by Barbara Gohl
The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right
By Arthur Goldwag
Hardback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pantheon (appearing in paperback September 4, 2012)
Price: $27.95 (available at discount for about $11, plus postage and handling)
Reviewed by Edwin A. Schwisow
Submitted August 23, 2012
“The people have been continually agitated by false alarms and without even the apparition of a foe. They have been made to believe that their government and their religion were upon the eve of annihilation. The ridiculous fabrications of plots, which have been crushed out of being by the weight of their own absurdity…have been artfully employed to excite an indignation which might be played off for the purposes of party….”(Diatribe in the early 1800s against Thomas Jefferson who is accused of being a member of the Illuminati)
Sound familiar? Sound like 2012? Think again. Hate-speak and conspiracy mongering are part of the political and religious fabric of an America that has also given birth to three of the world’s prime apocalyptic religions: Latter-day Saints, Adventism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right,” by Arthur Goldwag, is certainly one of the first books dedicated to a long and careful analysis of the long-term historical joust in the United States between the traditionalist religious and the more experimental “liberals” who identify with Enlightenment thought.
The book analyzes the psychology and development of the typically American partisan tough-talk among religious sects and political parties—rhetoric that not only said Abraham Lincoln was wrong, but asserted that he was actually a natural product of an ape and a human.
Clearly, the imprecations against one’s political foes is nothing new in the United States, and the current Internet-driven tirades and radio’s Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have nothing over the highly editorialized yellow journalism prevalent in the early days of the American republic. Nor is the mixture of religious and political malediction anything new in an America that has at times prematurely boasted of its successful separation of church and state.
The author believes that the struggle by Enlightenment thinking against the strong populist conservatism (once endemic to the Democratic Party, but which has now transferred residence to the GOP) explains, in large part, the prevalence of “conspiracy thinking” among Americans through the centuries, and even today, and dire fears of Catholics, Masons, Communists, Atheists, Socialists, Non-heterosexuals, Spiritualists, Satanists, Jews, Humanists, and Muslims, to name but a few prominent examples.
Though the book betrays no strong bias toward the right or the left, it will be appreciated more by the progressive reader who seeks to understand the historical underpinnings of today’s ungloved political speech—an environment in which Ellen White grew up and from which the Adventist denomination emerged, trailing sulfuric plumes of apocalyptic.
While the book contains an abundance (400 pages) of new and useful content regarding the long and intense history of political and religious disagreement, the manuscript itself suffers from overall disorganization that a good editor could have resolved. But Goldwag clearly has a first-rate mind, and his writing is capable and at times nearly poetic.
This is a fine book to read as longer evenings beckon Americans to meditate by the fireside about the outrageously expensive, gloves-off, below-the-belt Democracy that we still pretend is part of our “exceptionalism” and religious heritage as a “light on a hill.”