Monday, July 27, 2009

We're All Deranged

If you enjoy satire or if the recent election left you spinning in a dizzy way, you might like Matt Taibbi's book The Great Derangement.

Going undercover in a Texas church, the author gets baptized, fakes speaking in tongues and makes friends with some lonely folks. While I found this technique evilly deceptive, the author balances his right-wing exposé with one as equally indicting of the left. Infiltrating some 9/11 Truth groups, he cleverly debunks their theories with an imaginary scene involving Cheney and crew as they mastermind an impossible scheme to take down the twin towers.

Taibbi is a bastard, but he is a truthful bastard, and this book, while disheartening, is also enlightening. In an outing to the mall with his church friends to "witness" to the masses, he is appalled at the desire of random strangers to unload their troubles on him, surmising:.

"No creature on earth is more inclined to public verbal diarrhea than a modern American; whether it's the AA culture, or the post-Me Generation emphasis on "finding yourself", or all those new-Woody Allens confessing to their therapists, or just too many damn people fantasizing about telling the audience of Oprah what influenced their latest album ("In the fourth track, I'm trying to share the sacred message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama..."), we live in a country where people believe implicitly in their right to bore the living shit out of absolutely everybody within haranguing distance with tales of their miserable, lonely, and inevitably self-deluding searches for personal fulfillment in the emotional desert that is our crass commercial culture."

In between ranting at (and sympathizing with) the hard left and the hard right, Taibbi skewers the process we call government, showing it for the back-room, lobbyist-driven sham that it is, regardless of which party is in power. The paperback edition has a September, 2008 afterword in which the author is even more disgusted at the tone of the McCain/Obama contest than he was with the do-nothing Democrats who took power under Pelosi.

He concludes that this fractured nation, and our ability to pick and choose and create our own customized news tailored to our prejudices and fears, has turned us into haters. We go to the polls to vote against someone, not for someone, and that person we vote against is the embodiment of all that is evil and corrupt - and we do so in the name of patriotism. Whether you're a Texas Christian convinced that Pelosi and Obama are tools of Satan, or you're a 9/11 Truther convinced that Cheney is the evil Illuminati's instrument for a new world government, you're both on the far fringes of reality, and you might do well to shut off your Internet for awhile and stop attending meetings that reinforce lies.

With a new cover by hipster illustrator Shephard Fairey, he of the iconic Obama art.

Crossposted to Radio Free Babylon.

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