Recommendation: Nah, not worth it
Where to read: In a fever dream
Read with: Absinthe – might as well commit to seeing things
In brief: Yet another journalist struggling structure in a with book-length work. More seriously, it’s fairly seriously nutty.
Look, you have to have a certain amount of sympathy for a man who appears to have read the entirety of the Left Behind series, a particularly horrendous form of torture guaranteed to scramble your wits at least slightly (and one the CIA could plausibly consider adopting in future).
That significant caveat aside, these are the moderately disjointed ravings of a man who is way, way off the deep end (and probably has been for some time). The problem with critiquing the argument is that isn’t one… There’s a lot of “evidence” provided however what it apparently evinces is somewhat unclear. This is particularly frustrating because there does seem to be an argument here – there’s a number of very good reasons to characterise The Dark Knight trilogy as, at the very least, a tad fascist, he’s not wrong about the torture scenes in 24, and the environmental message in Avatar isn’t exactly breaking news. A coherent examination of the links between popular culture and extremism/political trends, drawing on history, psychology, sociology and political science etc. where appropriate, would be great. This just reminds me why I decided not to major in English lit.
The other main source of confusion is the lack of clarity about what precisely constitutes “extremist” work and what shows fall into that category. The lack of a coherent argument across “chapters”, though the grouping of sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters all seems a little arbitrary, makes it impossible to keep track of precisely when The Walking Dead is meant to be extremist, centrist or just plain gross.
In favour of this book, I will say that I spent several evenings down the fundamentalist-evangelical-Christian-right rabbit hole. An entertaining and horrifying experience, it is useful to be reminded that there really are people out there who not only expect the Apocalypse but look forward with anticipation. The website Rapture Ready is a particularly odious example of the genre, complete with a long list of unhinged FAQ answers, smugly self-righteous “Left Behind Letters” authored by sadists who’ve apparently missed the “meak and humble” message and the pièce de résistance of eschatological pornography, the so-called Rapture Index.
If that literary hair-shirt weren’t enough, I have now suffered through the Left Behind movie, a waste of even Nicholas Cage’s limited acting talents** and a guaranteed spoiler for anyone who thought Chad Michael Murray was cute in that Hilary Duff movie. This was followed by the first chapter of the book series and it has to be the most woeful prose I’ve ever encountered (and that’s including Fifty Shades of Grey and some of the tripe the students I used to tutor came out with).
** Rotten Tomatoes reads – “Yea verily, like unto a plague of locusts, Left Behind hath begat a further scourge of devastation upon Nicolas Cage’s once-proud filmography.”
*** Additional note – my sympathy for Biskind has been dramatically reduced by his referring to “poor Judge Kavanagh” as a witch hunt victim.