I was in a Waldenbooks last night and crusing the aisles of my favorite section, Social Sciences. Here you will find a plethora of books dealing with current events, politics, and society. Normally, I can find something that piques my curiousity and makes me want to buy it.
Last night, though, was am exercise in futility. Looking over the titles and subjects of the books, I was disappointed with how devoid of substance the current titles for sale are. Here's a sampling.
- a book making the case for impeaching President Bush, with the first reason being that he "lied to Congress and the American people to get us into a senseless war" (Gee, no bias there.)
- Ann Coulter's latest screed about how immoral liberals are
- a book written by one of Air America's hosts, Sam Seder, talking about how bad things are in this country
- Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior, yet something else to pimp on his shows
- a book whose main point was that America is the cause of all bad things in the world
- two books by Michael Savage with his predictable bombastic style
I'd go on, but then I'd have to take something for nausea.
Since the late 90s, the publishing industry has gotten into publishing hatchet jobs written by hacks because they realized people wanted to read that sort of thing. And I'll admit I thought it was a good thing during the Clinton years to have books like High Crimes and Misdemeanors by Ann Coulter and Unlimited Access by Gary Aldrich out there for public consumption, mainly because I was convinced Bill Clinton was getting away with crimes. Even then, though, I shied away from conspiracy theory books saying Bill and Hillary orchestrated Vince Foster's murder or from books that were venomously partisan.
Once George W. Bush got elected, the books seemed to change their political bent. Sure, you'd still find the "Democrats suck" books out there, but now you'd find "Republicans suck" books along side of them. To compete with the shrillness of the opposite side, both sides amped up the nasty rhetoric and saw some of their books hit the best seller lists. That motivates both sides to keep up the nastiness and build on it.
But not every book is a best seller, leaving the dregs to take up space in bookstores.
Although it gives me hope that any schmuck can put fingers to keyboard and write a book (especially considering that I hope to become one of those schmucks someday), I have to wonder where the thoughtful books are. I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't seen them for a while now. Even Coulter has gone from somewhat sensible commentator to snarky mistress of controversy. And others don't even go through that transformation. What that leaves is the bitterness that modern politics always brings to the surface.
I walked out of Waldenbooks disheartened, but not all that surprised. We're to blame for this because we provide a market for the nutjobs with a political ax to grind to deliver their venomous dissertations on why their ideological opponents suck on ice. If we want to get back to a point where real debate can occur on the bookshelves, we need to insist on a more balanced approach to addressing the issues brought up in the books themselves. Will it happen? I don't know.
But I do know that my reading list is going to be shorter until it does.