The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

Overview

They Think Obama Isn't an American Citizen.
They Think Obama Wants to Put Americans in Concentration Camps.
They Think Obama Is the Anti-Christ.
This Isn't Just the Tea Party—Welcome to the Backlash.

In November 2008, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new age of hope, optimism, and postpartisan politics. Instead it provoked unparalleled anger on the ...

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The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

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Overview

They Think Obama Isn't an American Citizen.
They Think Obama Wants to Put Americans in Concentration Camps.
They Think Obama Is the Anti-Christ.
This Isn't Just the Tea Party—Welcome to the Backlash.

In November 2008, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new age of hope, optimism, and postpartisan politics. Instead it provoked unparalleled anger on the far right that eventually twisted important national discussions and pushed ideas from the conservative fringe into the mainstream media. In the ensuing months, countless pollsters and reporters have tried to understand the heart of this mob that appeared so suddenly, but none of them has successfully accounted for the hard-right movement's rapid growth or explained the hidden connections between its parts. Until now.

In this gripping exposé, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Will Bunch reveals the secrets behind the crusade against Obama, exploring how forces like radical militia groups, the Tea Party, pro-gun zealots, and Glenn Beck have combined old-fashioned populist outrage with digital-age phobias to produce a wave of resentment that many have ridden straight to the bank. Pulling back the curtain on the paranoid politics of a new generation, Bunch shows how events such as the election of America's first African-American president, the economic recession, the rise of social networking, and the phenomenon of Glenn Beck have created a dangerous political moment that poses legitimate risks to democracy in America.

From conspiracy theorists to secessionists, birthers to "independent" Tea Partiers, Bunch illuminates the ties among this new array of groups. Going beyond easy caricature, he strips away layers of rhetoric to reveal politicians like Paul Broun, who, as one of the most extreme members of Congress, works as hard for right-wing ideologues as he does for his economically battered constituents, and groups like the Oath Keepers, a fast-growing, ultraradical organization that spreads unsubstantiated fears of Obama confiscating guns and placing U.S. citizens in concentration camps. In addition, Bunch exposes the opportunists who have embraced a new brand of apocalyptic fearmongering, which has made them millions but has also led to the widespread paranoia that has helped fuel a rise in antigovernment violence.

The end result shows the true stakes of this political perfect storm, demonstrating how the anger of the far right now threatens to consume America. Powerful, shocking, and thought-provoking, The Backlash is a controversial look at where our democracy is—and where it may be heading.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While it was no secret that Americans on the far right of the political spectrum were unenthusiastic about Obama's victory, the immediacy and intensity of the backlash went well beyond what anyone expected. In this exhaustive investigation of the Tea Party movement and its loudest mouthpieces, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Bunch seeks to help liberal and moderate America understand the rage of the right, where they see the nation headed, and how legitimate grievances are being manipulated by opportunists hawking fear to make millions off of working class people. While Bunch's own biases are apparent from page one, he is careful to try to present the far right in an honest light and, according to Bunch, without challenging their perspectives. Maturity in political discourse would be refreshing if Bunch were writing political discourse; he's not. This is investigative reporting. Bunch's primary issue seems to be Beck's opportunism, but his targeting of the only person he doesn't interview will likely make conservatives avoid his book, something Bunch clearly expects. But for liberals or moderates seeking to understand current far right events, the book will fascinate, and likely frighten. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this timely work, Bunch (senior writer, Philadelphia Daily News; Tear Down This Myth) surveys today's extreme conservatives, including movements and groups that have formed since Barack Obama's presidency, and since the economic downturn, including the Tea Party and the Oath Keepers. Bunch argues that paranoia and fear, channeled through backlash-espousing websites and media outlets like Fox television, fuel the many unemployed supporters of the backlash to speak out against big government and spending. On the scene at various events and gatherings in several different states, Bunch provides an eye-opening, journalistic account of the activities and political views of the backlash, which he defines as staunchly anti-immigration, anti-gun-control, and anti-health care. VERDICT An entertaining and engaging read for a general audience interested in current events and American politics. Also recommended for political science researchers.—Karen Okamoto, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice Lib., New York
Philadelphia Inquirer
“A read on the wild side...[The Backlash is] an often revealing and scarily sobering midterm report that provokes a prime question: If political extremism and paranoia become more pronounced, will the ideological and partisan pendulum continue to swing - and never stop to solve the nation’s problems?”
Slate
“The Backlash is not an attack on the movement. It’s a plea for the people inside the movement to realize they’re being taken advantage of...it identifies the “pyramid of hucksters” and “needless anxieties” that distort economic angst into a crisis of faith in government and the press.
Booklist
“An insightful close-up look at the individuals and social forces that promise to churn American politics in the face of huge social and demographic changes. ”
Los Angeles Times
“Chart(s) the darker fringes of the populist extreme that have acquired a new energy since the election of Barack Obama...a sobering account.”
Truthout.org
“Extraordinarily readable, vividly real-to-life and broad-in-scope view of the Tea Party movement - this book could have been a movie.”
Michiko Kakutani
“Persuasive…compelling.”
David Sirota
“An exquisitely written expose of a frightening political force that is shaping our elections, our society and our world.”
David Brock
“Always compelling, but often disturbing, The Backlash is an essential contribution to our understanding of what’s happening right now on the political scene and what we might expect in the years to come.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061991714
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Bunch is a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News and a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. He is also the author of the recent Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy. His Daily News blog, Attytood, is one of the most successful political sites on the Web. A career journalist, Bunch shared a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting when he worked at New York Newsday. He lives in the Philadelphia suburbs.

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Excellent and accurate

    One of the best descriptions written regarding the great division in our nation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    Misled

    Just another set of opinions from yet another misled, deceived and deceptive author-a very sad commentary. Mot worth the$

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2011

    Worth reading

    If you're not a right winger, it goes a long way to explaining the Tea Party phenomenon. Well written and interesting for political buffs.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2011

    Ridiculous!

    This was absurd and misleading. What a waste of time.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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