Jason Mattera is an up-and-comer. Only in his twenties, he has already been featured by some of the biggest Conservative names in talk radio, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Roger Hedgecock, and Mike Gallagher. I suppose that list tells you all you need to know about his political leanings. Obama Zombies is his first book and it screams Malkin, Beck, Coulter as he seeks to tell “How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation.”
If you have read a book by any of those people or listened to any of their radio shows, you’ll know roughly what Mattera is going to say. There is a sense in which this is two books–one that rehashes the same old conservative arguments and one that puts them into this new context of Obamamania. Now I don’t mean to use the word rehash in a pejorative sense–many of those arguments conservatives make are good ones and ones I agree with wholeheartedly. Global warming is a lot of nonsense, but a perfect opportunity to impose all kinds of laws and regulations while gaining political points; socialized health care really could become a nightmare; capitalism offers the nation far greater hope than the Democratic ideal of wealth redistribution; seeking to put to rest the threat of Islam through around-the-campfire dialog is a dead-end. And so on. You know the planks of that platform by now.
What Mattera does that is different, and what he does well, is showing how Obama’s Presidential campaign packaged and sold all of this to a whole generation of impressionable young people, many of whom have far more enthusiasm than wisdom. He shows how the campaign turned this young generation into a group of zombies, powerful but unthinking.
Three themes stood out above the rest. The first is the power of celebrity. Obama’s campaign understood that if they were to win the election they would need to mobilize this generation and they understood in turn that in order to do so, they would need celebrities on their side. And so they enlisted the Hollywood elite to laud Obama and pour contempt upon McCain and Palin. They were very effective in this, using every available means to show that the nation’s idols were firmly on the side of Obama. Millions of young people were swept up in the momentum, falling in lockstep behind the ultimate celebrity.
The second theme that stands out is the power of the media. We already know this of course, but it is interesting to see how the media impacted youth, especially through celebrity “news” personalities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. These men were little more than shills for Obama and yet their shows are, for many young people, their only access to the news. They believe what they hear from such men and allow them to shape and mold their opinions. When Stewart and Colbert showed themselves firmly in the Democratic camp, millions of youth followed along.
And the third theme is the power of youth. What Obama’s campaign realized that McCain’s did not, is that in many ways authority structures are shifting in this digital world. Many people have written today about the wisdom of crowds and the power of crowds. When they discuss such things, they are generally discussing crowds of the young and technologically-adept. These are the people who are so easily mobilized today and who are so eager to be mobilized for what they perceive as a good cause. Obama’s campaign understood this and they roused that crowd. McCain’s campaign missed badly; their attempts to communicate with that generation fell completely and pathetically short.
All of this makes Obama Zombies an interesting book and one worth reading. It explains the recent past but also helps us project ourselves into the future a little bit. We can see a glimpse of how the 2012 campaign will come together and how the Democrats will have the immediate upper hand in reaching that same generation. I really hope the Republicans are reading it so they can learn a few lessons and at least make it interesting in 2012.
Verdict: Read it for its interpretation of the past and its importance to the future