Friday, September 10, 2010

Markos Moulitsas' American Taliban: A Review

Due to Blogger trouble, I couldn't blog almost for the entire day yesterday. As a result, many things I wanted to say have accumulated. Now I will be bombarding my readers with posts. I hope nobody minds. :-)

So I've been reading American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right by Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, and I love it. The book is both insightful and entertaining, and I recommend it to any one who loves making fun of the right-wing stupidity and hypocrisy.

The main idea of the book is to show that
the Republican Party, and the entire modern conservative movement is, in fact, very much like the Taliban. In their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban. The American Taliban—whether in their militaristic zeal, their brute faith in masculinity, their disdain for women’s rights, their outright hatred of gays, their aversion to science and modernity, or their staunch anti-intellectualism—share a litany of mores, values, and tactics with Islamic extremists.
Sure enough, the Republicans insist that more and more of our poor teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds should be sent to Afghanistan supposedly to fight Taliban. They denounce the "uncivilized," "medieval," and "barbaric" Muslim terrorists. They even oppose the building of a peaceful Muslim house of prayer because they believe that their own religious fanaticism is vastly superior to Islam. In reality, though, they should be the last people to condemn anybody for barbarity and terrorism. When the conservatives denounce American progressives for supporting the Taliban, they are completely dishonest:
Progressives hate the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists precisely for the same reason we hate rabid conservatives at home: their fear of change, their contempt for nontraditional lifestyles, their mania for militaristic solutions, and their fascistic efforts to impose their narrow worldview on the rest of society.
Markos draws very convincing parallels between the actions of our homegrown religious fanatics and those we see in other countries. He writes in his incomparable sarcastic style that made his blog so loved by the good guys and hated by the idiots. This, for example, is what he has to say about Texas secessionists:
I’m partial to ceding a portion of the Texas Panhandle to these wackos, naming it Dumbfuckistan, taking it off the federal dole, building a wall around it, and arresting anyone trying to enter America illegally. I can always dream.
The book offers a lot more than humor, though. There are some really great insights about why the conservative message attracts so many people in spite of being both oppressive and contradictory. Markos doesn't shy away from pointing out how often women participate in their own oppression and why:
Promise Keepers proclaims its mission to be “to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises”—one of those promises being to commit to “building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.” Such talk of “protection” can have an appeal, and not just to the biblical “warriors” declaring their belief in the inerrancy of scripture and their god-given right to be head of household. In a world fraught with economic uncertainty, the notion of being shielded from the harshness of the free market, with its downsizing, outsourcing, and discarding of workers, can be deeply appealing, particularly to conservative women. In the wake of 9/11, we’ve seen how quickly Americans are willing to surrender democratic values—such as the need for search warrants and the right to free speech—for even the appearance of security. It should not surprise us to find women willing to give up autonomy, choice, and, yes, even the right to vote, in exchange for “protection.”
It's great to see a progressive writer who is not afraid of going in this direction in his analysis.

The book is very well-researched. There is a lot of interesting data that I never saw before. To give just one example:
In a study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives in the winter of 2009, Benjamin Edelman examined the zip codes associated with all credit card subscriptions of a top online adult site, over a two-year period between 2006 and 2008. Here are some of his findings: In the 27 states where “defense of marriage” amendments have been adopted (making same-sex marriage, and/or civil unions unconstitutional), subscriptions to this adult entertainment service are... 11 percent more [prevalent] than in other states. ... Subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality. In states where more people agree that “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” and “I never doubt the existence of God,” there are more subscriptions to this service. Subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where more people agree that “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” and “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”
How cute is that, huh?

The book costs less than 8 bucks on Kindle and is honestly worth every cent. I still can't stop laughing over some of Markos's brilliant quips.

1 comment:

It's Only Bruce said...

Well, that certainly confirms a lot of my suspicions.