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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 CircusInsane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Consider this book the autopsy on the ascension of Trump®, a populist, man-of-the-people leader who hasn’t ever pumped his own gas. Hell, I’d wager that the guy has never flushed his own toilet and leaves that task for lesser humans—and everyone is a lesser human in his eyes. Now it will be the American people forced to clean up after the dump he takes on what remains of our democracy.

Equal parts trenchant and hilarious, Insane Clown President is perfect reading to get you through these rocky initial days of the Trump administration and a good preparation for the horror that is sure to come, because we elected a reality TV buffoon as our commander in chief. So what did you expect? If this represents the death of our democracy Taibbi quickly leads us to the murder weapon: television news and much of the media, in general. We have turned the news into a consumer product that people can change to suit their individual tastes like they do for all other products.

What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.

When people wish to argue politics with me the first thing I ask them is to tell me what they read to arrive at their political views. More often than not the response is the Sarah Palin-esque “I read everything” which, as with her, means the almost exact opposite which means that they can’t be bothered to read anything at all, at least nothing longer than a slogan that fits beneath a photo on some idiotic post they saw on Facebook. Welcome to the post-literate age where there are facts and alternative facts to fit any narrative.

If I have any complaint with Taibbi as a writer it is his constant use of the most arcane pop culture references to make his points. I guess this works if you are in on the reference but I wonder how readers ten years from now will view this book as he obviously is looking ahead a bit with his mention of Hunter Thompson. I happen to think that Taibbi is a much better reporter than Thompson and perhaps even funnier. I also don’t know why he doesn’t attribute some of the funnier lines in the book to his fellow reporters. He’s a reporter so why doesn’t he write down the name of the guy who quipped, “His lawn mower is gay?” after the Wisconsin governor said that marriage freedoms would open the door to someone walking down the aisle with his lawn mower. Or after Ted Cruz claims that some kids gave him money from their lemonade stand for his campaign. After Cruz drops out shortly thereafter another of Taibbi’s anonymous colleague asks, “Does he get to use the lemonade money to pay campaign debts?”

Here is a perfect example of Taibbi at his best, being both trenchant and hilarious:

If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut—the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.”

I just decided to change the name of my make-believe punk rock band to Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube.

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