WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Kurt Andersen’s “Evil Geniuses”

It’s been a few weeks since I finished this troubling book, but it lingers with me. The truth is, I wish everyone could be issued a copy of it as required reading, because Kurt Andersen (author of 2017’s Fantasyland) has painstakingly revealed the roadmap used by the right in essentially taking over the country. It all began a long time ago, in a political galaxy far, far away …

Basically, what happened was, the right or “conservatism,” took it on the chin big time when Barry Goldwater got clobbered in the 1964 presidential election. Instead of changing their political philosophy to adapt to the electorate, rightwing thinkers laid out a new strategy—one that successfully installed a new kind of conservative in the White House in just sixteen years: Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan who popularized the idea that “government is not the solution to our problems: it is the problem.”

The details of the new conservative plan are too numerous for me to outline here, but I’ll just say that they stuck to it and now it’s paying the dividends. An early saboteur was Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, before he was on the bench, who in 1971 wrote the playbook conservatives would follow. It birthed a shitload of conservative think tanks and lobbying groups and started the ball rolling on taking over the courts via outfits like the Federalist Society, from which all of the current reactionaries on the court sprung. In other words, Powell, and other activists, developed a long-term strategy that, fifty years later, has changed society.

Andersen calls people like Powell and the Koch brothers and the many many others who made all of this possible “evil geniuses,” because their motives certainly do seem kind of evil. (Powell worked for the tobacco industry before joining the Supreme Court.) In effect, they have dismantled the middle class, destroyed the labor movement, created inbred distrust of government, and made almost laughable the concept of progressive taxation. The American people have become more of a commodity, like oil, to them than stakeholders in the Great Democratic Experiment. Or worse: We’re livestock being led into the chute of compliance and silence while corporations redesign the national paradigm.

The events of 2020 and 2021 (especially the January 6th insurrection) demonstrate that the plan is moving into a new phase now, one in which trust in democracy itself is being systematically dissolved. (AT&T bankrolls the ultraright news network, OAN.) It’s scary stuff, and unless the Democratic party figures out an effective antidote, Lewis Powell and Barry Goldwater and Reagan and probably Mussolini too will be dancing in their graves.

Read Evil Geniuses as soon as you can. It’s that important.

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4 comments on “Kurt Andersen’s “Evil Geniuses”

  1. islandeditions
    November 15, 2021

    I had put off reading this book by Anderson (whose “Fantasyland” I particularly enjoyed reading), because I was afraid it would be a difficult read to swallow, and I’m kind of hoping for more good news in my life and in general right now. But I will read it now on your recommendation, Kevin. Thanks.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2021

      Hi, Susan! So good to hear from you, and I definitely know where you’re coming from. After finishing the book, I kept repeating the Serenity Prayer. It looks like Hillary was onto something with the idea of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.”

      BTW, I’m locked out of my own Facebook page for some reason, so it’s not that I’m ignoring any comments or mentions you leave there; I can’t get in to see them at all. Not that I miss Facebook … 😉

  2. kingmidget
    November 15, 2021

    “The American People have become more of a commodity” Exactly.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2021

      The same way advertisers think of people as “eyeballs.” We’re being bought and sold … down the river. 😡

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2021 by in politics and tagged , , , .
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