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Fighting the vast Right Wing with Pea Shooters, Part One: Books and Bookmakers


We progressive types are working overtime these days marching, rallying, sitting, petitioning.  We place ourselves prominently on Twitter (with our #p2, #OWS, and #CTL hashtags) and on Facebook.  More and more of us have taken to writing political blogs.  Our blogrolls feature other bloggers, other writers who work as hard or harder than we do in trying to sort out the truths behind America's astonishing decline and the Rightward drift that led us here.  Our job is to route out the bad guys, to expose them and make sure justice take its course.  Some days we actually think we're winning.

Silly us.

This is not David and Goliath, with the little guy getting a chance at saving the day through luck and pluck.  Not anymore.  This is Goliath stomping David into the ground. There's David, bleeding and broken--but look!  He's still breathing!  David's crowd takes that as a sign of victory and moves on. The next time they'll try peashooters.

 In the 21st century--a century only slightly over a decade old and already the leading contender for "modern century most likely to return to the Dark Ages"--we the people are millions of little Davids and Big Business is one huge Goliath.  We wee Davids actually thought if we worked hard and built up our troops and used truth as a weapon, we might some day be able to take Goliath down.  We thought we might be able to survive and maybe even thrive without too much breakage or damage to our dignity.  We thought we could do it not by might (because we aren't the mighty ones, they are) but by using corny throwbacks like common sense and good will and solidarity.

 Boy, were we wrong! 

I'll give you one small example of Goliath's power and why we don't stand a chance:

Ever been in a Books-a-Million store?  I hadn't either until I came south, and I went in innocently enough, as anyone would.  It's a bookstore, after all, and I do love bookstores.  But I didn't have to spend much time there before I began to see a trend:  I am the kind of person they hate.  I am the enemy, fagawdssake!  I realize I'm in the south and the south is hostile to avowed liberals, but come on--let me at least get to the humor section before the attacks begin.

 This is what I encountered mere feet inside the door the other day:
 

 

At Books-a-Million, Myrtle Beach 1/25/12    

This is an end cap in the main aisle.  The titles change periodically, but the lean to the right never goes away.  (I apologize for the poor photos.  I took them with my kindergarten grade cell-phone camera, quickly so nobody would notice, because I was, after all, standing in plain view, because that's where these hostile books can best be seen.)

There is another Books-A-Million outside a huge mall a few miles from this smaller mall.  They have an all-rightie-all-the-time end cap in their main aisle, too, so this is not just some Bubba manager's idea of fun, it's store policy.  (In case you're wondering, I've looked all over for the liberal end caps.  They're not there.)

So then it came to me that if I buy something in a BAM! store (that's their nickname), I'm aiding the enemy.  So I don't.  Now I plan my trips to Books-a-Million as one would a reconnaissance mission, a stealth activity: Let's see what rotten propaganda they're pushing now.

Once I get past that ugly end cap, I spend some minutes rearranging books on the shelves so that the few liberal or even moderate books cover some of that junk. (Pathetic, I know, but it's the best I can do ever since I took that stand against vandalism.)

Then I grab something to read and sit at a table in their Joe Muggs Cafe (My own little sit-in I calls it, since I read their books and magazines and never buy anything, but so far no one seems to notice.)  I should mention that BAM! publishes a monthly Book Page magazine highlighting their latest books.   Mark R. Levin, a Right Wing radio personality and "the #1 bestselling author of Liberty and Tyranny and regular Fox News contributor"  is on January's cover.  (Last month it was Glenn Beck).  Levin has a new book out called, "Ameritopia, The Unmaking of America".   Before I saw that cover, I confess I had never heard of Mark R. Levin.  (Go ahead and strip me of my Rotten Persons Investigator badge--I know now that his new book, "Ameritopia" is at the top, the very tip-top,  of this week's New York Times non-fiction bestseller list!  )

So I took a look at the new book by this guy who--my god! NYT Best Seller!--I really should have heard of by now.  I turned page after page and, okay, as a new Mark R. Levin reader who is also a liberal, I'm as biased as biased can be.  But even I am shocked at how badly this book stinks!  

Let me tell you, he's no Glenn Beck.

From the Introduction:

In Ameritopia I explain that the heart of the problem is, in fact, utopianism, a term I discuss in great detail throughout the book.  Utopianism is the idealogical and doctrinal foundation for statism. While utopianism or statism or utopian or statist are often used interchangeably, the undertaking here is to probe more dceply into what motivates and animates the tyranny of statism.  Indeed the modern arguments about necessities and virtues of governmental control over the individual are but malign echoes of utopian prescriptions through the ages, which attempted to define subjugation as the most transcendent state of man.

And the first lines of the first chapter, "The Tyranny of Utopia":

 Tyranny, broadly defined, is the use of power to dehumanize the individual and delegitimize his nature.  Political utopianism is tyranny disguised as a desirable, workable and even paradisiacal governing ideology.  There are, of course, unlimited utopian constructs, for the mind is capable of infinite fantasies.  But there are common themes.  The fantasies take the form of grand social plans or experiments, the impracticality and impossibility of which, in small ways and large, leads to the individual's subjugation.
 

And it goes on.  This book, I remind you, is NUMBER ONE ON THE NEW YORK TIMES NON-FICTION BEST SELLER LIST.  The book came out on January 17--less than two weeks ago--and already over 1200 people have reviewed it on Amazon, 876 of them giving it Five Stars

It's a runaway best seller and from where I'm sitting (In BAM!s Joe Muggs cafe) I'm concluding that something besides this book is stinking to high heaven.

