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Political books, like Newt Gingrich's: A mighty roar

June 5, 2010 |  4:50 pm


Our political literature, as a discourse, has gotten rather coarse. New Gingrich's newest book is titled "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine," a case of name-calling. There is Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government," and from the other side of the aisle, Keith Olbermann's forthcoming "Hall of Shame: The Worst of the Worst, from Beck, Bill, and Bush to Palin and Other Posturing Republicans." It wasn't so long ago that now-Sen. Al Franken was a comedian promoting his book "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot."

Scott Martelle reports on the phenomenon and finds that, perhaps surprisingly, it's nothing new.

We've always been a democracy of schoolyard taunts and gossipy innuendo. It's just that more of us now seem to be buying books about it.

"Most people today buy political information because they like to hear it and they agree with it," says David Perlmutter, a political communications specialist at the University of Iowa, where he watches as the quadrennial presidential caucuses play out with varying degrees of venom. "People tend to read blogs that support their existing beliefs, left and right. So it's no surprise that they buy books that basically tell them what they want to hear. … People feel good about hearing their own anger and excitement articulated by someone else."

Whether that's good for the democracy is up for debate.

Some observers point to talk radio as the origin of an escalation of rhetoric, but others say that the vitriol in our political conversations ebbs and flows. Read Martelle's complete analysis here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Newt Gingrich at Universal Studios' Jurassic Park: The Ride in 1998. Credit: Joel P. Lugavere / Los Angeles Times

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