Gabriel Sherman, of NYTs fame, opens a historical window into a media pundit, cold war warrior, and “American Patriot” world that is as old school as it is apocalyptic. Sherman paints a modern panorama depicting a dying small town romantic vision of a segregated America juxtaposed against a more sober vision of a burgeoning diverse America made real by a sitting African American president. It does a good job of documenting an ideologically tight nit network of pundits, patriots and profiteers on a messianic mission to save America with roots in the Nixonian backlash to the new Federalism and the baby booming sixties.
This book can be seen as an honest attempt to shed journalistic light on the Nixonian heritage of a conservative movement that in its attempt to garner popular votes by winning our “hearts and minds” –through the use of patriotic smoke and ideological mirrors–gives us a romantic portrayal of wedge issues that get our attention and get some to vote. It paints the Fox network as an ideological war room and Roger Ailes as its Minister of Propaganda.
The book shows how the Sherman view, though unflattering, of Roger Ailes and his kin, can give needed perspective to the perhaps elitist and snobbish Northeast intellectual types’ myopic view which mistakenly portrays Fox and the right wing as “buffoons and rabid rednecks”. Instead of giving us a picture of Roger Ailes as a monster, Sherman, purposely or not, gives us a more balanced and human picture of a working class boy playing hard ball for an America he desperately believes in. This picture and our belief that Sherman’s investigative and editorial work is well vouched for, make it an important piece in our own repertoire for our mutual journey to understand an America that is mostly memory and an America that is contested by so called “patriots” some of us see as crazy.
After reading this book we may also get important insights into the so called “right wing fringe” who many don’t understand but we can now see, thanks to Sherman’s work, as crazy, like a Fox!
Perhaps more importantly the book can raise important questions about the role that modern cable news plays in the shaping of the American imagination and our political discourse.