In the month since the publication of my new political satire The Execution Channel: A Political Fable, some of my more devoted New England readers and friends have asked me: where did you come up with these outrageous and frightening characters?
This wicked tale imagines a future alternative political universe with roots in the inane and dysfunctional headlines. I wondered what would happen if by 2018 Ayn Rand devotees and Tea Party mad hatters had taken over a large swath of the country and renamed it Real America. They begin the process of eliminating government and implementing a free market utopia that John Galt and Stephen Colbert would embrace. The true believers worship the new economic religion of the Galtian Imperatives that few understand (austerity and eliminating all taxes on the wealthy, aka the Guardian of Galt, aka job-creating geniuses) but they believe the alchemy will create “prosperity for all.” The new economy includes private militias who do their patriotic duty and step up to fill the public sector void – for a steep price, of course. Much hilarity, of the laugh out loud and chilling anxiety variety, ensues.
I’ve been asked: Who was your inspiration for the star of the book, the rhetorically incoherent Gov. Lawrence C. “Demon Seed” Bowie of the Real American Republic of Texas who is famous for spreading conspiracy theories, taking credit for his state leading Real America in environmentally related deaths, and using his public office to enrich himself at every opportunity as part of his widely-hailed War on the Poor tax plan? To be honest, Bowie is a composite of many Mad Hatters including some in my home state of New Hampshire (See: O’Brien, William, former New Hampshire House speaker and Congressional candidate wannabe who recently pulled what I call a ‘Bowie’ when he equated Obamacare with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 at a rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity of the Koch Brothers).
People also have asked about Texas militia Col. Rufus T. Fairbush who wants to replace Bowie by bullet or ballot because the governor is too soft on the “moochers” and is weak on the all-important issue of eliminating the idea of government. Talk about your primary from the right! Is he Sheriff Joe "Birther King" Arpaio from Arizona? Not really. My militia hard liner is another composite from the wide range of Mad Hatter sources.
I was vague when asked about the character of Jason Bravtart, the creative genius behind The Execution Channel (imagine a Ponzi scheme driving the creation of a Food Channel-like network of for-profit publicly televised executions in football stadium settings that leads to massive private sector profits and public sector bankruptcy – not unlike Paul Ryan’s budget). In my trip down the political rabbit hole, Bravtart is a Mad Hatter hero and conservative reality TV producer with megahit shows under his belt such as Foreclosure Justice (in which the moocher losers get what they deserve) and The Real Homeless of Malibu Beach (in which the homeless are exposed as frauds). His success as a producer and propaganda leader of the new Real American Party has led to riches and fame – and a seven-foot statue of Ayn Rand in his Hollywood home that he bows to daily.
My trade secret was challenged last week when a reader of the book saw that conservative media provocateur James E. O’Keefe III had made a huckster pit stop in New Hampshire. Said reader made a connection: Is Jason Bravart based on O’Keefe? Time to confess: Yes, sort of.
In the fact-based world of today, O’Keefe was recently in my state to speak to the Mad Hatter faithful and to hawk his new book (“Breakthrough”) about his holy crusade to save democracy by exposing fraud. O’Keefe last made headlines in New Hampshire during presidential primary day in January 2012 when he and a group of pranksters tried to prove voter fraud was possible by registering to vote in the names of people they knew were dead. It was a tasteless and pathetic ploy but typical of the Mad Hatter creed that massive voter fraud must exist because they believe it exists, despite all fact-based evidence to the contrary. According to one press report, O’Keefe played the all-purpose victimization card (he being the subject of government bullying) and, seemingly with a straight face, added that “Our goal is to make society more ethical and transparent. But you have to break through a media firewall to do it.” (It was not without irony that O’Brien introduced O’Keefe at the New Hampshire House Republican Victory PAC of some 40 souls who paid $50 a plate for the honor. It’s hard to imagine two more perfectly match peas in the Mad Hatter pod than O’Keefe and O’Brien.)
In my satirical fiction of tomorrow, the character of Jason Bravtart was certainly informed by O’Keefe. After all, who couldn’t be inspired by a brave soldier in the fight against the insidious poor among us? It took a feat of courage for O’Keefe to take down ACORN whose main crime (in the Mad Hatter version of reality) was to advocate for the poor, especially the urban poor. O’Keefe has become an honored member of the Mad Hatter media and entertainment complex with his infamous career as an agent provocateur and class clown. Of course, he now has a ready-made audience to buy his books and his juvenile-antic, huckster approach to journalism and politics – and he can even become respectable by starting a nonprofit organization with the laugh-out-loud ironical name of Project Veritas.
Yes, O’Keefe was frankly an obvious and easy target to imagine as a conservative reality TV producer who gained success and riches playing to the know-nothing political base of Real America. Foreclosure Justice portrayed the heroic efforts of bankers and foreclosure specialists who do the hard work of evicting moochers following the second great housing industry collapse in 2014-2015. And Bravtart thought he hit a home run with his 2016 follow up The Real Homeless of Malibu Beach in which the homeless sold their votes and lived in cardboard luxury. Alas, it was discovered that the homeless in the show were actors and there were no homeless in Malibu Beach. It was all staged and scripted. In my book, Bravtart played the Mad Hatter victimization card and angrily replied to his critics:
“(The show) captured an essential truth of those who undermine the vitality of our Randian economic system and who violate our sacred Galtian Imperatives. Does it really matter if the characters are paid actors if the moochers and looters they portray are real? We act on our convictions and say that reality is what we say it is and that we portray an essential truth that is more relevant than imposed facts and liberal notions of reality. We challenge our critics to dispute not only the premise of our weekly expose into the heart of this parasitic subculture but the corrupt political ideology that sustains it. What are their priorities?”Bravtart took a fall but rebounds when we realized his potential as a Randian genius hero and imagined The Execution Channel, the investment and entertainment scheme that would alter the course of Real American history and cement Bravtart’s role as a Real American icon – though not in the way he planned.
In my satirical universe, Real American Party historians revise the record and claim that the KKK was the country’s first and most significant Civil Rights organization and that slaveholders were actually visionary job creators who provided room, board and vocational opportunities for their grateful slaves. In the real world, O’Brien equates Obamacare with the Fugitive Slave Act.
When I checked out the Project Veritas web site a few days ago, one of the headlines was O’Keefe latest expose on how the poor were selling their free ‘Obamaphones’ to buy heroin. In my book, Bravtart exposes homelessness as a fraud, “a myth invented by the ‘looter liberal mob’ to waste taxpayer money…assistance for the so-called poor represented a government subsidized bribe for votes of the moocher class.”
I thought I had staked out safe, absurd ground in The Execution Channel: A Political Fable – after all, this is satirical fiction – but the Mad Hatters and their ilk keep catching up with me.