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Book Review: Dumbocracy

Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Looney Left, the Rabid Right, and other American Idiots

Marty Beckerman

How do you write a review of a book which was written to offend you? As a political junkie and occasional activist, I often found myself reflected in the people Marty Beckerman was skewering without mercy. Dumbocracy doesn’t hold any punches and many political enthusiasts who read this book might find themselves pulling their hair in frustration.

Left wing feminists, right wing Evangelicals, Jewish militants, Catholics, Atheists, Muslim extremists, Marty Beckerman holds nothing sacred as he pushes his agenda of hardcore moderation. Between the profanity and the 800 or so citations, Beckerman is able to bring humor, research and wicked morbidity to all the third rails in politics today.

This is not to say I agree with everything Beckerman put into his book. The first chapter of this book, where he makes a defense of apathy, was not persuasive and took away from the rest of the work. Also, this book isn’t a treatise on political philosophy, so don’t expect to find anything too “deep” (and the author freely admits this.)

Also, Beckerman seeks out the worst examples of idiotic knavery to create the straw men he ruthlessly eviscerates. The philosophic rule of argumentation is to create the best case for yourself and your opponents and compare the two to find some logical conclusion. Marty fails to accomplish this but nonetheless I would still consider this an incredibly thoughtful and well researched book.

After reading it, I had to reflect long and hard about my own personal political activities. Over the years I have volunteered hundreds of hours to conservative political causes and I often fell into the same traps Beckerman talks about in the book. Activists are enormously poor conversationalists. They also tend to be irrational. Beckerman says they are the reason for the poor political discourse in this country and it’s hard to argue with him.

So what is Beckerman’s message to the masses? Think for yourself. Reflect. Tolerate. Converse. His book got me to reflect and think a second time. It’s sound advice and doesn’t seem all that hard. Beckerman should know, he’s gone from teenage communist to College Republican to Moderate extremist (if such a thing can even exist).

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From the Notebook

-A quick personal update, I’ve started the MBA program and things are going well. It’s going to get a little hectic over the next three weeks though. Especially this week. I’m enjoying the whole process, for some odd reason the proddings and false stress of academic work is agreeable to me.

-Read “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff. Originally published in 1954, this guide for lay readers clearly presents how statistics are used to mislead people with scores of examples. Huff also gives the readers insight into how to avoid “believing things which are not so” by giving a simple rubric for analyzing stats in popular literature. The book is invaluable and very readable. As stats start becoming a larger a part of our daily lives (in politics and business) thoughtful criticism becomes more and more a necessity.

-Read “Heat Lightning” by John Sandford (getting a lot of reading done thanks to spending 15 hours a week in the library). Sandford is a well-known Minnesota author whose “Prey” series has been a consistent bestseller at the national level. This book was a “Virgil Flowers” adventure (rather than a Lucas Davenport novel). Flowers is one of the eccentric characters in Sandford’s universe, and this book was as enjoyable as a Davenport novel, if not more so.

-I’ll be doing some political podcasts between now and Election Day (in fact, I have a podcast scheduled on Election Day). The podcasts are going to be every Tuesday at 10pm CT. Not sure exactly what I’ll be doing or talking about, or anything specific regarding style. My guess? Rusty.