Consider this:

After the closing of Borders Books in 2011, Books-a-Million became the second largest bookseller in the United States, behind Barnes and Noble.   They operate some 200 stores in the south, the northeast and in the midwest.  They've now taken over dozens of empty Borders stores and opened Books-A-Millions in their space.

And they sell millions of books on their website.  If you go on their site and click on the "Political Science" category, as I did yesterday,  on the very first page you'll find a mess of right wing and conservative books, from the current to the moldy old.  Glenn Beck is prominent, as is that guy, Mark R. Levin.  Laura Ingraham is there; so is Sarah Palin.  So is Bill O'Reilly, not for his most recent book about Lincoln, but for his memoir, published way back in 2008.

Bill Clinton and Zbigniew Brzezinski are there, too, but from what I can tell, they're mere tokens.  (Unless maybe they said something bad about Obama. . .)  But I have to wonder why old books by the Righties, some more than three years old, are at the top of their list when so many other, newer  books might better deserve to be there.

Mark R. Levin's "Ameritopia" is his second book for Threshold Publishing, a Simon and Schuster imprint that exclusively publishes "conservative" books, many of which rise to the top of the NYT best seller list.  Levin's book, "Liberty and Tyranny" (There's that word again) also hit the top of the NYT bestseller list, and now he, along with Glenn Beck, is Threshold's star.  Mary Matalin is its Editor-in-Chief.  (I looked hard for a liberal arm of Simon and Schuster (a CBS company), or any other publishing company, and--no surprise--there are none.)

In a telling article about Threshold in Politico, July 21, 2009, it's clear that any liberal expecting to write a best-seller might better stick to fiction:

Adam Bellow, executive editor at HarperCollins, noted that conservative publishing first took off in the 1990s, with the New York houses initially resistant — until the possible payoff became obvious for books taking shots at liberals. (Bellow edited Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” for Doubleday.) Now, going forward, he notes there are challenges ahead for upstart imprints like Threshold.


“If you’re setting up an imprint, you’re taking on a real financial challenge,” Bellow said. “You have to have screaming commercial best-sellers. You have to keep delivering them year after year. The success at Threshold, which took a while to find its legs, has been largely to do with Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. And the success of those books is that these authors have enormous media platforms.”


Bellow, who’s editing Sarah Palin’s much-anticipated memoir, said he expects that at least through Obama’s presidency, publishing houses will stay committed to churning out conservative books for at least one reason sure to keep publishing executives — whether right, left or in between — pleased. “Feeding that market will continue, because it’s going to be profitable,” he said.

So here's what I'm thinking:  What's to stop BAM! from manipulating the market?  (They also own a book distribution company.) What's to stop Threshold?  What's to stop any of the Right Wing top guns--the Koch Brothers, say-- the people with all the money?  What's to stop them from buying up tens or even hundreds of thousands of these books and sitting on them?  (It's been done on a smaller scale.  Remember the fuss about Newt Gingrich during the congressional hearings just before they gave him a big, fat noogie?  Seems he got some Big Guys to put up $150,000 to promote and/or buy up his book, Window of Opportunity to make it look like people were actually reading it.)  And what's to stop 800+ stooges from churning out magnificent reviews for a book that nobody in their right mind would actually read through to the end?


Does anybody really believe that the average reader is clamoring for more of the same from Mark R. Levin?  (That same Mark R. Levin who gushes his thanks to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in his Ameritopia acknowledgements?)  Unless you're hopelessly in love with the words "utopianism", "statism" and "tyranny", there's nothing juicy in there, no matter how hard you look.  It's one dry, endless paragraph after another.

Just as radio and TV stations can promote their own and manipulate their viewership into believing that their way is the way it is, the way it should be, and ever will be, so can book stores, simply by advertising and placement.  But this appears to be beyond simply leading a horse to water.  I'm guessing somebody is buying up and pushing those books, and I'm guessing it ain't the general public. 

But to be fair, in that same BAM! store I managed to find a slim volume called "What it means to be a Democrat",  written by George McGovern and published this past November by Blue Rider Press, a new imprint from Penguin.

Sen. McGovern's book was one of first on Blue Rider's list to make it to the bookstores.  It's a tribute to publisher David Rosenthal (fired by Simon and Schuster after 13 years), who chose a book so important in its own way, but with virtually no chance at bestsellerdom.  That little book, so honest and true, so meaningful to those of us who work to make the Senator proud by living by his ideals, will never reach the top of the NYT best-seller list.  And what a crying shame that is.
 

Above all, being a Democrat means having compassion for others.  It means putting government to work to help the people who need it. 

It means using all available tools to provide good health care and education, job opportunities, safe neighborhoods, a healthy environment, a promising future.

It means standing up for people who have been kept down, whether they are native Americans or African Americans, women, immigrants, or the homeless.

It means taking care of the mentally ill, of seniors, of vulnerable children, of veterans--and making sure all people are treated with respect and dignity.

Introduction to "What it Means to be a Democrat" by George McGovern. 


(If you want to join me in purchasing Sen. McGovern's book, I've made it easy for you.  You can click on the Amazon link on my website sidebar.  It's at the very top of my list.   I thank you and I know George thanks you, too.)

Good post. I noticed the right wing lean at BAM years ago. I use it like the library and read my favorite magazines there. Buying print material to read is an extreme luxury for me. I figured for years that the astro turf groups had to be buying and robo writing reviews for these books. Every once in awhile, I do get tempted to scan through a few. They can be pretty badly done. What is humorous, is most of far right leaning freinds of mine don't do much reading not even fiction.

