Saturday, August 23, 2008

Book Review: The Great Derangement

TitleThe Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire
AuthorMatt Taibbi
Tagsfringe groups, john hagee, 9/11 truthers, politics, congress

This is a difficult book to describe. Taibbi is a reporter for Rolling Stone and in this book follows some of the irrational communities that many people in the United States are joining. The two he covers in this book are fundamentalist Christianity as found in John Hagee's megachurch, and in the 911 truthers conspiracy theorists. To show the political derangement that people are escaping from in these fringe communities, he talks about his experiences with Congress, both under the Republicans and the Democrats, and as a reporter embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq.

There are hilarious scenes, such as the experience of having his demons cast out as part of joining Hagee's church (including the foul demon of handwriting analysis), and his imagined transcript of a meeting where Cheney, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and others are plotting 9/11 as the 911 truthers insist they did.

There are also parts that make one want to scream, as he indicates that Congress is broken, beholden to the monied class, no matter which party is in the majority. he paints a bleak and depressing picture of politics at the end stage of the American Empire.

Some might be surprised to see how strongly he condemns the 9/11 Truthers, but by the end of the book he is convincing in debunking the ideas of that movement. The imagined transcript, found on pages 191 to 204, is alone worth the price of the book.

Taibbi has a surprising amount of compassion and understanding for the people caught up in these irrational movements. It has become so hard for people to trust in government or the media, and many people have little sense of what the facts ARE, since there no longer seem to be a set of agreed upon facts. So they turn to groups where they might find community and security, or a sense of understanding what has happened to create the world we live in today.

And he sees some signs of hope. Although at one point he mentions that those in Hagee's church have been so brainwashed they''ll accept anything, no matter how crazy, from the church's authority figures, and doesn't believe most of them can be brought to see reason, he still has hopes that people are realizing they've been suckers and are now ready to move past that. I hope it turns out to be true.

PublicationSpiegel & Grau (2008), Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0385520344 / 9780385520348

No comments: