Teabooking 101: We read them so you don't have to 

"Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America"

Critics of Glenn Beck consider his television and radio shows to be poisonous attacks on the intelligence and free-thinking abilities of anyone who takes him seriously. Despite his years of objective journalism at The Washington Post, reporter Dana Milbank joins the fray, but goes off the deep end after an up-close viewing of the Beck machine at work. And his anger towards his subject grows more and more obvious as Tears of a Clown progresses.

Milbank first chuckles at Beck’s frequent usage of menthol beneath his eyes to help him cry on cue. He snickers at the chalkboards Beck uses to teach his version of American history. But where the book seems to come off the rails as a piece of political journalism is when he gets to Beck’s religion and the Mormon-rooted White Horse Prophecy, which holds that in the darkest days of America the Constitution “will hang like a thread” and the Elders of the Mormon church are to come to the rescue and restore the true Constitution by any means necessary.

Regrettably, this becomes the main driver of the book. To Milbank’s credit, he writes that he cannot tell how much of this nonsense Beck truly believes, but in critiquing a celebrity pundit not known for cohesive, logical thought, Milbank turns irrational himself and does little to encourage real political discourse.

Of course, Beck isn’t interested in productive conversations. He’s interested in Biblical End Times and the irresponsible politicians (Wilson, Wilson, Wilson — oh, and Obama and Teddy Roosevelt) who have brought us to this dangerous place. To read the book is to come to the sad conclusion that Milbank wishes he’d never found out why Beck is so good at what he does. Milbank writes about Beck as if describing a serial killer — and when Milbank begins to lose his cool, you know it’s because he’s realized he’s powerless to stop him.

 

Related story: The allure and danger of the Tea Party movement

 

"Going Rogue, America by Heart"

Sarah Palin is fascinating. Outlets like CNN, Fox, and Reuters catalogue her every move as though she were Bobby Fischer, and so many readers follow her tweets and have read her books that it’s hard to call what she denigrates as the “lamestream media” inefficient for giving her so much attention.

A careful reading of Palin’s books, Going Rogue and America by Heart, both ghosted by Lynn Vincent, would inspire most readers to ignore her or write her off as some Tea Party marionette. But she’s more than that. Palin gives voice to a slice of America by saying what they never would dare to repeat in public. Palin commands our attention by suggesting she’s real America. Isn’t it cute? She can clean a fish! She can fire a gun! But if Harry Reid ever said “Don’t Retreat, Reload!” there would have been no cuteness to it. And certainly, since the massacre in Tucson, her folksy smile-and-winks are being roughly, and often unfairly, reinterpreted. Palin and Beck are no more responsible for the atrocities in Arizona than Richard Pryor is for some guy running down the street on fire. But someone who hints that Americans might have to resort to a “Second Amendment resolution” to a problem most likely put another clip in the magazine of an insane person who has no business being around guns.

To read America by Heart is to be moved by the strength of families — and by their ability to overcome federal roadblocks. Some of Palin’s examples are, in fact, inspirational. But in this day and age, we have no idea if we’re reading fiction or fact. And given her abnegation of virtually any official responsibility, we can’t expect her to be any more factual than Steinbeck. He’s a better read, frankly, but Palin’s ghost isn’t bad. Decide for yourself if you want to increase her personal fortune by purchasing either one.




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