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Stan has commented on (1) product.

The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot by Naomi Wolf
The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

Stan, November 18, 2008

I'm sorry to hand this book a "very bad" rating.

The book could be critically important to recent generations of Americans who have forgotten, or never learned about, how democratic governments in other countries have been overturned when their citizens failed to recognize and control the growth of anti-democratic ideals within government. It could alert us to parallels between those events and the changes affecting American democracy for at least the past 150 years or so.

Unfortunately, the author is obsessed with the evils of the Bush adminstration. The basic structure of the book is warped by this obsession. Every brief example of how democracy was subverted elsewhere is paired with a brief example of what may be a similar action that occured in America during the Bush years.

The steady, often-subtle subversion of American democracy didn't begin with the Bush administration. It goes back at least to Lincoln's administration, and gained substantial strength during the Great Depression. The truth of the dangers facing our country is poorly served by the book's focus on the past eight years.

Presenting past and current events as alternating bits and pieces clouds the meaning and significance of the facts. The author's message would be far stronger if we were given coherent chapters on each topic. As it stands, with the pairing of events, the author apparently doubts readers' abilities to sort things out for themselves.

Finally, I'm afraid my academic background has given me a bad habit. When I encounter a footnote notation, I immediately check the footnote (collected in the back of the book, in this case). Didn't take long to recognize that Ms. Wolf's research is woefully inadequate. She relys heavily on journalistic reporting, of the sort that uncritically mixes fact, rumor and opinion, often with an unstated bias to a political viewpoint.

Overall, I'm left with the impression that the author was poorly served by her editor and publisher. A strong editor would have required better scholarship for a book of such possible importance, and suggested improvements in the book's organization and focus. Too bad; opportunity lost.

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