We love to hate. Reality television aside, few arenas highlight our hatred better than politics. In the 1800 presidential election, Thomas Jefferson's campaign called John Adams "a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." Adams' camp retaliated, claiming that if Jefferson were elected, "murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced" and that the man himself was "the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.â Fox News pales.
New York writer Arthur Goldwag explores the history of hatred and continuing right-wing conspiracies in his new book. Loaded with insightful and obscure information about groups and movements, from the John Birch Society and the Freemasons to the tea partiers and âBirthers,â The New Hate has enough conspiracy fodder to give Dan Brown a boner.
Though Goldwag's biases are obvious, he mostly lets his information make his point, drawing on historical texts and current affairs about the far right's organizations and pundits, often to shudder-inducing effect. "The New Hate is less about prejudice than it is about America's long-standing penchant for conspiratorial thinking, its never-ending quest for scapegoats," explains Goldwag. "The most salient feature of what I have come to call the New Hate is its sameness across time and space. The most depressing thing about the demagogues who tirelessly exploit it—in pamphlets and books and partisan newspapers two centuries ago, on Web sites, electronic social networks, and twenty-four-hour cable news today—is how much alike they all turn out to be.â
Whether seeking to better understand the complaints of the populist right or just reaffirm your understanding that they're nut bags, The New Hate proves both informative and deeply unsettling. If you are easily roused into rage by the blind ignorance of others, this is not a book for bedtime reading.
GO: Arthur Goldwag reads at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 16. Free.