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Called "a cross between Michael Moore and South Park," gonzo journalist Harmon Leon shared his undercover exploits among fringe right-wingers in the riotously funny book Republican Like Me. Now, in The Infiltrator, Harmon exposes more of the harrowing and hilarious reality of living in red-state America.
Desperate for a job in the no-new-job Republican economy, Harmon becomes OJ Simpson’s sidekick helping him to pull off hidden-camera tricks on OJ’s budding reality show.
Harmon joins a civilian vigilante group of senior citizens called the Minuteman Project and helps them "patrol for illegal aliens" along the Mexican border by sitting in a lawn chair.
He becomes a Promise Keeper at one of the group’s weekend stadium events, where he "gets pumped up about Jesus" but finds that women are clearly not welcome.
Harmon infiltrates the Protest Warriors (who vehemently oppose liberal protestors) and meets a right-wing Warrior who boastfully confides to Harmon that he’s infiltrated leftist protests. Harmon rises to become president of the local chapter.
Harmon shows his flair for drama when he trains to be a teen abstinence educator and makes an unforgettable impression using mime.
At a faith healing extravaganza, Harmon throws away his crutches and walks again—before being "assisted" to the ground.
And there’s much, much more in this twisted sampler of "infiltration journalism." Follow Harmon on each mission impossible as he dons various ingenious disguises, goes undercover, tries various ways to eke out a living, and then just barely escapes to report on the shocking and very funny truth about surviving in conservative America.
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About the Author
Harmon Leon (San Francisco, CA) is an award-winning journalist who has appeared on The Howard Stern Show, Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Details, E!, NPR’s This American Life, Spin, Wired, The Guardian, and more. His first book, The Harmon Chronicles, won a 2003 Independent Publishers Award for humor. Leon is also a stand-up comedian.
Read an Excerpt
The Infiltratormy undercover exploits in right-wing America
Chapter OneA BIG SAUSAGE FEST FOR THE LORD!
Men. Manly Men.
The first thing one notices when walking toward the HP Pavilion in San Jose is lots of men-nothing but big groups of men. Not sissy-boy men, but manly men. The kind that go to big sporting events and watch play-off games with their buddies, not to mention men who are lovin' the Jesus. Tonight, the womenfolk are made to stay at home; it's guys only as the testosterone pumps in the large sports arena where the Sharks play hockey-all in the name of the Lord. Yes, "Calling Men to an Unpredictable Adventure"-as their saying goes-these are the Promise Keepers!
"If you want to truly change the world, change the men," states the Promise Keepers' literature. (Sorry, ladies!) This weekend is designed to "expose a list of lies of the world against their manhood." Holy shit, not only are people lying to men, but our very manhood is at stake too!
Who started the Promise Keepers in 1990? Why, the head coach of the University of Colorado football team (a manly man doing a manly job). Touring twenty cities around the country, with ticket prices at eighty-nine dollars, filling larger outdoor stadium events with upwards offorty thousand people, Promise Keepers are holy big business. Yes, as far as filling arenas goes, the Promise Keepers are the AC/DC of men-only, Jesus-centered events.
What separates me (a man) from most of these men (not women) is I'm in the inner circle for this weekend's arena event. That's right, phoning a few days earlier, I volunteered to be on the Promise Keepers Prayer Team.
"Do you have experience putting your hands on men and praying for them?" the Prayer Team Leader asked.
"Yeah. This morning, as a matter of fact," I replied. "I put my hands on men and pray all the time!"
Highly pleased with my response, he put me on the team. "You're going to see some wild things," he added.
"What kind of things?" I asked, wondering if it would involve a big religious circle jerk.
"Transgressions, speaking in tongues, guys confessing to homosexuality, alcohol problems ..."
"Cool! Bring it on!" I responded. Pause. "Woo!"
