Reading is fundamentalist

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 22, 2009

1) Apocalypse soon
Before the election, conservative talkers and bloggers argued that Obama was not simply a poor choice for president, but because of his anti-American views, his radical friends, and his socialist agenda, a mortally dangerous one.

But the warnings have proven false. Obama has not, for example, tried to confiscate everyone's guns, promoted infanticide, ceded American sovereignty, sent citizens to FEMA concentration camps, or nationalized radio and removed all conservatives from the air (all of which, and much more, was actually predicted).

The benign results threaten to undermine all the paranoid rage of the past two years, and to prompt conservatives to accept that Obama, while not their cup of tea, is not as dangerous as they had believed.

The MCM doesn't want that to happen — it would be bad for ratings and sales. So these books reassure them that Obama and the Democrats are, in fact, destroying the nation.

Morris and McGann begin their book with the admonition: "It's time to take back our country. Now. It's that simple. It's that urgent." Beck warns in Common Sense that we stand at a fork in the road in which one path "leads us to transnationalism and the end of American sovereignty." Goldberg and Coulter declare that the media is no longer just biased, but actively colluding with the left to implement a socialist agenda.

Levin proclaims that a Constitution-rewriting "judicial oligarchy" has perverted our founding principles to the extent that today's America is no longer a constitutional republic. It is no longer even a representative republic, thanks to an unelected "maze of administrative departments that are unknown to the public and detached from its sentiment." And, thanks to the usurpation of states' rights by the central government, America is no longer a federal republic. Dire days indeed.

2) It's simple, stupid
It is, therefore, the wrongheaded policies of the left that are dooming the country, they argue. And MCM consumers have been strongly expressing their absolute certainty of this on issues ranging from economic recovery and health-care reform to constitutional interpretation and international diplomacy.

But these are complicated issues, and the Obama administration is led by well-educated, experienced professionals — whereas few of the MCM's critics have practical experience or advanced education in economics, foreign affairs, or public policy.

Notably, these top-selling books contain no original reporting or research, nor do their authors write from the lofty perches of public office, academia, or in-the-field journalism. With the (possible) exception of Palin, the authors of all of these books make their living from the conservative marketplace. Beck, who penned two of them, hosts television and radio talk shows. Levin hosts a radio talk show and heads the contributor-funded, conservative Landmark Legal Foundation. Coulter is a syndicated columnist. Goldberg, a former journalist, is a Fox News media analyst. Morris is a consultant and Fox News analyst, and McGann is a consultant. Malkin is a columnist and runs two conservative Web sites.

To counter that apparent lack of authority, 2009's top-selling authors repeatedly assure the reader that education and experience only make people understand less. Common sense trumps all.

Palin's memoir is essentially a book-length dissertation on this thesis. The other authors are even more direct. "Maybe I need some advanced degree in economics from the People's Republic of Harvard or a Nobel Prize to understand this," sneers Beck in his thoroughly misguided analysis of the current economic crisis in Arguing with Idiots.

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