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The Backlash

Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

The Backlash
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They Think Obama Isn't an American Citizen.
They Think Obama Wants to Put Americans in Concentration Camps.
They Think Obama Is the Anti-Christ.
This Isn't Just the Tea Party—Welcome to the Backlash.

In November 2008, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new age of hope, optimism, and postpartisan politics. Instead it provoked unparalleled anger on the far right that eventually twisted important national discussions and pushed ideas from the conservative fringe into the mainstream media. In the ensuing months, countless pollsters and reporters have tried to understand the heart of this mob that appeared so suddenly, but none of them has successfully accounted for the hard-right movement's rapid growth or explained the hidden connections between its parts. Until now.

In this gripping exposé, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Will Bunch reveals the secrets behind the crusade against Obama, exploring how forces like radical militia groups, the Tea Party, pro-gun zealots, and Glenn Beck have combined old-fashioned populist outrage with digital-age phobias to produce a wave of resentment that many have ridden straight to the bank. Pulling back the curtain on the paranoid politicsof a new generation, Bunch shows how events such as the election of America's first African-American president, the economic recession, the rise of social networking, and the phenomenon of Glenn Beck have created a dangerous political moment that poses legitimate risks to democracy in America.

From conspiracy theorists to secessionists, birthers to "independent" Tea Partiers, Bunch illuminates the ties among this new array of groups. Going beyond easy caricature, he strips away layers of rhetoric to reveal politicians like Paul Broun, who, as one of the most extreme members of Congress, works as hard for right-wing ideologues as he does for his economically battered constituents, and groups like the Oath Keepers, a fast-growing, ultraradical organization that spreads unsubstantiated fears of Obama confiscating guns and placing U.S. citizens in concentration camps. In addition, Bunch exposes the opportunists who have embraced a new brand of apocalyptic fearmongering, which has made them millions but has also led to the widespread paranoia that has helped fuel a rise in antigovernment violence.

The end result shows the true stakes of this political perfect storm, demonstrating how the anger of the far right now threatens to consume America. Powerful, shocking, and thought-provoking, The Backlash is a controversial look at where our democracy is—and where it may be heading.

HarperCollins; August 2010
368 pages; ISBN 9780062008756
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