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Conservatize Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky Hardcover – October 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
As a Seattle public radio commentator deeply entrenched in a liberal mindset, Moe wondered whether a sudden immersion in conservatism could change his worldview-so he saturated himself with nothing but right wing people, media and culture for an entire month. His subsequent misadventures are of uneven quality: thoughtful conversations with National Review editor Rich Lowry and talk radio host Michael Medved, among others, are interspersed with awkward attempts to provoke representatives of groups like the Family Research Council. At a visit to a fundamentalist church service, for example, he repeatedly asks if they'll be "able to stop The Gay" from destroying marriage. Moe also takes easy potshots at country music, SUVs and other red-state staples, and watches movies like Red Dawn and Forrest Gump for purported conservative themes. Conversations with conservative intellectuals, which force him to acknowledge greater shades of ambiguity, provide less fodder for mockery. His commonsense conclusion-exposure to new ideas can be eye opening, if not exactly transformative-will confirm the attitude of readers who have already embraced political complexity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
John Moe is a regular contributor to the award-winning humor Web site McSweeneys.net and his stories, commentaries, and short humor pieces have appeared on the NPR programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Day to Day, and Only a Game. He lives with his wife and children in Seattle.
Top customer reviews
He changed his hairstyle; bought a suit; read and listened to only conservative magazines, TV, and other media (including only watching movies such as Red Dawn ('84)); even listened only to music by artists such as Toby Keith and Christian artist Michael W. Smith. He visited conservative think tanks such as the Family Research Council, talked with people like William Kristol (who said that neoconservatism "is much friendlier to bold government action than traditional neoconservatism"; pg. 65), stayed in Idaho for a week or so, and ate lots of beef jerky.
Along the way he makes some incisive observations (e.g., that both Nancy Reagan and her son support stem cell research, pg. 81; and that Michael Medved listens "every day" to NPR's "All Things Considered," pg. 198), and even admits that "There was a lot of the world of conservatism that I had become fond of" (Pg. 185).
His "Experiment" might have been more convincing if he had engaged in a more sustained (e.g., 1-2 years, rather than 30 days) study, and if he had interacted INTELLECTUALLY with conservative arguments more vigorously (he admitted toward the end of the 30 days that "I might as well shove a few more books into my head... as the shot clock wound down," pg. 298). Still, the book is a very interesting excusion into "enemy territory," and as he concludes, "I had proved that you can blast yourself out of your comfort zone and get, if not a smarter brain, at least a wider one." (Pg. 307)
That having been said, I have a bone to pick with this book. Had this been a book about an outsider looking into the world of conservatism, it would have been just about right. Unfortunately, it uses the ultimately unsuccessful conceit of a liberal trying to "become" conservative by indulging in what he believes, through some pretty shallow assumptions and an abiding faith in gross stereotyping, to be conservative activities. In order to get into the conservative mindset, his first step is to buy an expensive suit (to fit in with the neocons) and a bunch of clothes at Wal-Mart with American flags (to fit in with the common folk), his next step is to fill his Ipod with nothing but Kid Rock and country songs, then he rounds it all off by consuming apparently nothing more than beef jerky, Jelly Bellies, and chewing tobacco. This strikes me as something akin to trying to learn how the Chinese think by eating chop suey and watching Jackie Chan movies for a month.
Now maybe I'm taking John Moe's "Experiment" too seriously. But if so, I think Moe may also be taking his "Experiment" too seriously as well. Perhaps it was at the behest of his editor, but the last several chapters are taken up my Moe's apparently serious lamentations that he can't quite seem to get into the "Conservative" mentality. Ultimately, still buzzing on beef jerky apparently, Moe has an epiphany that conservatives and liberals both really want to do what is right, and they simply have different perspectives on how to get there, and that we're all basically the same under the skin. While I suppose that's largely true, I was left wondering why Moe needed to spend a month wearing Rustler jeans to figure this out when simply talking to people without the conceit of the "Experiment" would almost certainly have brought him to the exact same conclusion.
I don't want to be too harsh. I really did enjoy Conservatize Me, and I don't regret buying it. The first few chapters, in which he talks to well-known conservative theorists and pundits, and sits in on the College Republicans national convention, are very entertaining. However in the end, unfortunately, I don't think that John Moe ultimately understood what his goal was in either conducting his "Experiment" or in writing Conservatize Me.
I don't agree with all of Moe's views, but I'm not critiquing his like or dislike of high taxes. I'm praising his writing style. He's good at what he does. And if he writes about more of his Experiments, I'll definitely be reading.
The ironic, self-deprecating style was fun to read and he interviews a lot of heavy weights in the conservative movement who talk honestly.
The book started falling apart at the end where you could see that the "conservative" music he was listening to was ruining his mood. I wish he had maintained his upbeat attitude throughout.