A notorious journalist attempts to unpack the complex political, social, and cultural issues that have come to dominate the American discourse.
In the latest from LeDuff (Detroit: An American Autopsy, 2013, etc.), America is on the brink of a cataclysmic event; unfortunately, this is not a work of fiction. The author takes us from 2013 to 2017, from the moment he pitched a TV show idea to Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of spending “Year One of Our Trump in [his] underpants.” His show, The Americans, showcased “everyday people who were trying to get by as the country and their way of life disintegrated around them.” The author traveled across the country to gather material for his show. He spent considerable time in Detroit, dissecting the implications of racial disparities; in Ferguson, understanding the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of black teenager Michael Brown; and on the Mexican border, trying to capture both the American and Mexican experiences of immigration. While LeDuff’s insight is often sobering, his approach is sometimes self-serving and often acts like a disservice to the communities he attempts to capture on film. “A güero like myself flailing around in a ridiculous costume with a giant yellow banana had two purposes: It would get the attention of the smugglers, and it would make for good TV,” he writes. The need for “good TV” comes up often, and it seems the author would do anything to reach that goal, even if it means embodying the stereotype of the white savior: “I gave the boy twenty dollars….I told him to remember his mother’s sacrifice, and I welcomed him to America. Sometime in his life, I hope, he will think back on me….I gave him one of the press conference doughnuts. Chocolate cream filling.” Readers may learn important lessons from the difficult realities of LeDuff’s subjects but little thanks to him.
A frustrating account of the current exasperating state of affairs. For a more penetrating portrait of similar issues, head back to Detroit.