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David Niewart has written on extremism before, but the internet-fueled conspiracy theories poisoning our country require him to face an evolving sickness and the need for a cure. Red Pill, Blue Pill is a history, a diagnosis, and a hope for treatment for an illness – American’s emeshment in conspiracy theories.
The book is a passionate if ragged thing – it has the feel of something sent to market a few months early, and that’s understandable. There are sections that are too long, others too short, and formatting choices that I question (Namely, they’re too simple). However, this doesn’t really take away from the book.
This is a raw subject, and the lack of polish means there are rough edges that snare your thoughts and emotions. There may be parts here and there that are tough going, but also the blood and pain of the conspiracy theory world hasn’t been watered down. I’ll take a book that has hooks that catch my thoughts than something smooth and polished.
Neiwart walks us through some introductions and history, then individual cases of extremists. The cases are illustrative, and he describes them piecemeal, showing how multiple extremist attacks were similar. This section is informative but honestly too long. A few examples would have been enough, and anyone familiar with this material may find it overlong – or hard going due to the brutality of it.
Early on it’s like a horror film, as we see many stories head to one bloody conclusion. There’s painful inevitability.
Fortunately, past this overlong point, Neiwart goes into the history of conspiratorial thinking in the United States, hitting multiple high points. This section is powerful and well-researched, and it becomes apparent how much of current conspiracism is built around a few pillars. The same people and same theories pop up over and over, and you get a sense of how our Capitol being stormed was nearl inevitable.
From Alex Jones to Fox news and other grifters and opportunists, it becomes apparent how we’ve been grinding towards this – and didn’t stop it. We should have seen it.
Finally, Neiwart looks at modern extremism, the final result of these events. Its a bizarre, violent, yet disconnected culture of self-loathing, raging hate, and posturing personalities. Newiart takes us into the world of racism and weird economic theories with no grounding in reality – and people ready to kill for them.
The path he’s charted comes to an end, and the end is in an insanity that now seems obvious. There’s a strange sadness the book.
Fortunately, Neiwart ends by discussing remedies for it by experts. It is a hopeful ending – a chapter really – but it is a reminder our current problem requies all of us to help. Its all hands on deck to fight to turn our culture back from the brink of further meltdown.
You see the possibility – but the weight of what he’s shown will sit on your shoulders.
Do I reccomend this book? Yes it’s important reading for anyone that studies conspiratorial thinking, and who hopes to help friends and family out of extremism. It’s not the end-all-be-all on the subject, but it is good to get a sense of the history and what we can do. If you’re truly concerned with helping people out of extremism, this is a book thats a start, not the end.
We’re not anywhere near the end of dealing ith our problem – internet-fueled extremism of people far gone down violent rabbit holes. We have to get to work.