Trking, it's so clear that they're doing this.  I don't know why the NYT lets them get away with it.  Those phony top-of-the-chart Right Wing books sully whatever credibility that best seller list has.  And worst of all, they're helping those people make names for themselves.

I would say it's hopeless but I'm a friggin' optimist.

Great post, Ramona. As you probably know by now, books are my sweet spot, even Books a million. I've been in many BAM stores. Three quarters is devoted to Christian literature and right wing stuff. But a book scout can sometimes have a field day.

I was scrounging around a BAM in Texas and Richard Russo had just won the Pullitzer for Empire Falls. Found both Mohawk and Empire Falls at a discount price. Then I shipped the books to my daughter in Vermont, she took them to a book signing in Montpelier where Russo had a reading. Never will forget finding something like that---for the simple reason that their customers don't care. In Florida, found four signed 1St edition David Mamet books. 

When Crown Books folded in L.A. I went to most of the stores looking for closeouts. My biggest hit was---Simi Valley---you know that certain library they have there. Same thing. They are high brow readers of right wing political jargon, the kind of folks who clap at the thought of an execution (one out of every 10 people in Simi Valley is an L.A. cop). But apparently the locals weren't interested in a signed Toni Morrison, John McPhee 1st editions,  a book of sketches by Bob Dylan., signed "Two for the Money", Evanovich. etc. 

Those are the books which I can recall off the top of my head from 10 years back. I must have hauled 5 boxes of books out of there, all at $5 prices or less. 

One of the rules about book scouting is to go where others don't. Almost forgot that mint, signed copy of Byrd's "Alone" found in a Santa Barbara ladies thrift shop. "May I help you sir, is there something you're looking for?"

"Got any old books, by chance?" "How about $20 for this old volume here, looking for something to decorate a night stand." 

Got rather long winded here. I'm like my dog who runs around in a frenzy late at night just before passing out on top of the bed.  

Lol!  Oxy, I should have known we travel on the same wave lengths.  I've been a Russo fan for many years, ever since I read Nobody's Fool and then found Mohawk.  And John McPhee is great.  He predicted the levees would break and flood New Orleans long before Katrina and he did it with such pure evidence I wondered why it hadn't happened long before it did.

I found a signed copy of somebody's book on the remainder table at BAM a while ago and because I was boycotting them I didn't buy it.  (Can't remember for the life of me what it was now.)  But I thought about it and went back the next day to get it but it was gone.  So my record of not buying from them is intact, but I really wanted that book.

I found an autographed copy of Carl Sandburg's "Remembrance Rock" in a box at a garage sale once.  I got it for 50 cents but it turns out that Sandburg was a signing machine so it's not worth a whole lot.  But I love being able to look at it and know he actually signed it.  It's those little things. . .doesn't take a lot to keep me happy.

What a nice book! And of course, by association, a journal of sorts.

I found a great book recently that has one of the best descriptions of book collecting I've seen---because it justifies it. The book is "Art Objects", ---Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery---by Jeanette Winterson, and a chapter called, "The psychometry of books". 

Good post!

For twenty or thirty years I would go to one of three book stores and purchase books for anywhere from a buck to five bucks.

Classics, popular science (science for dummies), weird subjects, histories and some left wing slanted histories. Franken's books were great.

But the pricks who took on the decorated soldier who did two tours in the hell of Vietnam in 2004--I mean this is what you are talking about.

'Think Tanks' would buy up thousands of these propagandized lies and shoot the book right up the NYT list. Then they would hand them out to the right wing masses or sell them at a discount.

Now documentaries; I mean Moore sells whereas the silly play on the Dickens classic against Moore went nowhere.

I did a couple blogs on this documentary problem. A repub does a documentary for ten mill funded by some fascist and nobody goes to see it.

I mean even Maher made a bit of coin on his religious epic.

And comedy? Repubs cannot do comedy. If repubs make sexual jokes they risk reactions against right wing bible thumpers. If repubs use profanity they find themselves in similar circumstances.

And repubs cannot make fun of the rich for obvious reasons. At any rate repubs are not funny--except when they club each other to death. The right would love to do racist comedy but even they are too timid for this although the Naked Gun series was pretty racist and pretty right wing when you think about it.

Your hint for a book club for lefties is a good idea though. And with these new 'computer readers' most of the books are quite a bit cheaper, the author usually makes out all right and it is easier to cut and paste for essays and such.

Anyway, good post.

Richard, I do love your rants but I admit I don't always get it.  What does this mean?

(I can't go below the quote now, so I'll agree.  Yes, a book club for Lefties would be a great thing. )

Now documentaries; I mean Moore sells whereas the silly play on the Dickens classic against Moore went nowhere.

Some right wing nut funded a pretend Hollywood guy to do a movie satirizing Michael Moore.

So the movie was based on the Christmas Carole only it takes place on Independence day; Michael Moore is visited by three ghosts of Independence day past.

It cost millions to make and twenty people actually went to see it. hahahaah

Sorry.

I was sober when I wrote this too. hahaha

My silly point was that Conservatives can figure out how to sell propaganda in books but they such at making movies.

the end

Wow, I never heard of that movie.  (And that's a good thing, isn't it.)  All of these things coming out and I feel as if I've been living under a rock.  (Actually I do live on a rock, but that's different from living under one. Or is should be, anyway.)

I may have to find out more about that movie so I can make fun of it.

Conservatives suck at writing books, too, but they've figured out a way to make money off of them without actually having to worry about readers.  Maybe movie sales are harder to manipulate.

