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Book Review: Confessions Of A Former Dittohead By Jim Derych

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I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to write this review. I picked up Confessions of a Former Dittohead because it looked interesting. I didn’t know who Jim Derych was or that he wrote on the Daily Kos. I didn’t even know what the Daily Kos was until I started researching the author. After all, I don’t hang around the political blogosphere all day. Hell, I don’t hang around any blogosphere. I’m one of those anti-social bloggers; I do my own thing, quietly and unobtrusively, in my own little corner of cyberspace, and my recent venture into BlogCritics land is as social as I’ve ever dared to get in my blogging.

But just because I don’t hang around the political blogosphere doesn’t mean I don’t have political concerns. I sign petitions, I write my representatives frequently — perhaps more frequently than they would like — and I even engage in peaceful demonstrations and attend rallies for the many causes that I care deeply about. So maybe I am the right person to review this book, after all. The people who hang out at Daily Kos already know Derych’s story. The people most likely to pick it up from the bookstore shelf are people just like me – people who think it sounds interesting.

So is it interesting? Sure is. Not only that, it is enlightening and funny too.

In Confessions of a Former Dittohead, Jim Derych tells us the story of his slow and sometimes painful metamorphosis from Dittohead to Democrat. So what is a dittohead? According to the book’s cover, it is:

A self-identifying term used by fans of Rush Limbaugh. Characteristics include: a belief in the infallibility of Rush, the Republican Party and Fox News; a hatred of all things liberal; and the uncanny ability to deny any information or ‘facts’ that contradict their worldview.

Sounds like my brother-in-law.

Part I of Confessions details Derych’s journey from right to left, and how his conservative political leanings died “a death of a thousand cuts.” He was anti-choice until he heard his friend Amy’s story. He was a homophobe until he found out his college buddy was gay. He began to wonder where all this hatred had come from. His faith in his party, and Rush, was slowly eroded over the years by the war in Iraq, by the strange and unfathomable system of mathematics that informs conservative economic policies, and by the incessant war on “things the Republicans think are immoral.”

[ADBLOCKHERE]Part II is a revealing schematic of the dittohead mind, the underlying fear and ignorance that informs it, how to talk to a dittohead, and how to perhaps crack open the dittohead skull, just a fraction, to let in a smidgeon of light. Over the years I’ve learned how not to talk to dittoheads. I now realize that saying things like, “Wow, that Fidel Castro is really sexy,” and “Gotta run, I’m late for my quarterly abortion,” are usually not the way to go. I think next time I’ll try some of Derych’s tactics instead.

Confessions of a Former Dittohead is a short, easy-to-read, and well-written book. Derych’s style is friendly, almost conversational, and makes for enjoyable reading, even when he’s hitting some hard subjects. Derych has a sharp sense of humor and a couple of times I laughed out loud. There is also a straightforward sincerity to the book; at all times Derych seems to remain aware that this is his story he’s telling. He doesn’t get preachy or tyrannical – he just tells it like he sees it, like he experienced it.

There were times I wish he’d gone into a little more depth on certain subjects, particularly Katrina, which is an issue that is close to my heart. But Confessions isn’t meant to be an in-depth analysis of the issues. It is Jim’s story, and he tends to go into greater depth on matters with which he’s more personally familiar; for instance he does a great job of breaking down economic issues and tax-reform (which sounds kinda boring, but isn’t).

I don’t agree with every single thing Derych says, but then I don’t have to. Having a liberal brain, I am free to free-think as much as I want to, and I don’t have to toe any party line, or mimic the words and attitudes of more famous and influential liberals. One point of minor contention is Jim’s views on social Darwinism. I don’t believe that social Darwinism is the strict provenance of the Republican party. Democrats may not be as rabid in their embrace of it, but in a country where the “American Dream” is defined by a grueling work ethic and an underlying sense that poverty somehow equals immorality, social Darwinism is, sadly, prevalent on both sides of the party divide.

But again, this isn’t my book and this isn’t my story. This is Derych’s story and, overall, it is an engaging and entertaining one. It also gives me hope for my brother-in-law.

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About Che

  • http://192.168.0.1 giddyyup

    the funniest thing about the term “dittohead” is its implicit reference to the real ‘heads: deadheads. we all know them. “deadhead” was meant to be a derogatory term (people high on lsd trippin’ on jerry jams) but the ‘heads adopted it, not minding being strung out on LSD and diggin’ the jams (whoohoo). the dittoheads are high on rush and ignoring reality, apparently.

