I got a reply saying yes, it’s all right, but do it thoughtfully because I was a relatively new diarist and check out previous entries of a similar nature. I especially didn't want to be crass in the week-long wake of Boston Marathon bombings (which took place just south of where I live). I will save the brief and modest Kickstarter pitch for the end and share some of the backstory of the novel.
How do you write a modern political satire in a satire-defying era? How can you possibly satirize the NRA extreme circus revue or sneering Tea Party clowns such as Ted Cruz, a lawmaker from Hollywood central casting to play the Ivy League educated, 21st Century version of Joe McCarthy? How do satirize adult politicians who embrace the Ayn Rand school of fantasy economics, who hock austerity and gutting government without any purpose except that they can do it? How do you satirize the insanity of one major political party which has abandoned the idea of governing at the federal level but has become ruthless in the statehouses they control? How do you satirize the growing rhetorical incoherence embraced by the Mad Hatter (Tea Party) Republicans?
I wasn't interested in the inside baseball cynicism found even in delightful works such Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. Imagine the tone and context in that book had it been written today and not in 1994? I suspect it would be a harder sell -- in part, because the incompetence and indifference to governing by a major party is its own form of dark satire.
What was my solution? I headed for the future and found the proper perspective. Set in 2018, and presented in a reportage style, I gave the Mad Hatter/Ayn Rand fetish crowd their due. I had them take ruthless political control in a number of states that banded together in a new alliance called Real America. There is a new and dominant political party, the Real America Party, with a new flag (see book cover above), and a new currency (Real American Currency, or RAC).
The novel also captures those pivotal times in 2014 and 2015 when the Real American Party was born and a new economic and civil religion called the Galtian Imperatives, which nobody really understands (especially supporters), emerged. The exalted Guardians of Galt promise but never quite deliver “prosperity for all” because extreme austerity and 25 percent unemployment rates aren't good for spreading prosperity. And Real American Party politicians outdo each other with feats of rhetorical incoherence and existential overreach – one promises to “not only eliminate government but eliminate the idea of government” and another has a winning platform by promising to deliver a “government worth hating.”
More highlights: The public sector is eliminated through privatization a la Russia in the 1990s; elected officials must practice better 'market efficiency' and secure corporate sponsors so taxpayers won't have to foot the bill any longer; scores of job-creating, local militias fill the power void; and of course, the moocher poor are taxed more so the Guardians of Galt can be taxed not at all (thereby to better enhance their genius and job-creating potential, according the Galtian Imperatives). The Real American Party is quite adept at enforcing creative voter suppression laws that marginalize the "moocher and taker" majority.
As the book is a fable and satirical, I didn't hold back on the imaginative and rhetorical excess and had fun creating a dystopia of such unrestrained liberty that Cruz, Red State devotees, or Stephen Colbert's alter ego would immediately apply for citizenship. Early readers of the book told me they laughed out loud at its fantastical humor but also said it was a bit creepy at times because it looked, well, a little too familiar – as though the political insanity of today might become an even more grotesque political reality of tomorrow.
Early on an idea came into focus -- an investment and entertainment scheme using (what's left of) government resources for private profit to create a public execution televinet (my invented term) network (though, it's worth advising, The Execution Channel is more of a metaphor than the heart of the novel). Reviving, expanding and profiting from the death penalty could become a welcome revenue enhancer for cash-strapped states. One character, the vice president of marketing for an up and coming California militia, embraced the plan for a diverse slate of graphic public executions in football-like stadiums thusly:
“You could make executions fun and family-friendly, an educational experience and part of our Real American civic duty like visiting the RealAmerica Land theme park. I adore the idea of video highlights of arrests and confessions and interrogations put on the big screens in the stadium. Remember I told you a while ago about how we started to put our edited interrogations of anti-Galt subversives on our paid subscription web site? We called it our Trial by Ordeal option and well, it took a while to get going because it was the first of its kind. But just in the past few weeks, it has exploded in popularity because people can’t seem to get enough of the water dunking and electric shock-induced confessions. We even include a 24/7 vidcam at one of our reeducation camps so patriots can keep track of their favorite subversives. We will soon rollout an online pay-for-feedback option for requests on what kind of interrogation excesses they would like tried on their favorite subversive. The public is ready, far more ready than I thought for a greater range of alternative entertainment choices...(we) have seen the future and its money-making capability. It’s sheer genius and proof of the power of the Galtian Imperatives.”That was the how. The reason why I wrote The Execution Channel: A Political Fable
is likely quite familiar to many of you. I covered my first presidential campaign in 1979 and have witnessed the devolution of American politics. But the Mad Hatter/Tea Party ascendance (itself a very complicated phenomenon born from more than three decades of anti-government zeal combined with corporate fear-mongering and the election of an African-American President) was something new and special.