American_Carol

I tell ya there was this advertising barage. The star was the brother of a deceased SNL hero and the powers that be even got the guy to appear on talk shows.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 11% approval rating. The total cost of the flick and the advertising was $20 mill and they managed to make $7 mill with folks like rush selling it every day on the radio. ha

Contrast that with Maher's Religulous

that came out about the same time; it cost $2.5 mill and brought in over $13 mill!

I've noticed lots of cheap books at Ollie's. Many of them are religious and many are self-help, so I guess God helps those who help themselves to cheap books.

Likewise I've noticed the more right-wing selection at BAM, versus Barnes and Noble and Borders before it folded up.  Back when our son was playing the card game Yu-Gi-Oh I thought management at my local BAM did a shrewd thing in letting the kids occupy--ha--the better part of a back row or two for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoons.   

Doesn't (or didn't) the NY Times in its Bestseller lists put some symbol next to titles which have been bought up in bulk quantities, hint hint?  Every title I can recall seeing with that symbol next to it had a heavy right-wing political orientation.

Consistent with the ways I hear them talk, political liberals, independents and old-style thoughtful conservatives seem more inclined to want to read a range of points of view, with no single person or even small group of individuals with similar viewpoints dominating sales and attaining the closest thing in bookselling to rock star status (apart from Genghis, that is).

By contrast, there are a handful of Know Nothing (ok, I exaggerate--fairer to refer to them as Believe One Thing: [the caricatured, unrecognizable version of] Democrats and liberals suck) movement libertarian or far right-wing authors who seem to dominate bookstore visibility: Coulter, Beck, Paul, O'Reilly, Gingrich, Ingraham, and Levin as you mentioned seems to be a recent flavor.  Like you I am left to wonder what the relationship is between sales of these books and the books actually getting read.  

AD, I just looked at the New York Times Best Seller list and I didn't see any symbols anywhere.  Too bad.  That would tell us something.

I remember when my grandson was into Yu-Gi-Oh and our Barns and Noble did the same thing.  There was a section near the back door where the kids could go on Saturdays and trade cards and play games or whatever.

You may be right about our eclectic tastes; that we don't necessarily read only liberal/progressive books but it does seem odd that we spend hours on the internet reading our own kind of stuff but wouldn't necessarily buy a book from one of our own.  I personally don't think they're being published to the degree that the conservative books are.

Dylan Ratigan's book, "Greedy Bastards", was number nine on the NYT list last week.  This week it's number 34.  It's what happens when there's nobody around to buy in bulk, I guess. (I don't consider him a liberal but it seems like liberals would be flocking to a book called "Greedy Bastards".

Ramona, this is an excellent post.

Maybe we should try to get that book up on the list.

 

One question--is this a reprint of a previously published book?

Top former-JFK aide Ted Sorensen wrote Why I am a Democrat in 1996, for anyone interested in another take on this theme.  I realize Ramona's reference was not just for those interested in that topic but more in the context of hmmm...what if a book written by a Democrat or a liberal became a bestseller?  

Some of Carville and Begala's books seemed to do pretty well on sales volume.  Al Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth did well, IIRC.  Tom Friedman books don't count in my view.  Of course Obama's books have been bestsellers but they were almost anti-polemical in tone.  

 

Erica, are you asking about McGovern's book?  It's not a reprint or a rehash of other works.  He talks about the 2012 election in there and other current matters.  What he's trying to do is to get today's Democrats to understand what being a true Democrat really means.

I would love to see it on a best-seller list, but over-the-top sales numbers would be good, too.   

 

 

Yes, McGovern's book.

I'm going to buy it. If I like it, I might get a few extra copies....

hey, junior: levin has roughly 10 million listeners for his radio show not because the koch brothers paid them to listen, but because he explains -- in great detail -- the philosophical, moral, legal and ethical underpinnings of this country.

in other words, conservatism is winning in the marketplace of ideas.  and, furthermore, the book's not for dummies.  i.e., not for you.

Levin quotes from locke, montesquieu and others who influenced this nation's founders, why they set up the form of government they did, the thousands of years of human experience they used to prevent the rise of a corrupt, massive, authoritarian  central government.  i.e., the democrats' last 80 years of unconstitutional dictates.

so tune in to levin on your local station.  try learning something for a change.

because your philosophy -- the philosophy of utopianism -- has failed every time it's been tried in human history.

which bodes poorly for this republic unless we start returning to lawful, constitutional government.

 

I was really impressed by the hey part, but when I got to junior I stopped reading.

This is the middle of nowhere but I hereby render unto Donal the Dayly Line of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site given to all of you from all of me.

Dave,

I'm all for detailed conversations about the philosophical, moral, legal and ethical underpinnings of this country. But if you want to have one of those conversations here, you might want to avoid beginning your effort with "hey, junior" and referring to your potential audience as dummies. I'll bet Levin doesn't refer to the people he wants to convince as "dummies." It's not respectful, and it doesn't attract listeners or sell books.

That said, I'd suggest that Levin cherrypicks his Locke/Montesquieu quotes and leaves out bales of context in his educational process, context which would be better included. 

Sort of like capital letters.

Some of us here would say that the problem is not authoritarian central government but a vast Corporate Monarchy which has ground the rights of ordinary people under its heel--and we sure as heck don't consider THAT utopia. But we don't like to be TOLD what our philosophy is by people we've never even met.

Stay if you please, go if you like--but if you want an actual exchange, try to be decent about it.

Ten million listeners is not too impressive---American Idol gets that many.

It is not the philosophy of Utopianism that fails, it is the individual experiments that either succeed of fail.

America was a Utopian experiment which evolved because, as you say, the founders were learned---and their discourse was typically civil.

