TheDC Review: Rick Sanchez’s ‘Conventional Idiocy’ is idiotic

Ruth Graham | Contributor

What kind of idiot would put the word “idiocy” in his book title, especially when the author is routinely criticized for being an idiot himself? And would the same idiot make multiple grammar and spelling errors and then open a chapter with the actual words, “I failed first grade because I was retarded! What do you think of that, huh?”

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Rick Sanchez.

You remember Rick Sanchez. In the heady days of early October, the CNN anchor went down in a flaming bag of crazy, calling Jon Stewart a “bigot” and then going off on an anti-Semitic tear. “I’m telling you,” he told us, “that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. To imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.” That last “yeah” was sarcastic, and so, presumably, was the response from Sanchez’s boss when he begged to keep his job. He was fired the next day.

One little fact got lost in all the hubbub: The outburst took place in an interview conducted to promote Sanchez’s book, “Conventional Idiocy.” Is it any good? At this writing, it was ranked #316,979 on Amazon. The slot above it has been held recently by “Sit! Ancestral Dog Portraits” and Benedict Groeschel’s classic 1985 tome “The Courage to Be Chaste.” In its first three weeks of publication, it sold just 802 copies. I would be shocked if I wasn’t the first of those to actually finish the damn thing.

Let’s start at the beginning: “Conventional Idiocy” is dedicated to you! Or, specifically, “to the hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace who believe that by connecting with one another, we can change the world for the better.” First you were named Time’s person of the year, and now this. You’re really on a roll.

Sanchez quotes your tweets and your Facebook postings liberally throughout the book, everything from “Ethics have fallen in the ditch Rick” to “bull shit!!!!!!!” to “I LOVE THE TEA PARTY.” He’s obviously quoting you verbatim because frankly you often sound barely literate. But he doesn’t ever credit you by name, which is weird since his entire thesis is about how social media makes all of our opinions heard. It’s almost as if Sanchez doesn’t understand that “you” are not the “average American,” but rather a bunch of separate people with your own distinct views.

What is this book about, you, the main character, ask? I wish I knew! It seems to be about the revolutionary nature of social media, how you are sick of politics as usual, and other topics that crossed Rick Sanchez’s mind during commercial breaks until he got distracted by the sparkly lights.

Even more exciting, and by exciting I mean excruciating, the book is written almost entirely in the second person. It’s mostly about the things you’re saying to Rick Sanchez. “You say your money’s being wasted!” Sanchez writes. It’s true, I do! “You tell me about America’s elected officials and how their proxies don’t actually communicate.” I’m not sure what I meant by that! “You’ve told me to ask questions and ‘follow the money.’” Well, I do tend to speak in clichés. “You’re not professional news gatherers.” Well, excuuuuuse me, Rick.

Here are some of my favorite passages from “Conventional Idiocy”:

Rick Sanchez on philosophy: “When the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche penned ‘Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path he’s chosen, few in pursuit of the goal,’ you’d think he was studying American politics in 2010! Doesn’t that nail it?” (Since Sanchez mangled the grammar of that Nietzsche quote, this seems like the right place for a general [sic] applied to this whole story.)

Rick Sanchez on foreign policy: “‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ How odd that that oft-quoted proverb originates among Arabs. How ironic that it wasn’t heeded when it came to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. When we attacked Saddam Hussein’s country, we were attacking the enemy of our enemy (bin Laden).” (Rick Sanchez is a deep thinker, you guys.)

Rick Sanchez on American politics: “In 2008, history repeated itself as the pro-business, antigovernment, and to hell with FDR’s New Deal philosophy that took over our politics from the Reagan years through Bush and Clinton and the ‘W’ years caught up with us.” (I honestly don’t know what this means.)

Rick Sanchez on Jon Stewart: “He likes to poke fun at me every once in a while, and sometimes it gets my attention, but he’s a damn likable and smart guy.” (Whoops! That’s not actually what you think!)

Rick Sanchez on birth control, television, listening, and concepts: “An IUD is a contraceptive device that was very popular during the 1970s. Once inserted, it can keep you from getting pregnant, but it can’t stop you from failing to listen to your guest and making a fool of yourself on television. Listening! What a concept.” (Good lord.)

If it’s not clear already, the writing itself in “Conventional Idiocy” – never mind the ideas — is atrocious. At one point Sanchez pulls off what so many have tried and failed to do: A triple-mixed metaphor. “I stick my neck on the chopping block, and that gives just about anybody with an axe to grind a shot at me.” Seriously, that’s actually in the book.

And I’ll spare you the very long, dramatic passage which culminates in Sanchez bravely intoning the phrase that has launched a thousand heroic quests: “Get me Eric Cantor.”

In conclusion, “Conventional Idiocy” is a pile of gibberish so unreadable that we must consider the possibility that Rick Sanchez wrote it himself. But I will say one thing in its favor: Sanchez strenuously insists he’s nonpartisan, and that is refreshing. After all, America, brain-dead ideologues on both the right and the left have so many spokesmen already, but for too long brain-dead centrists haven’t had their own champion. Rick Sanchez is changing that. As he tweeted semi-coherently last night, “lets catch up every day.it’s fun. i enjoy ur comments and suggestions, whether good bad or indifferent. it’s ok.it’s a national conversation.”

It sure is, Rick. It sure is.

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