If we lived in a a cartoon world Oct 8, 2009
Just finished ?An Inconvenient Book? by Glenn Beck. Got it Saturday finished it Mon AM ( along with some other books I was ?working? on at the same time: Junger?s ?Storm of Steel? (classic WW1 memoir), ?No God But God, The origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam? by Reza Aslan (fascinating/cogent/timely), ?The Accidental Guerrilla, Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One? by Kilcullen (top counter insurgency expert currently working with the US Gov. Brilliant), and ?The Predator State? by James K Galbraith ( cool, rational, in the same vein as ?Freakonomics? giving unexpected explanations for everyday economic phenomenon). .
First to Glenn Beck. Readable if somewhat popular (i.e. lightweight) discussion of current events and trends. Then to be fair , as my reading list shows, I usually don?t read lightweight books. Interestingly enough there were a number of issues we had strong convergence on , at least in regard to identifying the problems ( examples of chapter headings: Marriage , Porn, Divorce: The circle of Life, Body image : the New Hotness, America?s Oil Dependence: The Peak of Stupidity, You Can?t Say That! The Politics of Correctness, Parenting: The Case for Abstinence, Opinion Polls: Our Country?s Real Leader ) , if not the solution. There were also a number ?All aboard the Paranoia Express? items which I guess plays to his base.
I also found the predictable attacks on the predictable conservative targets like the UN and Minimum Wage, Islam, Media Bias , Global Climate Change etc. What was surprising to me was his careful disclaimers about the supposed inaccuracies in the reporting of his statements. That is he goes out of his way to distance himself from a number of positions that he says he has been accused of. In that I got a certain ?cognitive dissonance? between what the book was saying and his public TV persona. It might be that this book was written in 2007 and he has ?radicalized? his TV persona since then. I have heard some discussion that this has occurred, possibly in search of greater ratings. Kind of like the ?Geraldo effect?. Certainly the opinions in the book are much more ??nuanced? than the pronouncements I now see on the daily TV show Overall I found the guy in the book a lot more sympathetic and rational than the guy on the TV. One of the very good reasons to be sure to read what you can by people who are renowned for having opinions different from your own.
I found a lot of his suggestions amusing and some of them even relevant (i.e. a ?permit? to have children). The failing of the book over all was the lack of depth of the analysis of the problem and in the glibness of the response/solutions suggested. This is aside from those areas where I don?t agree with his assessment. There is also a kind of ?cutesy? or perhaps a Palinesque attempt of ?down home? that runs through the book and , while it does play for a chuckle doesn?t advance his serious concerns much. Then it might be what was required to get the book published.
It is interesting to me that while the liberals are so good at satire and comedy ( Woody Allen, Jon Stewart come to mind) the conservatives never seem to hit the right note. I don?t know why that is but there is no denying that , aside from ?Blue Collar tour?, there is no significant conservative humor , certainly no political humor (unless you want to count Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh as a kind of political Don Rickels) from the conservative side. Even Blue Collar Tour , while it does comment on society doesn?t ever get into political commentary. I don?t know why that is but it seems to be the case. For some contrast , and from another direction, I would recommend ?The Daily Show and Philosophy? which even if you don?t agree with the ideas put forth show how it can be done with a ?lighter? touch.
So , overall not a bad book, good light reading and some ok ideas. For a preference however I would suggest to any thoughtful reader , conservative or liberal, books by (very) conservative writer David Frum : ?How We Got Here , the 70?s, The Decade that brought you modern life , for better or worse?, or ?Grand New Party , How the Republicans can win the Working Class and Save the American Dream by Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam (also conservative writers) and , of course ?Bobos in Paradise ? and ?On Paradise Drive? by David Brooks another conservative writer for the New York Times. Any of those books , especially the Grand New Party? offer a much more reasoned , pragmatic and compelling conservative vision and agenda than the Beck book. Also better researched. The Frum book is interesting because , while the conclusions are uncomfortable to the point of shocking ( desegregation was a bad idea,) , the research done has a certain grim authority to it so that you find yourself , reluctantly, agreeing with the author that he has some points.