One recent Utopian experiment which failed was George Bush's fantasy of bringing "Democracy" to Iraq. So yes, it's good to look at examples which failed. 

I am guessing this is a bit of satire.

What the hell would a philosophy of "non-utopianism" look like? Maybe a Skinner Box glued to a Margaret Thatcher piñata. Whack it until the candy falls out.

You would have to be pretty stoned while reading the founding documents of our Republic to not notice a certain propensity toward discussing what an ideal form of life might be.

And a DD hahahahahha to you, my friend. 

"certain propensity toward discussing what an ideal form of life might be"...   loved it.

+1000.  I guess dissecting the teachings Of philosophers that inspired the founding documents of this country was a little to "dry" for our "progressive" blogger, but Ameritopia somehow made it to the top of the New York Times best seller list.  Please ask yourselves an honest question, my liberal "friend".  Do you really think the books a million end cap is what creates a NYT best seller, or is the reason that nobody reads books by liberals.  It's substance, my fellow Americans.  You scoff at the word tyranny and remain blind to its existence.  Like most libs I know, you scoff in place of accepting and demanding a greater responsibility of yourselves and the society around you.  Your sarcasm masks cowardice.  Do you know who Thomas Payne, Charles De Monteqieu, or  Alexis De Tocqueville are?  It's a pity if you don't. They inspired the philosophical foundation for the creation of the first country in the history of man, that was built to keep the unalienable rights and liberties of free men safe from the tyranny of  government.  Dr. Levin was trying to share that with you.  But because of your disgust of not seeing Rachel Maddow on that end cap, you missed something that actually mattered.  Pity.  Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky, the philosophical leaders of the progressive movement, would be proud.

 

I think you intended to direct your withering attack, complete with excellent references to classical texts, against anybody else than your good buddy Mr. Minor.

Friendly fire.

 

I know who Paine and de Montesquieu were and I know how to spell their names, too. 

Touché.  As crazy as this sounds, I wish to apologize for my tone.  I read the thread and you all are thoughtful and nice people.  I had an adverse reaction to the original poster dismissing an important writing that's intention is to educate people who have not read or applied these perspectives to modern society.  I feel passionately that the "welfare" state that has been created since Woodrow Wilson, and the 15 trillion dollar debt, 62 trillion dollars unfunded liability of SS/Medicare, unending govt dislocation that has resulted, is destroying our society.  The return to the founding and philosophies of our country and individual liberty itself is our only hope (albeit a long shot at this point) to save the future of our society.  Levin's book accomplishes, with great substance, this communication. At any rate, I apologize for my tone and wish all of you nothing but the best.

Stick around, APC, and make sure you're sharp on your facts. You'll find folks here who know the history inside and out, and still (gasp!) manage to come to different conclusions than you have. It's pretty interesting stuff, and will either strengthen your ideas or make you question them. Both are good in the long run.

Also, be careful not to step into the snark.

Good one, Genghis.  Right, Tocqueville inspired our philosophical foundation before he was born in 1805, that's a riot. 

So much for my experiment in Internet civility.  Tocqueville was and is instrumental as well as foundational in his writings on democracy, liberty, free markets, and it's inherent superiority to European socialism (i.e. the progressive movement) I grouped his name in my post only due to relevance and momentary frustration. What I think is more telling, is your avoidance of acknowledging  his philosophy and it's importance and relevance to modern democracy in the cheap effort to discredit the supporter of it.  I expect no less than that from. a supporter of the progressive, Marxist policies you would attempt to paint as "compassionate".  de Tocqueville said, "Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference. While democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." As well as "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." I pray every night the latter statement is not our near future.  But discourse with The likes of you, oxy, make me fear that our society has already marched passed the point of no return

Well APC I have to admit you've got me buffaloed with this stuff. And how you've managed to make "the likes of Oxy" into a progressive, Marxist, European socialist de Tocqueville hater is quite something.

I think this will go better if you're a little more precise. Like, I'm pretty sure the Europe de Tocqueville was writing about wasn't socialist. (Well, maybe France, a bit, but they're, you know...French. Seriously, nobody actually got around to trying socialism on a country until the Russian revolution.) 

So, what exactly was de Tocqueville seeing when he wrote about the differences between the Europe of his time and the USA of his time? 

APC, I really hate it when you call me Dave Minor.  I don't know Dave Minor but it's not a minor thing to be called by another name while being attacked for scoffing and being sarcastic.

I am not your liberal "friend".  I'll tolerate you but I don't have to like you, and I'm pretty sure we'll never have anything in common.  But you'll be welcome here as long as you don't get stupid mean.  There's the difference.  I wouldn't be welcome in any of your haunts. I am the hated--no, the despised--liberal.  I'm a card-carrying member of the cult out to destroy this country by killing it with kindness.   I'm the fool who expects our government (that's us) to make rules and set limits that are not only essential to a democracy but necessary to maintain a society based on capitalism. 

(I do admire your clever insertion of both Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky into your parting remarks, however.  It's so Mark R. Levin. Congratulations)

I'm happy to report that I'm not the only one who thinks your Mark R. Levin stinks.  Dahlia Lithwick, another scoffer and purveyor of sarcasm, sort of eviscerates your guy in her review of his "book", Men in black:

I use the word "book" with some hesitation: Certainly it possesses chapters and words and other book-like accoutrements. But Men in Black is 208 large-print pages of mostly block quotes (from court decisions or other legal thinkers) padded with a foreword by the eminent legal scholar Rush Limbaugh, and a blurry 10-page "Appendix" of internal memos to and from congressional Democrats—stolen during Memogate. The reason it may take you only slightly longer to read Men in Black than it took Levin to write it is that you'll experience an overwhelming urge to shower between chapters.

