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147 of 164 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 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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66 of 80 people found the following review helpful
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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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 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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80 of 102 people found the following review helpful
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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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
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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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2010
I was looking forward to reading this book, because I have seen John Avlon on CNN and, while not always agreeing with him, his opinions were always common-sense based and I respect what he has to say.

I think that in this book he sets out to give a general overview of the extreme fringe politics that is driving our society and culture today. This book is easy to read and doesn't delve too far into the weeds of some of these wingnut theories. Instead, we get a good basis of knowledge for how the current polarization has occurred.

For anyone who is a political junkie, a lot of the information in the book will be old hat. I think this is a good book for someone who is not so familiar with wingnut theories or how they came about. The book is a good starter to familiarize oneself with these theories, so that one may know a wingnut when they hear or see one, or at the very least be able to critically analyze what one is hearing.
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188 of 265 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2010
Avlon is a gifted and passionate writer, but like much of the mainstream media, he goes too far in trying to create a moral equivalence and draw power equilibrium between the unattached, and laughably poorly organized left wing fringe with a very funded right wing extreme that have more or less unfettered access to well capitalized media outlets and corporate funding. He paints George W Bush as a innocent target of a vociferous and bloodthirsty left wing fringe, saying nothing of the actual activities of that Administration which provoked legitimate outrage and not just on the left, as well as a mainstream press who silent without critique, and let it all happen.

He also mischaracterizes the activities of the Democratic Congress in mid 2009 as totemic, monolithic and extremist, and pays no attention to the obstructionism and no to everything approach publicly embraced by the GOP. He also misunderstands that the spending that was done to stem the economic free-fall that year was passed under the previous administration, to say nothing of the years of waste and abuse that had preceded in the previous eight years.

This topic is near and dear to me, and is dearly needs attention. Not just to the over-the-top rhetoric spewing forth from both extremes, but the total lack of attention being paid to it by the media, as they focus on shallow, fatuous and trivial news stories, while completely avoiding in depth discussion of important issues like federal budget deficits, healthcare/insurance reform, the terrible state of the nation's infrastructure and so on.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 20, 2010
To put Olbermann in with Beck, Palin and Rush is kinda stretching it. I mean Beck and his obsession with Nazi's, Socialists and McCarthyism come on Glenn is using the same fear tactics that McCarthy used for his witch hunts. Or Rush and his Oxycontin rantings that never have to be fact checked. He's fried his brain with that stuff. The scary thing about these self declared experts on politics isn't what they say it is the idiotic angry flock of sheep that follow them and believe all of the crazy things they say. I feel there should be more books like this with just the paranoid crap they say. It would be a good laugh and cry at the same time.

I've always wondered if they care so much about where the country's going why don't they step up to the plate? I mean by their rhetoric the country is falling apart and they need someone that knows what to do to save it. I guess they couldn't handle it.

One question when do the tanks roll in to town and the death panels start? I've been waiting for a long time now.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2010
According to a recent Harris poll, 57% of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim; 45% think he was not born in the United States; 45% think he is the "domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of;" and the poll says that 51% of Republicans think he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government.

The wingnuts will always be with us. "But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!" The Book of Revelation is a valuable spiritual resource, yet it is rarely far from the mind of a certain kind of wingnut. After all, the world is about to end, or so we are told. And as this quote from scripture reveals, it is only natural that a wingnut's temperament should be less than modest.

Yet this is a modest book. It is not very long, but neither is it unusually short; it has a fair amount of detail, but not too much; it leans a bit to the right, but not too far; it is not exceptionally well written, but it is not at all poorly written. There is a place for modest books, and modesty is a tone well suited for describing the actions of people who are anything but modest.

Wingnutism is an equal opportunity obsession. Any subject that gains a certain level of currency will attract its share of crazies. As the book points out in some detail, the left has long been famous for its weirdos. But then again, so have the British aristocracy, the fans of Paris Hilton, and the very highest level of chess player. Yet how can we explain the huge outpouring of insanity from the right?

This book wisely spends little time trying to understand why so many on the far right use language outside the range of what is usually considered reasoned discourse. Certainly the presence of Fox News, of media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and the ubiquitous echo chamber of the Internet are all in part to blame. Yet it is the sheer enumeration of the various forms of insanity found in this book that ultimately makes it worth our time. How can such huge numbers believe so many absurd ideas?

I'm taking a jocular tone here, but this subject has a very serious side. Over and over in this text we read about violence or threats of violence. The tone, the language and some of the actions of those on the right are inherently violent. "Don't retreat, instead - RELOAD!" "Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season's targets! From the shot across the bow -- the first second's tip-off -- your leaders will be in the enemy's crosshairs." "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!" "Tiller the baby killer." "Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive!" "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and to stay alive using equipment."

Oh gosh. The distortion of the words found in the gospels troubles me the most.

Regardless, this is an interesting book and worth the relatively short time it takes to read. If you aren't already aware of the current state of the right wing, please read this. If you are well informed, you will probably still find this an interesting summation of a fascinating chapter in American history.
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