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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.
"Attention Deficit Democracy" is loaded with quotes from historical figures.
Like the quote on page 164 from Vin Weber- "We create the government that screws you, and then you're supposed to thank us for protecting you from it."
The presidents and other leaders lie and we act like it's to be expected. Terms like "political illiteracy", "blind trust" and "mass ignorance" all too often seem to fit the general voting public.
The chapter entitled "Messianic Democracy" was a brilliantly written history lesson on American foreign policy. A few examples were the CIA's aid in the military coup in Honduras of 1954 fueled by the interest of United Fruit Company in a dispute over compensation for land.
A more recent example is the extreme U.S. manipulation of the Iraqi elections.
Mr. Bovard examines the heavy influence of Leo Strauss' views on foreign policy via neo-conservatives. An enlightening quote from Shadia Drury's book notes that Strauss believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize that there is no morality and that there is only one natural right- the right of the superior to rule over the inferior." That's on page 96. That school of thought propelled the aggressive U.S. foreign policy position of preemptive war/invasion.
The author hit the nail on the head regarding 9/11. "The fact that numerous government agencies botched their duty to defend the American people became, in Bush's eyes, a failure of freedom itself." Page 236.
"Attention Deficit Democracy" drives home the uncomfortable reality that a lot of us (citizens) don't care about truth in politics or power grabs by the administration past and present. This is due in part because we suffer from blind trust, reduced expectations, or ignorance. Any deficit in attention by the voting public is subject to exploitation by political campaigns.
This is a very good book about current politics and how we as citizens need to be more attentive and return to the watchful attitude of the early Republic.
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