I'm astonished (not really) that I couldn't find a single dissenting review of your guy Mark R. Levin's book, Liberty and Tyranny.  (There's that word again.)  Honestly, I've never seen so much gushing in my life over a book that sounds suspiciously like the source from which Ameritopia was cloned.  This is why we liberals keep going back to "vast Right Wing conspiracy."   There's nothing measly about it.

I found this on Powell's:

Publisher Comments:

Conservative talk radio's fastest-growing superstar is also a New York Times bestselling phenomenon: the author of the groundbreaking critique of the Supreme Court, Men in Black, and the deeply personal dog lover's memoir Rescuing Sprite, Mark R. Levin now delivers the book that characterizes both his devotion to his more than 5 million listeners and his love of our country and the legacy of our Founding Fathers: Liberty and Tyranny is Mark R. Levin's clarion call to conservative America, a new manifesto for the conservative movement for the 21st century.

In the face of the modern liberal assault on Constitution-based values, an attack that has steadily snowballed since President Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s and resulted in a federal government that is a massive, unaccountable conglomerate, the time for re-enforcing the intellectual and practical case for conservatism is now. Conservative beliefs in individual freedoms do in the end stand for liberty for all Americans, while liberal dictates lead to the breakdown of civilized society — in short, tyranny. Looking back to look to the future, Levin writes conservatism is the antidote to tyranny precisely because its principles are our founding principles. And in a series of powerful essays, Levin lays out how conservatives can counter the liberal corrosion that has filtered into every timely issue affecting our daily lives, from the economy to health care, global warming, immigration, and more — and illustrates how change, as seen through the conservative lens, is always prudent, and always an enhancement to individual freedom.

As provocative, well-reasoned, robust, and informed as his on-air commentary, Levin's narrative will galvanize readers to begin a new era in conservative thinking and action. Liberty and Tyranny provides a philosophical, historical, and practical framework for revitalizing the conservative vision and ensuring the preservation of American society.

See, Proud Constitutionalist, I take that sort of thing personally.  It goes against everything I hold true, and from my corner, them's fightin' words.  There is nothing "prudent" about Right Wing conservatism.  "Individual freedom" is laughable coming from your gang.  One thing I'll give you, though.  You do understand the word "tyranny",  Your brand of tyranny brought us to our knees and very nearly destroyed this once proud country.

But we're rising up, make no mistake.  Fight hard, you phony patriots, your days are numbered.

I'm going to put "steadily snowballed since the 1930's" into the Oxy Mora archives. 

Apparently they never look outside.

"Them's are fightin' words".  Let me take this opportunity to apologize to you, Ramona, as well as Oxy, for my rhetoric yesterday.  Although I disagree with your political perspectives, you have a refreshingly high level of discourse on this blog, which I will respect and do commend you for.  That said, Levin's rhetoric can be harsh, but his substance is grande.  The scathing, albeit measured and deliberate, review of "Men in Black" was only meant to dismiss  a meticulously detailed account of judicial activism, legal perversion and the inherent dangers that result from allowing 5(simple majority) un-elected, un-accountable public servants to institute policy, or legislate, rather than adhere and protect our Constitution.  In great detail, Levin dissects how the Supreme Court upheld Slavery in the 1800s (ended first by the states via 10th amendment), instituted precedent over decades to set up Roe v. Wade.  He did, substantively, cite and dissect Court opinions, dissenting views, and applied his perspective, correctly, to them.  Conservatism, Constitutionalism, are both prudent, compassionate, and in my perspective, the only way out of the mess of a society that 80 years of progressive policy, crony capitalism, judicial activism, and govt dependency (or as many say, entitlement) has led us to.  Levin articulates this, and the media, does their best to ignore it.

Thank you, APC, and welcome to our discussions here.  It's good to hear new perspectives, and no, we won't always agree, but we will try and maintain some civility while attempting to rip certain arguments to bloody shreds.  ;>)

I'm curious about your insistence that "Conservatism, Constitutionalism, are both prudent, compassionate, and in my perspective, the only way out of the mess of a society that 80 years of progressive policy, crony capitalism, judicial activism, and govt dependency (or as many say, entitlement) has led us to."

That is simply not true.  Our best times during the last century came about when "progressive policy" won out against those who wanted this country all to themselves.  We had good paying jobs, a strong middle class, strong home ownership, and a sense of ourselves that went beyond whatever square footage we happened to be standing on at the moment.

It's true that we did not solve the problems of the poor, but there's no question we were working hard at alleviating their suffering.  Many of them, with our help, rose out of poverty into the working class and beyond.  There are greater numbers of working poor now than since the days of the industrial revolution.

We fought a constant battle against runaway greed, and, while we didn't eradicate it altogether, we did manage to hold it at bay so that a good portion of us could move up into that longed-for "quality of life".  That is no longer available to us.  It's not even a promise.

It wasn't progressives or liberals or Democrats that brought about this mess.  It was the private lust for greed, their never-ending attempts to weaken laws and regulations, their successes at bringing down our strong labor force by off-shoring and outsourcing,  and their incredible money-flows into the coffers of our so-called "leaders".

Put the blame where it belongs.  When you keep repeating that same old mantra about the evil progressives, you're doing nothing more than keeping the Fat Cats happy and giving them the power they just can't get enough of.