Some (we'll call them the whiny naysayers) proclaim that the Promise Keepers are a component of the religious and political right-a Trojan horse, if you will-for the advancement of an ultraconservative patriarchy. For instance, Promise #4 calls for men to reclaim their leadership role in the family. In a Promise Keepers' book, a section titled "Reclaiming your Manhood" reads: "Sit down with your wife and say something like this: 'Honey, I've made a terrible mistake. I've given you my role. I gave up leading this family, and I forced you to take my place. Now, I must reclaim that role.' ... I'm not suggesting you ask for your role back, I'm urging you to take it back.... There can be no compromise here. If you're going to lead, you must lead." And what if "Honey" doesn't quite acquiesce to this change? Too bad! Manly men, according to the Promise Keepers, must take charge.
That's why I'm cunningly going undercover in the persona of a manly Promise Keepers volunteer. That will show that not only I can be a pumped-up member of the Prayer Team but also, more important, I can also be a MAN or perhaps reclaim my manhood.
Name: Martin Manly.
Hobbies: Doing one-handed pushups.
Costume: Red, white, and blue patriotic tracksuit and a baseball cap.
Catchphrase: "Go Niners and Jesus!"
Goal: To high-five as many men as possible-in a manly sort of fashion for Jesus.
Inside the packed HP Pavilion, it's a big sausage fest, or pickle party, for the Lord. Ten thousand men, mostly big-bellied in sports jerseys and baseball caps, sit in the hockey arena's stands, shoveling down pizza and nachos. This is just like Comedy Central's The Man Show, but without the fun of women on trampolines (because it's men only). I expect the concession stand to sell big "Jesus is #1" Styrofoam fingers and beer hats for drinking red wine (the blood of Christ, of course). The crowd files into the stands that surround the large stage, with the same anticipation as those would arriving for the big game. To some, this is the big game. It must be really great for these guys to sit around, eat crappy food, fart if they want to, and learn about Jesus with their buddies.
"Git 'er done!" I hear someone yell from the stands.
Already checked in at the volunteer station, I've exchanged my patriotic track top for a manly baby-blue official "Promise Keepers-The Awakening" T-shirt and all-access badge that reads "Martin." Passing large men in sports-team shirts with their hands full of nachos and popcorn, I make my way toward an enormous sign that reads "Prayer Booth." Much like a kissing booth, the prayer booth is an area set up with several curtains, where those wishing to be prayed with can do so in privacy, led by us, the Prayer Team.
"I'm here to volunteer for the Prayer Team," I proclaim to an enthusiastic man. "Woo!"
"Great. We'll be having a briefing at six," he enthusiastically says, putting his hand on my back. I throw him a high five.
Roughly twelve middle-age to older gentlemen stand there, some looking like they've had hard living before meeting Jesus, others looking like they teach Sunday school. We, the Prayer Team, are brought into the bowels of the arena, corralled in a narrow hallway. One mustachioed man-who could easily be mistaken for talking to himself-is actually praying. All of us are adorned in matching blue Promise Keepers volunteer T-shirts. We, the Prayer Team, are the elite squadron that is on hand to satisfy the entire arena's praying needs.
"I volunteered for the Prayer Team just to get the free T-shirt," one of the men confides as I high-five him.
The Prayer Team leaders, who both seem absolutely giddy, give a briefing.
"Put your hand on them, but not inappropriately," the giddy leader explains, demonstrating by placing his hands on the other Prayer Team leader's shoulder, then his back.
"Can you demonstrate what would be inappropriate?" I ask.
"Should we have our Bibles with us to quote specific passages?" interrupts a man who's holding, well, the Bible.
"Let God give you the words," the Prayer Team leader offers to keep things moving.
"All right!" I scream eagerly, since this is the pep talk before the big game and I want to go to the play-offs. "You tell 'em!"
"When they make the altar call, that's when we're going to have the big rush," he adds. It'll be like Denny's hit with the hungry after-bar crowd.
"Should we put a time limit on our praying?" I inquire.
"Take your time with it," he says. "Most of all, have some fun out there."
"Yeah! Woo!" I yell, pumping my fist. "Take your time with it. That's right."
The hardened man next to me looks over, so I offer him a high five.
"OK, I want everyone to pair up, so you can give a little prayer for one another."
I look around. Should my prayer partner be the creepy guy with the mustache or the Sunday school teacher to my right? As I mull it over, I realize I'm the only one without a prayer partner. The others already have their hands on one another, heads bowed, and are getting down to some serious praying. I have a dejected look, like the last one chosen for kickball (except the stakes in this game are much bigger).
