, but I don’t have time for that either or particularly need to know more about the rise of the “Alt Right” which is the same bigotry as the old Right. Maybe a bit younger. Meanwhile the opposition parties are taking careful aim at their feet, perhaps intentionally. It’s difficult not to despair.

  5. asteraceae says

    Neiwert has been covering the alt-right online for at least 20 years (back when they were just plain-old Nazis). I don’t imagine it gives him much comfort that the chickens he’s been warning America about for his entire career are now roosting comfortably in the White House. His blog, Ornicus, has always been a great resource.

  6. magistramarla says

    hemidactylus @ #1
    What is scary to me is that here in Texas, that base is made up of a lot of very young people. We aren’t going to get rid of them when the old rwnjs die off.

  7. Greta Samsa says

    I considered reading it, and started, but his kink-shaming of the jerk was pointless; I’m much more offended by the Nazism than the other stuff.

  8. JP says

    I just read this book recently and have been recommending it. I actually got it for a buck (the e-book) directly from Verso Books when they were having their end of year sale. I still recommend getting it from Verso, in any case.

  9. flange says

    Implicit in Donald Trump’s election campaign was the promise to make life as miserable as possible for non-white people. Regardless of the reasons millions of whites say they voted for Trump, it’s because they believed and liked that promise. And he’s keeping that promise. “Race” has allowed white people to reign by fiat over non-white people. Trump is their standard bearer. We need an electorate not afraid of losing White Privilege.

  10. says

    “It sure would be nice if all of our problems could be embodied in one gibbering orange hemorrhoid that could be neatly excised from the body politic…”

    To quote one insightful quip:

    “Russian meddling is the Kaposi’s sarcoma of democracy. If you’re vulnerable to it, it’s because some much more basic stuff has broken down”