Reason and Unreason in Amazon’s Book Reviews

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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“When reason and unreason come into contact, an electrical shock occurs. This is called polemics,” wrote Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel.

On Amazon and other websites that apolitically trade in political books, reason and unreason come into contact as books and as readers. It is inevitable that when books by Gingrich and Obama rub shoulders on virtual shelves and books by David Horowitz and Barbara Ehrenreich are separated by only the thinnest of digital spaces; that reason and unreason should collide in their reviews sections.

The left has never dealt well with dissent. Without a grip on power, it loses its grip on sanity. If it can’t hold on to the high ground of power, then all it has left is its rage. Seeing the wrong species of political book listed in Amazon’s book recommendations feature is often enough to induce a typing tempest or a rage blackout. Or both.

In his Washington Post column, “The Rage of Reason”, Eugene Robinson wrote that “Bush Derangement Syndrome is now a full-blown epidemic”… which has reduced its sufferers “to frustrated, sputtering rage.” But there’s nothing reasonable about rage, particularly the “frustrated sputtering rage” that can be spotted in the Amazon book reviews of the left where it has become the stripes and glossy markings of a frustrated progressive species.

“Yes, the leading advocate of war, racism, predatory capitalism, and narrow minded selfishness has done it again,” reads one rage blackout review of David Horowitz’s book, “A Point in Time: The Search for Redemption in This Life and the Next”.

“He sat down with his set of crayons and scribbled some superstitious irrational rantings sure to whip his dwindling minions of drooling fans into a frenzy of self justifying ecstacy. Lioke all advocates of irrational anti-scientific nonesense, there is no reasoning with bthem of course, which is why reviews of this supposed “book” (aren’t there laws about truth in advertising) will tend to be 5 stars by his loyal fans and one star to zero for other reasonable people. Intellectual masturbation by an impotent clown, albeit one who is not funny in the slightest, since his advocacy of reactionary neo–fascist theories have tragic consequences fior real people, like the poor, minorities, the elderly, the sick, and people everywhere in the Third World whose families are blown to bits in the unjust wars that Horowitz serves as the cheerleader for.”

The reviewer who elsewhere claimed that Bush was worse than Hitler, and that the Stars and Stripes replaced the Swastika as “the symbol of tyranny and death on six continents” (apparently that includes Antarctica) showed no sign of having actually read the book he was reviewing or of even being able to read. Misspelled, filled with incoherent rage against a man whom he had never met and whose identity he seemed only tangentially aware of, this was another tirade by the poisoned soul of the incoherent left venting its collective fury against the books that do not accord with its views.

You don’t have to spend too much time walking through the woods to step in poison ivy and you don’t have to spend too much time browsing Amazon.com to find more members of the same addled species who substitute ideology for humanity.

“Did He clarify that he is a Jewish Zionist? “Deception” is what the Zionists believe in to achieve their goal,” one J. Ezzo whispers poisonously on a copy of “Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey”.

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  • theleastthreat

    I've written reviews for Amazon books a few times but they were books I actually read (or in some cases, at least partially read). (I couldn't make it through Pelosi's "Know your Power" because it was shockingly bad. But I tried. I really tried.) Anyway, from the reviews I've read, I don't think the leftist reviewers read much of anything, even books by left wing authors. Seriously! Books by Ayers, Scoblic and Pelosi have some glowing comments which I think cannot be justified by anyone who has read them. Oh well, onward with my day.

    • http://rebelsfortruth.com fergie

      Totally agree – some of the books could have been put to better use, like keeping oneself warm while camping.

  • Ben

    Great article! In the past there where" reactionary rights" with their tradition and the cult o of the Church,order and the prejudices against "others" and fear of changes (called a progress).Now leftists have got their tradition,the cult of progress and fear of changes and desperate search of any ally. They are full of prejudices and as always are short of reason,though arrogantly call conservatives ignoramuses.

  • johnkwilson

    Of course, there are plenty of mindless reviews of liberal books by conservatives, and vice versa. Should that lead to a total condemnation of conservatism? These broad generalizations, that every leftist is an illiterate idiot (or vice versa) seem only to reflect the bias of the author, not any facts.

