by Joel Dyer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1997
An impassioned and articulate, but not entirely convincing, examination of the militia movement and related phenomena by a veteran investigative reporter. Dyer ascribes the rise of radical antigovernment activity to the farm crisis that began in the late '70s with the Federal Reserve Board's harsh anti-inflationary policies and has proceeded through the relentless conglomeration of agriculture. He argues that farmers, unlike urban workers, are so psychologically tied to their occupation that when they lose that, they lose their identity. So many families have been driven off the land in the past generation, he says, that the rural culture has developed a sort of group psychosis that leads people to turn violent toward either themselves or others; he notes that suicide has overtaken accidents as the leading cause of unnatural death in rural areas and that domestic violence there has risen dramatically. Throw Christian fundamentalism, fear of gun control, and more than a trace of white supremacist ideology into the pot, and America faces the threat of civil war in the heartland, with the Oklahoma City bombing merely an early warning signal. Dyer has spent a great deal of time talking to the militants and trying to understand their writings, and his exegeses of their bizarre legal and political theories bring as much lucidity to them as one could expect. He diminishes his credibility, however, by relying on very few sources to support either his psychological theories or his apocalyptic predictions, and his left-populist political analysis is scarcely more sophisticated (even if far more rational) than the conspiracy theories he ridicules. He persistently speaks of ""the government"" as if it were a fairy-tale king that could make the poor folks' lives better by fiat, if only it would listen to their plaint. Despite its faults, this look at unrest in the heartland is valuable and often perceptive.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997
Page Count: 275
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997
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