Tuesday, June 30, 2009


"Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Looney Left, the Ribald Right, and Other American Idiots"
By Marty Beckerman
Disinformation, paperback

Early on in his tenure as a *Rolling Stone* contributing editor, Matt Taibbi was routinely derided as a beggar's Hunter S. Thompson. The charge was harsh, but predictable: Taibbi's semi-regular cutting bromides stood in the towering, wavy-gravy shadows of Thompson's LSD-soaked politi-populist dispatches. The key differences? Taibbi isn't an active user of recreational narcotics, doesn't weave preposterous hallucinations into his venomous punditry, and is more sharp-eyed humorist than journalist proper. The Thompson comparisons probably aren't keeping him up at night, but the author of *Hostile Takeover* might take comfort in knowing that a poor man's Matt Taibbi is out there, making him look better just by drawing breath. His name? Marty Beckerman.

*Dumbocracy*, Beckerman's second book, proceeds from the premise that radical-fringe elements of the two major American political parties can claim one commonality: they're equally batshit insane. The Playboy, New York Press, and Huffington Post contributor seeks to prove this thesis by wading into the fray of various politically-charged events, actions, and gatherings and posing patently asinine questions to anyone within the range of his voice. At an anti-war rally outside the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, he asks an especially vociferous protester - who chants "No more blood for oil and no more oil in the first place!" - "What if we designed cares powered by Iraqi blood?" only to receive no response. His recommendation to another, at a March 2005 Marriage Equality Rally in Dupont Circle? To appease straights and gays alike, the U.S. should invade Cuba and transform it into a "Tropical Gay Israel." These on-the-scene inquisitions seem designed to cast Beckerman as someone who really, really wants to have his lights knocked out. Occasionally, though, he strikes gold just by being in the right place with the right people at the right time - as at an Aptil 2004 D.C. event protesting violence against abortion clinics:

Katrina and Maddie, a pair of teenage lesbians, distribute posters that that proclaim: "QUEER RIGHTS ARE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS!"

"What does that *mean*?" I ask. "Gay people can't *reproduce*--at least not without scientists."

"Exactly," chirps one of the girls. "Gay people will *never* have abortions! So I think *everyone* should be gay! So nobody has to argue!"

Indeed, for most of *Dumbocracy*'s 200-page length, it's *that* kind of book: an extrapolation of sardonic, previously published articles into a half-assed pundit's manifesto that isn't as gut-busting as the author believes it is. Beckerman's the sort of guy who thinks cracking wise about Hitler, addressing others as "Jew Bastards," and pretending that Hamas is something "you eat with pita and falafel" while attending a Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators in Jerusalem is hilarious. Worse: he blows his page-count wad on quotes from oodles of sources and seems to have difficulty wearing his snarky trucker's cap and responsible journalist's fedora at the same time - resulting in long, dry passages where an issue is explored straight-faced, only to be encapped with a lame joke in parenthesis. Someone should really gift Beckerman a copy of Jon Ronson's *Them* as a Passover present.

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