A provocative, pointed challenge to all Americans to dig harder for the truth.

THEY KNEW

HOW A CULTURE OF CONSPIRACY KEEPS AMERICA COMPLACENT

A sharp dissection of a culture of lies, secrets, and conspiracies—including “the original conspiracy theory: American exceptionalism.”

Even paranoiacs have enemies. In the case of current citizens of the U.S., the enemies are countless, as demonstrated by Kendzior, author of Hiding in Plain Sight and The View From Flyover Country. By the author’s account, the GOP is one, and particularly Republicans in state legislatures who insist that their states are naturally “red” when, in fact, almost everywhere is purple—“like a bruise.” Alas, Kendzior notes, Americans are gullible people: A week after the 2020 election, only 3% of the population believed that Donald Trump had won, but a year after, “only 58 percent of Americans—and only 21 percent of Republicans—still believed that Biden was the legitimate president.” In such an environment, it’s small wonder that conspiracy theories are in wide circulation. Some of them are bizarre enough to seem almost parodies—e.g., “Pizzagate.” Others, by Kendzior’s account, have stronger legs. For example, we still don’t know all the facts about 9/11, particularly when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s involvement, and the leaders of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol have yet to be brought to justice. In a corrupt culture of lies (think of the thousands Trump sputtered), chain reactions fire wildly. Since we mistrust authority but yield to power, it’s the loudest voice in the room that wins, no matter how ridiculous the matter in question might be. Take QAnon’s assertion that only Trump could save us from a pedophile ring, when in fact allegations of pedophilia have long surrounded him. Kendzior’s indignation can sometimes wax a touch too righteous, as when she snipes at Anthony Fauci for his supposedly overweening self-regard. Nonetheless, her incisive account of a society in a death spiral, beset by “simultaneous revivals of the worst of the American past,” is endlessly compelling.

A provocative, pointed challenge to all Americans to dig harder for the truth.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-21072-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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