New book addresses farcical coverage of 2016 election

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New book addresses farcical coverage of 2016 election

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Matt Taibbi is a Rolling Stone correspondent and an author. During 2015-2016, he reports on the presidential campaign and the ensuing election, and then combines his dispatches into “Insane Clown President.” Before he starts his dispatches, he writes of his prior book “The Great Derangement,” “about middle America’s growing mistrust of government, the media, and other mainstream forces.” He gets this right. But he doesn’t see Trump coming. He believes to the end that America will stop short of voting Trump in as president. His dispatches regarding the political scene and the temperature of America are insightful, valuable and often hilarious; they are also condescending, acerbic and derogatory.

Taibbi discusses both the GOP candidates’ relationship to the media, and The People’s (his phrasing) relationship to it as well. He also discusses Trump’s use of the media to run his campaign. He reflects on Hilary Clinton’s failure to reach The People because of her ties with Wall Street and her refusal to make her emails public. He writes on Trump’s destruction of the Republican Party and the implosion of the Democratic party. He also covers Bernie Sanders and his respect for both the man and his campaign.

But I think the real meat in Taibbi’s book is how, as time passes, he gains a better understanding of Trump’s supporters across the country. First, he starts off like this: “America has been trending stupid for a long time. Now the stupid wants out of its cage, and Trump is urging it on.”

Deeper into the book, he slowly shifts his language from The People as being dumb to The People having a reason to be angry with the status quo. “People aren’t pissed just to be pissed. They’re mad because a tiny group of crooks on Wall Street built themselves beach houses in the Hamptons through a crude fraud scheme that decimated their retirement funds, caused property values in their neighborhoods to collapse and caused over four million people to be put in foreclosure.”

Later still, he writes: “People want more power over their own lives. They want to feel some connection to society. Most particularly, they don’t want to be dictated to by distant bureaucrats who don’t seem to care what they’re going through, and think they know what’s best for everyone.”

And finally, once Trump is elected, here is Taibbi’s crescendo:

“We journalists made the same mistake the Republicans made, the same mistake the Democrats made. We were too sure of our own influence, too lazy to bother hearing things firsthand, and too in love with ourselves to imagine that so many people could hate and distrust us as much as they apparently do.”
Trump’s election shocks Taibbi, and you get the sense that he’ll think twice in how he represents the electorate in future reporting. He won’t ditch his signature writing style, or his tone, but he won’t be so presumptuous.

“Insane Clown President” is engaging, that’s certain. But it’s also timely and important. If you find you are incredulous regarding the election outcome, find your way to the new book section of Willey Library and check this book out. Taibbi just might answer all of your questions.

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