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The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 31, 2010

4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 31, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly

While it was no secret that Americans on the far right of the political spectrum were unenthusiastic about Obama's victory, the immediacy and intensity of the backlash went well beyond what anyone expected. In this exhaustive investigation of the Tea Party movement and its loudest mouthpieces, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Bunch seeks to help liberal and moderate America understand the rage of the right, where they see the nation headed, and how legitimate grievances are being manipulated by opportunists hawking fear to make millions off of working class people. While Bunch's own biases are apparent from page one, he is careful to try to present the far right in an honest light and, according to Bunch, without challenging their perspectives. Maturity in political discourse would be refreshing if Bunch were writing political discourse; he's not. This is investigative reporting. Bunch's primary issue seems to be Beck's opportunism, but his targeting of the only person he doesn't interview will likely make conservatives avoid his book, something Bunch clearly expects. But for liberals or moderates seeking to understand current far right events, the book will fascinate, and likely frighten.
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From Booklist

Already fretting over the U.S. Census Bureau prediction that by 2050 whites will no longer be in the majority in the U.S. and worried by the loss of jobs and home equity, a certain element of the white population has been unhinged by the election of the nation’s first black president, argues Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bunch. Thus, the Tea Party, Birthers, Oath Keepers, the 9.12 Project, and other right-wing radicals are on the rise, spurred by television and Internet hustlers, most prominently Glenn Beck. Bunch traveled the circuit from Delaware to Arizona, attending anti-immigration meetings and shooting rallies, to record the astonishing anger, fear, and discontent that has formed into a backlash against President Obama, alleging that he is not a U.S. citizen, that he means to take away guns from private citizens, and that he is directing FEMA to set up internment camps, all of which Bunch debunks. Bunch also profiles the cynical hustlers making money on this visceral fear, comparing Beck to Elmer Gantry as he morphs from evoker of the Founding Fathers and defender of the Constitution to evoker of God the father and defender of Christian morality, all the while hawking gold and survival food packets through Glen Beck, Inc. Despite writing in a sometimes awkward second-person voice, Bunch has rendered an insightful close-up look at the individuals and social forces that promise to churn American politics in the face of huge social and demographic changes. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061991716
  • ASIN: B0058M5MGM
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,881,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great read - the book moves very quickly and shows the members of these organizations as real people, not stereotypes. Given that, it is at times difficult to read as some of the views the subjects hold are well, just illogical. But the author goes to great lengths to show why they hold these views and why they are so taken with Beck, Rush, Fox News...etc. He explains in detail the events of their lives that brought them to have such distrust for the government and specifically President Obama. I did not come away from this book with a higher opinion of any on the far right, but I appreciate the respect the author shows his subjects. They are after all, people too. As for his details on Beck, I think if one cannot see that he is portraying a character on his television and radio shows, the odds of this book changing your mind are unlikely. I am sensible enough to see that and I also know that if Beck were to retire tomorrow, there would be someone to take his place within days.

In the end he speaks about what he feels these people really fear and I think he hits the nail on the head. They fear that their way of life is vanishing and to some degree they are right. I don't agree that this should be frightening, but it is an accurate diagnosis of the source of their anger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Will Bunch has an agreeable knack for writing about people's beliefs without attacking them personally. His friendly style is a pleasure to read, and the book reminded me favorably of Jess Walters' book about Ruby Ridge, which managed to convey the heartbreaking tragedy of Ruby Ridge -- without canonizing any of the participants.

This is about another kind of tragedy: An entire class of American citizens whose fear over a changing country has led them to some irrational, paranoid beliefs. Bunch manages to make these people likable and engaging -- without giving an inch on the glaring factual inaccuracies of their attacks.

I especially enjoyed the chronological structure of the book, because it reads almost like a detective novel. Who are these people? Why do they hate the President? What are they so afraid of? By the time you get done reading "The Backlash," you'll have a much better idea. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I happened to have been on the National Mall for Obama's inauguration. There were an estimated 1.7 million people there, and a level of excitement I'd never seen on the Mall, despite my living here for nearly a quarter century. Shortly after, I got a first taste of the anti-Obama fervor at, of all places, the Lincoln Memorial: a lady from Indiana raved of the caliber of those who attended the inauguration (which she hadn't attended). She nearly used the "N" word, which I discouraged.

Since then, volumes have flooded the market which all but accuse Obama of having written The Communist Manifesto While many of the volumes may be incomprehensible, they do have an audience. And the AM airwaves flood us with warnings of the coming apocalypse, the socialist takeover, the evils of health care reform, and people screaming to keep the government off our Medicare.

So, when a book such as this one came out, I wondered how long it would take for some of those who despise Obama to write one-star reviews. It didn't take long...

Bunch, who'd already written an eloquent exposé of the Reagan administration, Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy has several characters in his narrative. Interestingly, the lead one is fear. Second may actually be Glenn Beck. Then there's unemployment. But there are others less noticeable. He starts the book with a description of a few advocates of Glenn Beck's 9/12 movement, and members of the Tea Party. He stayed with some of them in places like Delaware and Pennsylvania.
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Format: Hardcover
Everyone knew there would be a right wing backlash against the landslide election of Barak Obama, as there had been for Bill Clinton, only this time tinged by the nation's dark history of race relations. With prodigious skill as an investigative reporter, Bunch drills into the backlash to expose its populist roots, its promoters, and its profiteers. Most importantly, the book explains how the backlash has influenced mainstream politicians and rendered the country ungovernable at a moment when problems threaten to overwhelm us. Remarkably easy to read, written with humor and insight, The Backlash is a must read for anyone seeking to understand our current conditions.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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