Customer Reviews: Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America
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on March 23, 2010
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.
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on April 19, 2010
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.
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on June 4, 2010
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 ?
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on March 17, 2010
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
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on March 24, 2010
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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on December 30, 2014
John Avalon does a good job of putting into words what many in the moderate middle feel about those on the political extremes. I expect conservatives will accuse the author of liberal bias and of going after conservative extremists more than those to the left, but as the author says, it's those on the right who have been shouting the loudest recently.

That said, Avalon does not spare the extremists on the left, even if the material is more weighted to the right. The book puts liberals Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann, and groups like Occupy Wall St. under the microscope as well as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity.

Avalon gave extensive coverage to the ordinary citizens getting caught up in political misinformation, propaganda, distortions, and hate speech. From the so-called "Hatriot" groups to the "Birthers" and "9/11 Truthers". Where he missed the mark somewhat is the scant mention of agitators on the left like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (both are merely mentioned once in passing as past presidential candidates) and manipulators of the political system like the Koch brothers on the right (two brief mentions with no real substance).

With the power, influence, and determination to change our political system at every level, the Koch brothers deserved more than a couple of sentences in this book.

Those flaws aside, this book is well worth reading for anyone who wants to be well informed about the extremists operating in America today. Sadly, the people who need to read this the most are the ones who certainly will not read it, the extremists themselves. If they were to read it, it's unlikely to cause them to re-examine their beliefs and why they believe them (no amount of evidence will persuade unreasonable people).
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on June 22, 2014
I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. See the photos on the cover? Glen Beck and Sarah Palin, and Keith Olbermann??? Beck and Palin are wingnuts, of course, but Olbermann? I used to watch his show when it was on MSNBC, and enjoyed it, too.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this book is not saying that there are equal numbers of wingnuts on the far right and the far left, or even that they are equally dangerous. Only that they exist. And yeah, Olbermann was fired for going too far. Too much into ad hominem attacks and not enough substance.

The thesis of the book is that we need to take our country back from the lunatic fringes and get close enough to the middle to where compromise or at least dialogue is possible. Since I've been noticing that myself lately, although blaming it mostly on the far right fringe, I admitted that I've been ignoring the far left fringe simply because they have so little power. It's the violence that makes the far right so noticeable, and the left long ago realized that they can't win that fight.

But noticeable is not the only issue. What influence do the nuts have? To what extent do they muddy the water, confuse the young and uneducated, use manipulative techniques to get their own way, much like the mean girls on the play ground?

Because ultimately, mature discussion and adult decision-making takes place closer to the center. If the center-left and the center-right can get together on at least a few issues, perhaps we can drown out the voices of the wingnuts and set our country back on track. Let's try, shall we?
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on February 21, 2015
...not a liberal or conservative point of view, John talks about extremism as it is active on different sides American political life. Most (75-80% ?) of the book addresses the radical right, but I think that's only because the right's so powerful and dangerous right now in early 2015. He's equally hard on the left.

Some examples of groups that he discusses: the Tea Party, "Birthers" who believe that President Obama was born outside of the US. 9/11 "truthers" that believe President Bush was part of a conspiracy, and a "code pink" movement that sees moral equivalency between US Armed Forces and Jehadists.

Wing nuts was also an enjoyable read. I delayed reading it after purchasing but when I finally picked it up I couldn't put it down.

“The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
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John Avlon is a columnist for The Daily Beast, and also author of Independent Nation: How Centrism Can Change American Politics. He notes in the first chapter of this 2010 book, "I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I'm an American. I believe the far left and far right are equally insane. But in the opening years of the Obama admininstration, the Wingnuts on the right have been screaming the loudest." (Pg. 3)

He later adds, "We are caught in a pendulum swing of hyper-partisanship. The extremes echo and incite each other, confirming their side's worst stereotypes..." (Pg. 19) He argues that redistricting "has helped push political power to the margins," even as it resulted in 96% reelection rates, since it effectively ended competitive general elections. (Pg. 157)

Observing the criticisms of the president's health care proposals at town hall meetings, he suggests, "The roots of the town hall protests were the same as the Tea Parties---anger at the growth of government and the unprecedented spending. The fact the president had called for the health-care legislation to pass before the August recess felt to many citizens like liberal arrogance and overreach." (Pg. 30) He also notes the objections of liberals to Obama's "realpolitik agenda---a surge for Afghanistan, a cautious exit from Guantanmo, pragmatism on health care..." (Pg. 188)

He concludes the book on the note, "Washington was the original independent... George Washington warned us about the Wingnuts. We would be wise to take his advice." (Pg. 244)

Although obviously coming more from the Left, Avlon spares neither side completely in his analysis; this book (despite having been written in a mere three months in-between his wedding and honeymoon; pg. 245) will be of interest to anyone who deplores the growing "extremism" on both sides of the political aisle.
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on April 27, 2010
This book should be required reading for every American citizen. John Avlon pulls no punches from anyone-my kind of book. Wnile he does seem to pick on the Republicans more than the Democrats, he does a very good job of nailing the truth about both of them. It is a fascinating read and amazingly difficult to put down. I have around 75% of my copy underlined. Please read it. It is a real eye opener.
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