Books are technology. Since the invention of the movable-type printing press, when Johannes Gutenberg gave the world a vastly more efficient, mechanical means of producing books, to produce a book is potentially to reach a vast audience. When you can communicate a message to multiple human beings, you can, at least possibly, affect society – for good or for ill.
As we discussed previously in Technocracy, the increasing popularity and relatively low cost of print-on-demand (POD) publishing firms has made it possible for virtually any citizen to produce a book. Technology cannot, of course, work true miracles, and most self-published books will never reach beyond a small circle of friends and family. A book that reaches your local brick-and-mortar store, however, can catch the attention of passersby. We’ve become all too accustomed to ignoring flashing, blinking, moving advertisements on our computer screens, deluged with data, choices and purchasing options as we are when browsing the Web on the network of networks that is the Internet. A colorful book cover with an intriguing slogan, however, can still hook us. In this way, Gutenberg’s technological legacy persists. Books carry messages, and those messages can have a profound effect on modern society.
Never was this more apparent than in the days following the Oklahoma City bombing. In countless news pieces, we were told that bomber Timothy McVeigh – since rushed to his execution with his cooperation – was inspired to commit the act by the book “The Turner Diaries.” This is a novel written by a white supremacist who fantasizes about a future in which his white-power protagonists will finally hang their other-racial enemies, while striking explosive blows against an oppressive government secretly run by a Jewish conspiracy. The author has written (crudely, in a style that borders on illiterate) another book called “Hunter,” about a fellow whose hobbies include shooting interracial couples for fun.
I did this research in the months following the Oklahoma City bombing. In the intervening years I forgot most of it, gratefully. When you immerse yourself in racist hate literature, it creates a sensation akin to dipping your head in a bucket of garbage. It is cloying, smothering, fetid and unpleasant; you can’t wait to remove yourself from it. All of this came flooding back to me when I happened across a copy of “America Libre” by Raul Ramos y Sanchez.
On his website, the author claims he wrote the book “as a wake-up call to the dangers of extremism – on both sides of this explosive issue. Illegal immigration is a hotly debated topic. Yet it is only the tip of the iceberg.” The first portion of this statement is a blatant lie. “America Libre” is nothing less than a Chicano nationalist “Turner Diaries,” a racist, hate-filled screed that gins up anti-Anglo resentment by painting a fantasy landscape in which all Hispanics are rounded up and put in camps. Ramos’ heroes revolt, hoping to create a U.N.-recognized “Hispanic Republic of North America.”
The book is almost competently written, though the author makes many amateurish mistakes as he rushes through his exposition with too much omniscient narration. One rule of good writing is to show the reader rather than tell the reader. Ramos ignores this rule from the outset, as he has a lot of work to do. Specifically, his book is concerned primarily with depicting, transparently, all non-Hispanics as racist, ignorant, incompetent fools driven only by hatred and given only to brutality. There are no complex characters; there are only Hispanics to varying degrees of purity (ranging from a traitorous gang member to Mano, the novel’s protagonist) and Anglos exhibiting varying degrees of racism. To the extent that military veteran and bodybuilder Mano at first loves America, then becomes only too eager to commit cold-blooded murder in seeking revenge for the injustices perpetrated against Hispanics, his character could be considered dynamic. He is, however, only a convenient water boy carrying the author’s racist hate.
The Anglos against whom Mano pits himself with only token reluctance are, almost to a man, racist monsters who spit words like “Beaner,” “Greaser” and “Pancho” with every breath. When they’re not attempting to rape Hispanic women or killing Mano’s children with their incompetence (one of the protagonist’s children is run down by a military vehicle by accident, while another dies of lack of medical care in one of the resettlement camps into which Hispanics are herded), they’re nervously firing into crowds of understandably angry protesters because they’re nothing but ill-trained glory hounds suffering delusions of action-hero greatness.
Two things disturb me about “America Libre.” The first is that this book won an International Latino Book Award when it is clearly only a mediocre novel in terms of its writing. (It was also one of USA Today’s picks for “Summer Reads” and was similarly lauded in Latina magazine.) The second is that Ramos’ depiction of evil, Hispanic-hating Anglos, only too eager to deny Social Security benefits to illegal aliens (when they’re not cruelly deporting them outright), is obviously what he truly thinks of non-Hispanics. “America Libre” exists for one reason only: to foment hatred and revolutionary sentiment among a Hispanic population that has already become volatile in the southwest United States.
This is most evident in that Ramos absolves from blame another of his protagonists, a wealthy instigator who pays gang members to stir up trouble to help along the inevitable revolution. (These gang members shoot down police officers.) By the novel’s end, protagonist Mano no longer considers himself an American. He is committed to the revolution and vows to go on fighting.
This is a thoroughly evil book. I do not understand how the Hachette Book Group justifies mass-producing this racist tripe. This is not literature; this is a La Raza fantasy of the “reconquista” – a Chicano nationalist movement that seeks to retake portions of the United States in the name of Hispanic racial and social justice. It is hate and an invitation to cold-blooded murder in the name of hate.
It is also technology – and it is wrong.