When Alison assigned me Ted Rall’s Book of Obama, I was excited, as it contained two things that I enjoy: politics and cartoons. However, there ended up being not nearly enough funny drawings, and the political commentary was pretty much all stuff that I’ve heard emanating from the rapidly moving gullets of my drunken anarchist friends. In summation, Rall wants to burn shit. You know—society, the government, infrastructure, etc. The usual culprits. I kind of thought his references to revolution and such were just hyperbole until I got to the very end of the book wherein Rall calls nonviolence a “ridiculous fetish” and a “cult of Gandhi.”
And, to be fair, it's not that Rall is wrong about everything. As your standard-issue Portland liberal, I found a lot to agree with in the Book of Obama. Rall's bloviating tone, though, and his insistence on calling non-radical liberals "idiots" shut me down. I wasn't persuaded by anything he had to say—I was alienated. It left me thinking "Who is this book for?" It's certainly not going to get any Tea Partiers to switch sides. Rall, though, seems less interested in persuading those who have differing ideas than galvanizing his own.
The Book of Obama also, somewhat maddeningly, completely ignores social issues—Rall briefly dismisses them as “arguing about gays and abortion.” Those are real issues, though, that have real, actual impact on people’s lives in profoundly personal and even intimate ways. However, social issues, being a field where the left has made very real progress the last couple of decades, don’t fit well with Rall’s view of liberals and Democrats as complicit, do-nothing obstructionists. That being the case, he waves social issues away. Rall’s project is not one that is motivated by analysis or reason. Rather, his drive seems to emanate from the tumescent hate-boner he has for whomever is in charge of things at the moment. Right now that's Obama, so Rall kind of hates him, and, by extension, the non-radical liberals who voted for Obama and will probably do so again. That's me and, if you live in Portland and read the Mercury, that's probably you, too.
So, if you want to go hear a bunch of warmed-over, frothing, self-aggrandizing Black Bloc boilerplate, go to Powell’s tonight and/or listen to Rall on Live Wire. However, if you’re not interested in hearing the virulent bleats of a guy who flippantly suggest that violence is maybe good for getting your point across, then I humbly suggest you do something else with the little time remaining in your ever-decreasing life.