The two Prayer Team leaders, hands on shoulders about to pray, look over at me.
"Martin, come on over here," they say with big, aw-shucks goofy grins.
I scamper across the hall like a puppy about to get his stomach rubbed. With hands on each of our shoulders, we form a prayer threesome. We're each supposed to take turns and pray for strength. While the others do this, I've taken it upon myself to seize on random phrases and repeat them.
"Oh, Lord, please show Martin that we're a crazy bunch, but we follow your path-"
"Crazy bunch, oh, Lord, crazy bunch!" I exclaim. "Evil days! Evil days!"
When finished, we each take turns hugging each other. Why? Because we're men with men. Not gay men, of course, but men in the way God intended us, and because of that we're not afraid to hug. Then we high-five!
Promise Keepers Fun Quote: "The demise of our community and culture is the fault of sissified men who have been overly influenced by women."
lights! Visuals! Rock! Jesus!
With a multimedia array of large video visuals and lights in a manly U2-style, a Christian power-rock band called the Newsboys kicks things off, causing one of the volunteers to do a crazy, spinning, filled-with-Jesus, Grateful Dead dance.
"How many people here are pastors' sons?" questions the lead singer with an Australian accent, and a few hands go up. "Security!" he adds in joshing fashion to gosh-darn chuckles.
Then, projected on a giant video screen appears tonight's master of ceremonies-the self-proclaimed "brother like no other": a large, black, hip-hop guy whose catchphrase, for some reason (I have no idea), is "Aiight!" But it rhymes with "All right," so maybe there's a connection.
"What's up! For how many of you is this your first Promise Keepers?" the brother like no other says, making a stage entrance.
Huge hoots and hollers!
"Aiight!" says the brother like no other.
"Aiight!" scream ten thousand men.
"Now you're talking black."
"This is the Promise Keepers, men's men in the house!" explains the brother like no other, telling it like it is. "We're not looking for losers." Surprisingly, no, he explains, the Promise Keepers are looking only for winners.
Then, without much of a segue, "One of my favorite books as a kid was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," he continues, squeezing out applause. Confusingly, we then watch a five-minute trailer for the Disney film Chronicles of Narnia. I'm not sure of the connection, other than maybe sometimes Jesus needs a corporate sponsor, too.
"I tell y'all. That's the book I grew up with," says the brother like no other. "It's all about stories. How about that Spider-Man?" Huge thunderous applause, followed by a joke about a little white boy. "Or Lord of the Rings?" Bigger thunderous applause. Then, "But the greatest story ever written was written by God!"
A serious hush runs through the crowd of ten thousand men. One of the prayer leaders catches me by surprise, squeezing my shoulder, which scares the hell out of me. Momentarily forgetting, I give him a what-the-hell-are-you-doing-that-for look, as he moves on to squeeze other volunteers' shoulders.
"God has a plan in his hand to write about tonight," the brother like no other continues. "It's time to say, 'Wake up!'"
Judging by the noise, one would think the Sharks just won the Stanley Cup.
And then a manly SportsCenter-like update: "Eleven to seven, Angels are winning."
Huge manly cheers from the ten thousand men, cheers bigger than for the Messiah, though the Angels he refers to are not in heaven along with Jesus, but on the baseball field in the play-offs.
"I'm not messing with the Raiders fans. I got death threats last year." (Death threats are not very Jesus-like.)
"Raiders! Raiders!" I scream, throwing a high five to a guy wearing a T-shirt that says, "Break the Chains."
The game scores are followed by a man who tells of the pain of a life of drugs and alcohol. Finding Jesus caused him to break the chains. To symbolize this, he does some sort of interpretive dance/escape artist act with smoke machines and an array of lights. While wrapped in chains, rolling on the ground, he at one point dramatically puts a gun in his mouth.
"That's pretty wild," remarks the prayer leader, squeezing my shoulder.
Among the testosterone revelry, a lone woman (not a man!) walks through the crowd. What the hell is she doing here? There's nothing here for her-this is a men-only event! A guy wearing a black T-shirt that simply reads "God" on the back shoots her a strange look as she heads toward the exit.
