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Attention Deficit Democracy Hardcover – January 5, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
That mendacity has long been a bedrock of government makes Bovard (Lost Rights; The Bush Betrayal) mad as hell, and he takes administrations from Johnson's to Bush II's to task for distorting, concealing and fabricating facts and condemning voices of dissent as unpatriotic and damaging to democracy. Bovard places past and current administrations' justifications for military actions (Johnson in Vietnam, Reagan in Iran, Bush I in Kuwait, Clinton in the Balkans and Bush II in Iraq) alongside the facts of each case, an approach that benefits greatly from hindsight and serves to insulate his argument from partisan criticism. Clearly, it's government, not the liberals or conservatives who man the helm for any period of time. Government, though, can only be as crooked as the public and media allow it to be, Bovard argues, decrying voters who vote for a candidate because he "wears a cowboy hat" and the media for not being vigilant enough in calling out wayward politicians. Bovard describes problems in painstaking detail, but he is less adept at offering solutions, blandly encouraging Americans to cultivate "a higher grade of patriotism." Readers up-to-date on the headlines will learn little, but those looking for a rousing refresher on the merits of skepticism will find it here in spades.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A comprehensive attack on the administration from a less-often-heard place on the political spectrum." --Publishers Weekly
"Bovard explains how supposedly free citizens have bought into the lies and frauds offered by the political class.... Bovard offers wise counsel and sage advice."
--The Orange County Register
"We ignore Jim Bovard's work at the risk of being repeatedly...'betrayed' by the siren songs of presidential candidates of both parties."
--Former congressman Bob Barr, American Conservative
“This is an amazing book... A fantastic job... Bovard is one of the best writers for freedom in the world today.” -- Gardner Goldsmith, WNTK New Hampshire
It ‘s a wonderful book. It is really thought provoking. Anyone who wants to think out there is in for a treat with this book." -- Bill Borst, WGNU Radio St. Louis
"Bovard is one of my favorite authors... Attention Deficit Democracy is kind of a painful read." -- Jan Mickleson, WHO Iowa radio
Bovard... is one of very few journalists who are both pro-freedom and willing to dig... The dry wit is vintage Bovard, and is plentiful throughout Attention Deficit Democracy. Such Menckenesque touches are much appreciated... " Sunni Maravilossa, Internet maven
“Attention Deficit Democracy is a wake-up call to the American people. As Bovard reveals one ridiculous lie after another, you won't know whether to laugh or cry.” Laissez Faire Books
“James Bovard has hit another one out of the park... Americans may suffer from an attention deficit when it comes to their government, but your attention will be riveted on this book. By the time I reached the final page, my copy bristled with Post-It notes marking Jim's brilliant observations, startling facts, and wickedly witty statements.” Claire Wolfe, author
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Bovard's career is evident proof of the saying of Charles Beard that the quickest way to get yourself a reputation as a troublemaker and extremist is to go around saying the same things the Founders said in 1776. Bovard's problem is that he takes history seriously. He takes concepts and the meaning of words seriously. Most of all, he takes liberty seriously. He further places himself outside the pale when he uncompromisingly criticizes both Republicans and Democrats. When he took on President Clinton in book after book, it may have been easy enough to categorize Bovard as a "conservative." But now that he's giving President Bush the same treatment, what are we to do about him? Because clearly, there is no morally acceptable ground outside that staked out by the two "opposing" parties.
But enough sarcasm. In "Attention Deficit Democracy," Bovard is saying things that need to be said -- things which should be self-evident to any open-minded observer. Americans who still embrace the truisms of talk radio, the major newspapers and TV stations, and their sixth grade civics classrooms, will shudder at the author's disproving the trendy equation of "freedom" and "democracy" (in fact, they don't have any direct or necessary relationship at all), his stomping of the urban legend that "democracies never fight each other," and perhaps most of all, his sacrilegious suggestion that the people most to blame for the current state of affairs are the American people themselves. This isn't just a simple, Al Frankenish, "How could you let yourself be fooled by Bush?", but a much more fundamental questioning of people's understanding of how far away from true liberty we've really moved. Are we still a free country, just because we're given the chance to vote for new rulers every two, four, or six years?
James Bovard's recitation of the administration's "disassembling" (to use a Bushism) on torture made for deeply frustrating reading. His citing chapter and verse of all the elites who place "trust of government" as the highest of a citizen's obligations, was infuriating. And his attempt to show how "freedom" and "democracy" are in fact the answers to two, very different, questions was something that really needed to be said (or said again: I point the reader to "Liberty or Democracy: The Challenge of Our Time" [1952, reprinted 1993] by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn for an excellent primer on this topic). On the whole, this is an excellent book filled with excellent analysis. It's much easier to get outraged by him, or to ignore him, than it is to refute the fundamental truths he's laying out.
Bovard's last section, where he answers the inevitable "So what can we do about it?" question, struck me as a little thin relative to the strength of the rest of the book. But I suspect he included that chapter just to avoid the otherwise-inevitable criticisms of those who believe every political book needs to end with a twelve-point platform for fixing everything in the next five years. Personally, I think Bovard's analysis of the problem is right on, but I tend to doubt that things will ever be "fixable." We've fallen too far to ever reclaim that height, and that makes Independence Day a depressing holiday indeed.
"We will know that Americans have regained the right toward Washington when a negligent congressman dreads a public meeting with his constituents the same way the average citizen anticipates an IRS audit."
I find this interesting for at the time of the writing of this review a well-known Arizona U.S. Senator was subjected to a excoriating audience in Gilbert, AZ at a town hall meeting and he expressed his annoyance at the audience. Many were unhappy with the politics that are emanating from the nation's Capitol and it seems that politicians are finally coming under fire for their negligent work in defending the Constitution and the rights of the people.
Mr. Bovard thesis to this book is that the American people have been subjected by politicians to bevy of lies for so long that their tolerance to the fibs has deadened their sense of civic duty. Subjects that were covered include the ignorance of the voting public, the scaremongering that surrounds presidential elections, the idea of a reverse slave auction where the electorate does not elect statesmen, but rather their slave masters and the idea of messianic democracy where our government intended to spread the gospel of democracy through deceit and foreign domination.
Mr. Bovard elaborates on these subjects with clarity, but he tends to repeat himself a bit, but then again that is to be expected when the lies come fast and furious. It was a quick and enjoyable read of just over 250 pages along with an index and end notes. The author encourages us to return to the ideas of the Founding Fathers and tells us not to rely on Washington for all of their needs. There is equal disrespect for both parties with George W. Bush and Bil Clinton getting grilled so this tome is completely non-partisan. Highly recommended.