In 2009, I reported on the Mad Hatter wave in New Hampshire and interviewed an elderly lady at an anti-Obama rally who told me about the tyranny of Obamacare, FEMA concentration camps, and Obama brown shirts coming to get her and other opponents. This was a new level of paranoia and willed ignorance I had yet to encounter.
Closer to home, the 2010 mid-term election swept an extreme Mad Hatter faction into complete legislative power at the New Hampshire statehouse. They wasted no time in playing right from the corporate-financed ALEC playbook and immediately voted to allow loaded pistols in the Statehouse and on the floor of the House chamber, pushed for right-to-work laws that nobody was asking for, cut higher education funding by 50 percent and, of course, worked to defund Planned Parenthood.
The final pieces fell into place in 2011 with the debt ceiling crisis (potentially crash the world economy to make what point?) and the infamous Republican presidential debate when some of the audience loudly cheered the idea of letting people die who didn’t have or couldn’t afford health insurance. Something clicked and over the next 16 months I wrote.
Years ago in the my early 20s, I read almost all of the Ayn Rand fictional and non-fictional collection and after a brief flash of intoxicating narcissism and omnipotence, I moved on quickly (unlike Paul Ryan). I wasn’t surprised by the eruption of Randian messianic individualism in 2009 as an anti-Obama signpost but I was amused by the depth of its incoherence. One of my main protagonists, Lawrence C. “Demon Seed” Bowie (a founder of the Real American Party and later governor of the Real American Republic of Texas), is a new breed of 'corporate populist' and represents the Mad Hatter split -- shut it down in D.C. and grab power in the states, a trend out of sight to the truly clueless Beltway chat-chat crowd (Rachel Maddow is one who understands this dichotomy quite well) The Mad Hatters aren't a party but a nihilistic force to be reckoned with. Bowie says plenty about the satirical future in the following passage:
Bowie gave a stirring speech on the House floor in support of the 2015 Anti-Equalization of Opportunity law proposed by the Real American Party minority in Congress. The law had no chance of passing but Bowie said it was important to take a stand against fictional legislation. “We saw in the pages of our great modern Bible Atlas Shrugged how the dead enders and moochers used a hideous law to destroy the country by draining it of ambition and imposing a collective mind set. We can't let it happen again. Mama Bowie told me we must never be all in this together because it stifles individual genius and reduces opportunities for profitable exploitation,” he said. Bowie also voiced enthusiastic support for a Constitutional Amendment stating that Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for all Real Americans.At the web site, you can see the explainer blurb on the home page that includes the cast of characters, and read Chapter One ("Real America Fights Back") if you wish. It is the first step to find out just how Real is Real America.
I also invite you to check out my Kickstarter crowdfunding proposal. I am self-publishing the book and am raising money for a modest but smartly-budgeted social media, guerrilla marketing, and PR campaign for the first month or so after the book is released sometime in mid-June. I am turning to progressive kindred spirits I have yet to meet, friends, acquaintances and strangers for donations of any size (every little bit adds up) to provide a little help to spread the good word about the book.