"There's a prayer booth. There's brothers ready to pray for you. They're like dogs ready to attack," the brother like no other tells the crowd. That sounds enticing. "If you need someone to pray for you, there's about ten guys in back who make up the Prayer Team. Give a wave, guys."
We the Prayer Team wave to the crowd of ten thousand men. I pump my fist in the air, then high-five fellow volunteers.
After a confusing boxing sketch by the Awaken Drama Team, I take a break from the sweaty, pumped-up male adrenaline arena to explore some of the booths set up on the concourse. I pass the leather-clad, long-bearded "Harley Davidsons for Christ" booth, then encounter two elderly gentlemen who could easily pass for closeted queens.
"Sign our petition?" says one of the closeted queeny gentlemen under a banner that reads "Values Matter."
"What's this for?" I reply.
"It's to keep marriage between a man and a woman," he explains with a tight upper lip, explaining that men shouldn't be with other men-except in the case of the Promise Keepers, of course.
"It's so scary what could happen," I say, signing the petition with the name "Satan's Big Cock." For encouragement, I give a mighty finger snap. "You go, girl!"
He stands there for several seconds until I offer him a manly high five.
A crusty man in a yellow button-down shirt is running a booth adorned with logos from all the big television networks endorsing the "Media Leader Prayer Calendar." He explains: "You find today's date, and you pray for the media leader and the cultural celebrity listed. You pray for the cast and crew of TV programs or for music group members."
"Seriously?" I ask with bewilderment.
Grabbing their newsletter, I read: "Jennifer Aniston is turning towards faith. Unfortunately the faith is Buddhism. Becoming involved in Buddhism isn't going to fill the hole left by Brad Pitt. Pray for Jennifer Aniston."
"Each of these people are one miracle away from a vital faith in God," the crusty man says without a smile or irony. Clearly he believes that the praying will help these celebrities find their needed relationship with God. Nine different prayers are provided that can be used to clean up Hollywood for the betterment of the Christian good. Strangely, a large majority of the names are Jewish (hmm-heathens). As I look at the list, on this day we are supposed to pray for director M. Night Shyamalan as well as what's-the-deal-with-airline-flying? comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
"Can you mix and match which celebrities you want to pray for on any given day? Like could today I pray for the Wayans brothers and, say, Mel Gibson?"
The Passion of the Christ director, it's explained, doesn't need praying for. I look at the list again. On tomorrow's plate: Russell Simmons and the Simpsons. Do they know that the Simpsons are only a cartoon characters?
"Does the praying work?" I ask about saving the souls of the Wayans brothers.
"We've been noticing quite an impact, quite an impact," the crusty man says with unflappable confidence, stating how they're trying to arrange to meet with such media leaders as uber-conservative Rupert Murdoch.
"Do you want to get on our mailing list?" asks the crusty man.
Once again I sign "Satan's Big Cock" with the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Who's this?" I ask a woman (yes, a woman) running a booth with DVDs for sale, such as Tolerate This and A Christian Unleashed, featuring someone named Brad Stine.
"He's a comedian," the woman (not a man) replies with a snicker. "You're going to see him later tonight."
Excerpted from The Infiltrator by HARMON LEON Copyright © 2006 by Harmon Leon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. A Big Sausage Fest for the Lord!...........................................13
2. I Was OJ's Accomplice!.....................................................29
3. I Got Laid at a Teen Abstinence Educators' Conference!.....................45
4. Bullshitting the Lie Detector..............................................69
5. Rage with the Machine......................................................79
6. How to Get Poor Quick......................................................95
7. Resume for Disaster!.......................................................105
8. A Leap of Faith............................................................113
9. The Minutemen's Fifteenth Minute of Fame...................................125
10. A Waste of Time-share.....................................................151
11. Head-Banging for Jesus!...................................................161
12. Save the Cute Animals.....................................................171
13. Moonbat Is on the Air.....................................................183
14. Scam Outsourcing..........................................................191
15. Sunday, Porn-y Sunday.....................................................207
16. I Expose the Illuminati!..................................................225
17. Infiltrator President of the Protest Warriors.............................237