No apology needed, APC. The fact is that nothing is as black and white as Levin imagines. I am a small business owner and a property owner (oy, the taxes I pay). Obviously I'm not a Marxist, except I pay my employees overtime by the day when I am not required to do so, which generally means larger paychecks for them than otherwise for the same output. That's o.k. Good employees are my life line. 

I have actually voted for Republicans, including Pete Wilson, because he had a lot of common sense when it came to business---for example, reforming a scandalous Workers Comp. system.

If you stick around, you'll find many people here are sympathetic with certain of your views. I for one do not like government intrusion into my bedroom. I don't like the tax privileges given to financiocrats like Romney because real job generators, like myself and many medium sized manufacturing businesses I service create more jobs but have little access to loans or venture capital---banks are geared for larger transactions and will not fiddle with a $50K loan---the administrative costs make the loan unprofitable from the git go. Obama's policies have actually helped my business, especially the equipment tax credit, which I used to buy a $50,000 truck, saving quite a lot in taxes for 2011. For many of my employees, whose employed-world is their own utopia, the tax credit advanced their interest as well as mine.

As is brilliantly posited by Purdy in his book, "A Tolerable Anarchy", each of us has an idea of his or her own perfect world. But it is not a perfect world, there are always constraints and in most Americans, as Tocqueville pointed out, there is an innate practicality, a common sense, which allows us to navigate the constraints while hanging onto the dream.

I wrote a short story called, "Ronnie Whitelaw's Utopia". Ronnie was a utopian. His dream consisted of a pickup truck, sleeping bag, a woman who would tolerate his little fantasies and low worker status and not give him any guff, and his ace in the hole---a consistent theme of American individualism---he could always head out with $300 in his pocket and start a new life elsewhere. But Ronnie had no common sense and when his utopian fantasies were trashed, he deconstructed in angry behavior.

Levin is catering to the sense of frustration we all feel when our idea of a perfect world is constrained. He is no different from any over the top Liberal writer who is playing to the same sentiment but with a different label.

Welcome aboard.  
 

So let me get this straight.  You've never heard of the guy who is the #3 or #4 most popular political talker on radio, who is on his third #1 bestseller in nonfiction, and who runs a legal foundation that has been intimately involved in court cases all the way up to the Supreme Court involving freedom (school choice, and now the federal health care mandate)?  I'm sure this is a situation like Pauline Kael, who was quoted (incorrectly, as it turns out) as saying that she couldn't believe Nixon had won, since nobody that she knew had voted for him.

Oh, and it's #1 because consumers are buying it.  Probably not anyone you know, but tens of thousands of us have actually read the book beyond a paragraph or two, and did so before we commented on it.  

I'm sure that the 150 "Universities" who have signed agreements with the Koch brothers---who have a say in the textbooks and hiring and firing---are thrilled about this book.

Is the Koch Brothers control of higher learning what you meant by school choice?

BTW, did Mr. Payne envision institutions of higher learning being run by natural resource extraction companies?

This was just what Tom Payne and his fraternal twin Tom Paine were warning us about back in the day.  They knew that thought unpurchased by the Koch brothers was dangerous and needed to be reined in to save us folks from ourselves in the name of liberty and freedom for all.

This thread got precious.

If by "thrilled", you mean that they have spent a great deal of money to attempt to influence institutions of "higher learning" (my scary quotes there) to actually teach capitalism in an objective manner, and to use books that balance the decidedly leftward slant of the average educational institution, I suppose they are.  However, this theory of yours isn't why it's #1 on NY Times.  It's #1 on NYT and Amazon because it's popular among Mark's audience, who are buying the book and giving it to friends and relatives to promote a better understanding of the origins of American philosophy and how far off track we've wandered, or sprinted lately.

I'd be more interested as to why you think the NY Times never reviewed "Liberty and Tyranny", which entered at #1, nor is it likely to review "Ameritopia"?  Could it be an attempt to not promote the hottest book at the time - perhaps a stealth stifling of free speech?

I'm thinking the NYT didn't review it because it's political cant rather than non-fiction. But "stealth stifling of free speech" is an option, I suppose.

Apparently Levin doesn't much care about the NYT book review---which is something I agree with him on, because the reviews are more about the reviewer and inside baseball than about the books themselves.

Here is a quote from "Mark" about the subject, taken from Newsbusters, a site I assume you know about already:

"I think most of the readers of the readers of the NYT are in the "Utopian" camp. Whether they review it or not is no matter to me."

If an author makes such a gross generalization, how can his work be taken seriously?

Would you not agree with his conclusion?  Most readers of the Times believe in bigger government, a pseudo-ruling class, oligarchy, call it what you will?  That central planning, at least of those untidy folks who don't live in the Northeast, is preferable to a truly representative republic (which, one might argue - especially if that one is me - is barely hanging on by a thread)?  

Remember Levin's perspective.  He has been in and around politics since the 70's, served in the Reagan administration, and lives in Virginia.  He's immersed in politics and the media, so I'd give his political evaluations credence.  And as infrequently as I read anything on the NYT website (and I subscribe to their News Alerts or whatever they call it), it's unfailingly liberal.  Would you assume that their readership is otherwise?

Thanks, Patrick. Neither Levin nor you or I have any idea who the readers are. So to generalize is silly. 

The fact that someone is immersed in politics is not a recommendation. 

But let me ask you a question.

You have some kind of vision for the world you want that doesn't exist now. Somehow the readers of the NYT would be written out of your scenario. There would be no central planning to complicate your life, no Northeastern liberals. So, forgetting Levin and speaking for yourself, what is your vision for the society you want to live in?

Patrick, really?