    • Tiberius

      The thing I find interesting is that on conservative sites, the dissent is encouraged compared to the liberal sites. There maybe anoccasional rant and rave from a "wing nut" but pretty much most critics are fair. Unlike the leftists who immediately personaly attack and make fun of their lack of intellectual prowess, etc.

  • tanstaafl

    I imagine the solution would be to read the book.

  • tagalog

    Just for the record, my first recollection of the vitriolic hate of the type we're experiencing today is from the antI-Nixon years of the 1960s. I thought Nixon was a scumbag and still do but the mockery of him back in those days (remember the "Nixon's The One" Girl Scout poster? That was a bit over the top, wasn't it, though nothing by today's standards) was pretty nasty. The anti-Vietnam War movement was pretty hard on Lyndon Johnson, too (remember the chant, "Pull out like your father should have!" or the more famous, "Hey hey LBJ how many kids didja kill today"). And then there was the off-Broadway play "Macbird." Oh yeah, and there was some gratuitous unloading on Lady Bird too.

    • http://rebelsfortruth.com fergie

      And your point is?

      OH, I get it – just because morons attacked presidential policies, it’s alright for them to attack someone who is not a president for writing about their own life experiences and how that has changed them, right?

      Yeah, let’s just group everyone who writes from a conservative point of view, regardless of whether they are political figures or not and sacrifice them on the altar of Socialism because people did it in the 1960s – that makes a lot of sense . . . NOT!

      • tagalog

        "And your point is?"

        Pretty subtle, huh?

  • NotaBene

    So you’re mining anonymous online forums for material now?

  • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

    If only there were some for uppity Jews to control the Amazon comment section beforehand. Then nobody could criticize The Lobby there.

  • sononthe_beach

    Greenfield has exactly struck the ideological center of the Left: An ideology founded and maintained by irrational thought. For leftists, reason takes a back seat to emotion– as witnessed by their obsessive attacks on Sarah Palin and her family. In the U.S., nothing I have ever witnessed in the field of hate and rage compares with the incessant vitriol that liberals heaped on the Palins. They drooled with venomous anticipation over the release of thousands of her emails, only to slither back under their rocks when her communications were shown to be innocuous.
    Progressivism, the false mantle used by the Left to describe its ideological underpinnings, represents one of history's most colossal non sequiturs.

    • Steve

      Modern Liberalism is a symptom of mental illness.

  • http://rebelsfortruth.com fergie

    This is the main reason I don’t read the “reviews” written by supposed readers of books on Amazon. I would rather read the book without the hyperbole that seems to be the norm for these misguided warped souls.

    Reading someone’s subjective views on something they may or may not have read is not something that I would condone as a valid objective for someone wanting to read a book. The “Look Inside” is a far better indicator of whether the book holds any interest for me, not some slobbering rabid Leftist zombie clone. Sure, I have made mistakes, but I usually have the book downloaded to my Kindle and the price is usually no more than a few Starbuck’s coffees, if at that. However, I would rather live with the “dogs” I downloaded than trust in someone who has proven themselves to be totally nuts.

  • Raymond in DC

    Where one might once have expected to encounter a normal distribution in response to such works, instead one more often today finds an inverted bell curve – strongly positive, strongly negative, nothing in between. One clearly sees this with any work dealing with Islam, Israel, or the Middle East. One sees it with environmental tracts, and anything dealing with climate change. And if the authors are conservative figures, it's all 1's and 5's.

  • Jeamar

    Frequent readers, I think, recognize the game. I never read the Amazon reviews of books for our book club and I cancelled my subscription to "The NY Times Book Review" years ago. There are many sources of more objective reviews on the Internet, one just need to explore them frequently. Eventually, deliberate, biased policies come out and critical readers can judge accordingly.

