osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
Charles J. Sykes' How the Right Lost Its Mind is a view of the Trump takeover of the right from within - Sykes used to be a right-wing talk-radio host in Wisconsin. (He does not actually say so, but the timing makes it look like he ceased to be a radio host in part because of his outspoken opposition to Trump.) It's super weird to read a book where someone says nice things about Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin whom the Wisconsin friends on my Facebook feed loathe.

However, it's an interesting book, and not just because it is from a different viewpoint than I usually read. Sykes' analysis of the world of right-wing talk radio is interesting - and reminds me in a strange funhouse mirror way of some of the uglier parts of Tumblr discourse: both right-wing radio and left-wing Tumblr create echo chamber environments where there is no percentage in trying to be the voice of reason, because it opens you up to the charge of being a traitor. How dare you get soft on our enemies! They are demons! POSSIBLY LITERALLY.

Both sides considered this an apocalyptic election. Large swathes of right were every bit as terrified of a Clinton presidency as sensible progressives were of Trump's. Which I sort of knew, but it seemed, hmm, performative in a sense? - and it's clear from Sykes' comments that many people on the right saw the left's terror of Trump as performative in the same way: we've been labeling Republican candidates as fascists since George W. Bush if not before (I'm starting with Bush because he's the first one I remember), so when an actualfax fascist ran for office it sounded like we were just singing the same old scare-mongering song.

(I remember a number of articles by left-leaning people where the authors attempted to clarify that, okay, they'd called candidates fascists before, but this time they really meant it, which doubtless undercut their credibility among anyone who was not already inclined to agree - and Sykes does a good job outlining how the right-wing media has taught its consumers to distrust anything that comes from outside of a right-wing media bubble, to the extent that it becomes impossible to fact-check.)

I'm dwelling upon this because it's the part that struck me, as a left-leaning person, as a sort of action plan for the future - do not call people fascists unless you really mean it! - but it's not a big part of the book. He holds the right squarely responsible for capitulating to Trump. There are a number of excellently scathing turns of phrase in this book, but here's one that strikes me as a real mic drop - an excerpt from a television interview Sykes did with Megyn Kelly before the election:

"I've cautioned my fellow conservatives, you embrace Donald Trump, you embrace it all. You embrace every slur, every insult, every outrage, every falsehood. You're going to spend the next six months defending, rationalizing, evading all that. And afterwards, you come back to women, to minorities, to young people and say, that wasn't us. That's not what we're about. The reality is, if you support him to be president of the United States, that is who you are, and you own it."
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