Remember Levin's perspective.  He has been in and around politics since the 70's, served in the Reagan administration, and lives in Virginia.  He's immersed in politics and the media, so I'd give his political evaluations credence.

These are Levin's credentials?  Outside of "served in the Reagan administration and lives in Virginia", how are they any different or any better than a few thousand others who are "immersed in politics and the media" and have been for a very long time.  Do you give Robert Reich the same credence?  Al Franken? Jim Hightower?  Michael Moore?  Bill Maher?

And come on, you're barely hanging on by a thread and you're putting your future in the hands of Right Wingers like Mark R. Levin and those Republican yahoos who want to be president?  What is it that you've heard from any of them that would make you believe they understand anything except "Don't look at me.  You're on your own, buddy?"

And I'll have to agree with Oxy.  Since there are at least a few million daily NYT readers there's no way we can know who they are or what they believe. 

But yes, I'm anxious to hear what you yourself want for the future.  Just you.  Yourself.       

So Patrick I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that these formulaic books require a ton of sitting back, taking a deep breath, and thinking "Wow, this sounds so convincing--is it really true?"

At which point, a responsible person has to grit their teeth, go back and re-read some of the original material, think a lot about context, and try to figure out what might work for actual people living in our time.

One of the things that bugs us progressives about you guys is that you don't seem to do this, you swallow the conclusions whole--and we're going "No, wait, that guy just told you that so you'd spend twenty bucks on his book! There's more to it than that!"

(On the other hand, a criticism often directed against progressives and I know I've fallen prey to it is that we sometimes overcomplicate things. Fair enough. You don't have to spend much time here to see that we'll mercilessly analyze stuff even if we basically agree with it. To us, it's fun and useful, but to some people it looks pretty endless.)

***

I remember reading Laura Ingraham's book "Shut Up and Sing" and being just horrified at how mean it was, and at the way she put her enemies down for saying what made sense to them, while using her own free speech rights to blather away. Her rants had that "convinced, and therefore convincing" sound, until I considered what she was actually saying. I'm pretty sure to this day that if Laura Ingraham had been an author in Jesus' time she would have written a book called "Shut Up and Fish."

***

All that said, I do think that the question of how the Supreme Court Justices ought to do things is a thorny issue. They have to be able to take into account the flow of  history and the way we live now, without moving too far away from the basic structure of the founding documents.

"I think most of the readers of the readers of the NYT are in the "Utopian" camp. Whether they review it or not is no matter to me."

I'd think about this comment if I were Patrick. It could mean that the author is just that much smarter than anybody who ever read the NYT or worked for them as a reviewer, and therefore isn't interested in what they might have to say. Or, it could mean

--he knows his work won't stand up to academic scrutiny

--he didn't write the book for academic reasons, but simply to come up with enough fake-academic reader hooks to get gullible people to buy it

--he's already made a boatload of cash and presold 600,000 copies to conservative organizations, so why would he need to hear what the NYT thinks about it?

 I have seen these books before, and as far as I can tell, this is the formula:

1. Pose a question. Make it scary.

2. Say that your chosen enemy wants the scary outcome.

3. Drop a famous name (like Tocqueville, for example) and cherrypick quotes that appear to support your point. Avoid context like the plague, mix up terminology, play fast and loose with the historical record, use your enemy's name in close proximity to pejoratives like "fascism" or "Marxism."

4. Tell your audience that your chosen enemy would be happy to dig up that famous person's body and pee on it.

5. Repeat for 12 more chapters.
 

While also comical, that sounds pretty accurate to me.  Well done.

Anatomy of a steadily snowballing ninety year old Utopia. 

Good concise list there, Erica.  That about covers it.  If they can hobble government (that's us) and its supporters (that's us, too) by making us the hated enemy never to be trusted, they can own everything and run everything. 

Their mission is to make the poor schnooks who will never benefit from any of it believe that if they'll just work hard enough and look the other way when bad things happen, they might just gain entry into their exclusive club someday.

I have to say, they're masters at it.  What's white is black, what's up is down, what's good is evil, what used to be America will never be again, and they make is sound like that's a good thing.

They're a formidable enemy and it won't be easy, but we really can't afford to indulge them any longer.

That really made me laugh

Believing that good academic work could only come from academia is elitist and is quite naive, because, as you know, Aristotle died still owing 300 bucks to some college oh, wait there was no college there, hmmmmm....
Making things scary is all what the left does, global warming, poverty, people dying without healthcare, I can go on and on.
Only a leftist would think that dropping someone's name at an idea give it impression that it is a better idea than it truly is, actually liberals do things the other way around, using slogans like bigot, racist, religious fanatic, etc, to make an idea look stupid; really evaluating the idea? Never!
 
****The big questions is, if you liberals believe so much on the truth of your ideas, what does it matter wich books are read more, since any reasonable person should see the falsehood of conservative ideas?
The answer, of course, is that you believe you are the ones holding the truth, and those who believe in conservatism are idiots for not seeing the light; its kind of pathetic when you think about it, actually, and for sure the reason you need a big academic world to be able to fool people.
I feel sorry for you!
 

Aristotle attended Plato's Academy. Zinger aside, no one said that good academic work could only come from academia. What was asserted was that this was not good academic work, and that its author knew that.

MrSmith, thanks for the link.  I went to the HuffPo article and, strangely, there's no link to Howard Dean's Progressive Book Club.  I see the piece is from 2008 and it looks like the book club never really got off the ground.

 When I google Howard Dean Progressive Book Club it takes me to a Facebook page that obviously hasn't been updated since 2008.  The website address goes nowhere.

It figures.  I swear, we can't do anything right.   Grrrr. 

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