  • guest

    This article is a great example of a hack at work. Cherry pick some reviews (which for all we know the author posted) and use them to generalize across an entire political ideology. This is so lame, they don't even try to be convincing. That's what happens when you have followers who will believe anything. I mean, if they will believe Obama is not a citizen or that John Kerry is a closet Maoist, what won't they believe?

    • dmm

      Aren't you generalizing across an entire politcal ideology here? Like talking about "followers who will believe in anything". Only a minority of the right ever thought Obama is not a citizen from what I saw, but I understand why people want to pretend it was widespread .

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Clearly I've been posting negative reviews for years just for the sake of writing this article.

  • xlent

    "dwindling minions of drooling fans " Talk about "drooling", this writer probably had to change his shirt and maybe his didies as well after writing this labor of hate.

  • temarch

    Just scanning the first several sentences is enough to evaluate the worthiness of a review. Phrases such as "Your mother wears army boots" will quickly tell you the reviewer has nothing to say or the intellect to say it and thus spares you from wasting any more time.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Unless army boot wearing mothers are the topic of the book.

  • SamB

    Actuaally, these are not reviews in the conventional sense. Even a review in The left Nation is assigned to a professional book reviewer. Even the left has its bona fide reviewers. The "revies" that appear on amazon–and I've posted a few myself–cannot be considered in the same league as the product of a professional reviewer or editor. Such reviews appear in mags like The Atrlantic, thye old Saturday Review of Literature,–that dates me–Tha National Review, Commentary, and even Time (magazine). The screeds that appear on amazon, many of which are literate and even verge on polished professionalism, are not authentic book reviews but merely the educated (and uneducated) opinions of individuals who wish to praise or damn the book under "review." I almost wish that amazon would alter its policy and, instead oif calling them "reviews", which is deceptive, designate them aa OPINIONS

  • rulierose

    oh, no! you're missing some great commentary. the hate-filled 1-star reviews are every bit as informative as the 5-star ones. when I read a review that says something like:

    “It’s definitively a book for right wingers as they can not understand words with more than 7 letters . The author extrapolates his experiences into the wider world of wich he has no knowledge"

    –I know I'm going to enjoy the book. the more vitriolic the comment, the better the book ends up being, I've found. I mean, that's WHY all they write is hate: if you had to take on Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter or David Horowitz on facts, you would lose.

  • maturin20

    This is one of the most trivial, substance-free articles I've ever read. It's unbelievable that anyone would think that Amazon book reviews are worth a dozen words, let alone 500.

  • Ronomundo

    I have quit promoting Amazon on most of my websites and will get them off all of my websites. I need a replacement for Amazon that does not do the same things that Amazon does. By the way, Conservative political books sell better than Liberal Political Books. However, it is the non-political books that Amazon has and the many other items they sold that I need to replace.

  • Jaafar_1946

    By the way, as far as I can tell, the book reviews are subject to some sort of moderation, if only by a software robot. But you can say anything you like in the comments on reviews; they only get moderation if there are complaints.

  • http://reviewsquirrel.com/ Book Reviews

    I think that is among the most vital information for me. And i’m happy studying your article. However want to statement on some general things, The website style is wonderful, the articles is truly excellent : D. Good activity, cheers

  • http://www.alongaboutmidnight.com/study/THOMSON/J/THECASTLEOFINDOLENCE/ Axe

    I did. I was curious. This guy summed them up, in spirit:

    "This book is only good if you buy in to right-wing BS. For the rest of us, it is insufferable, long, and boring."

    It was also interesting that so many people with problems posting short comments were comfortable as literary critics. For fun, I also ran through Beck and Coulter. One from Beck:
    Ceaper than toilet paper and starter logs, April 10, 2011
    I picked it up from walmart on clearance. Finished in a night and it shows his education. Hope it dosent ruin my septic tank!

    Coulter:
    The reason we aren't far away from wack job conservative suicide bombers, September 10, 2011
    Coulter's Latest Bucket O' Crud, August 25, 2011
    The usual load of hate filled liberal baiting crud from Annie Oakley.

    I agree with the commentator above that conservatives can write junk reviews too, but I don't think we are nearly as good at it.