  • Pb

    One nitpick: it’s ‘toe’ the line, not ‘tow’. Also, I’m one of those people who read Jim’s posts over on Daily Kos, and I’m rather looking forward to the book–I’m glad to hear that you liked it! :)

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    giddyup: I used to date a guy who was both deadhead and dittohead. Never quite understood how he managed to reconcile his love of the grateful dead with his right-wing proclivities. He even used to pray for forgiveness after sex. The relationship didn’t last long, needless to say.

    Pb: Nitpick away! I don’t mind, but you gotta talk to the editors about that. Are you sure its toe? I have a foot phobia so toes rarely enter into anything I write.

    And I’m sure I’ll be flitting past the daily kos once in a while to se whats up over there.

    Thank you both for dropping by and commenting.

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!

  • richbitch

    I’ve never said this to anyone except my boyfriend, because I know they’ll think I’m cold-hearted (which is true, but it works to my advantage not expose how truly ruthless I am), but whenever I hear about someone being poor, besides a child, retarded person, student, or person just starting out in the advancement of their career, my first thought is, “Why?” This is America, if you work hard and don’t make stupid choices, there’s no reason for it. Immigrants: I understand, they come from second-rate countries, they get some slack. Illegal immigrants: not my problem if your country sucks, just keep your poverty away from me, unless you want to be my maid/gardener/ future nanny, then you can take what I give you if you want it so bad.

    I have contempt for politics, I don’t trust in either of the parties, unless it’s the party of ME; I vote whatever way is most advantageous to me. I just do as I please as much as I can, advancing myself as much as possible without crossing the line to get into trouble. This year I was able to avoid paying beaucoup taxes with questionably purely legal procedures, that would take more time and man-power than I know will be expended to unravel, but allowing me to keep you-don’t-want-to-know how much of my own money.

    The point is, I don’t care about random people (though I do donate to charity, but that’s for my own benefit as well), and feel they need to take care of themselves, as I do. Yes, I’m a bit of a misanthrope. Feel free to say whatever your hearts’ desire about me or to me, as can be expected, I don’t care what you think.

    It’s just a rush to be able to actually express my true feelings with no chance of repurcussions! Because, necessarily, if anyone of you ever met me, you’d never think it to be true. And, as fun as manipulation is, sometimes I wish I could just be upfront about how much I don’t care about your crap, instead of always displaying my slick exterior while subversively getting what I want. Oh well, that’s how the game is won, and besides, I’m way too good at it to stop. Whew, was that feeing. Yeah!

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting, richbitch. Since you openly admit that you are ruthless, misanthropic, and unfeeling, I see no reason to engage in any sort of dialogue with you, though I do find it very sad that you are so shallow as to view the gift of life as a “game”. I doubt there is very much substance beneath that “slick exterior” of yours. My heart, which by the way is full of compassion and kindness, goes out to you. I may be poor. I have even come very close to starving in the past. I lost everything I own in Katrina and am striving to rebuild my life, but I am, nonetheless, richer than you, because I have disovered that the things that are truly valuable to me are the things I can’t pack in a suitcase, the things I cannot lose – my creativity, my intellect, my love of discovery and sense of wonder, and my deep abiding friendships.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    richbitch: actually, all you have done is reveal the defective nature of your psyche.

    Please report to the nearest qualified health authority or hospital. Your 60,000 mile service is long overdue…

  • MCH

    “the dittoheads are high on rush and ignoring reality, apparently.”

    Back in the ’70s, a buddy of mine would sniff a liquid called “RUSH” to get high…came in little brown bottles…to this day, i still don’t know what it was made of…anyone else remember that stuff?

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    MCH: Oh yeah, I remember that stuff. Amyl-nitrate(or butyl-nitrate or isobutyl-nitrate) or similar.

    Christopher: I was thinking along those lines too.

  • zingzing

    at least richbitch is honest. that’s more than you can say for most people. you, che, seem too good to be true. frankly, you could be rather boring. i don’t know you, but…

    sure, richbitch is course and has questionable values. but… crazy? probably not. empty? maybe. depends…

    plus, how much did her comment have to do with anything that was written in the post? next to nothing… makes you think she’s just having at you because you display such… goodness…

  • zingzing

    coarse. damn.

  • Dave Nalle

    Someone going by ‘Che’ is displaying a lot more than just ‘goodness’ and it’s not all good.

    As for Richbitch, I also found her to be refreshingly honest. And based on what she said, chances are she WOULD contribute to Katrina relief, because that fits within the parameters of those who deserve charity by her standards.

    Dave

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    zing: thanks for the comments. I think RB was responding to the bit in the review about social darwinism, etc.

    I’m not sure why caring about people makes me “to good to be true”. I do a lot of crappy shit, I just happen to give a damn about people. Not to mention, I’ve learned some hard but valuable lessons in recent times, and I try to apply them to my daily living. I don’t always succeed with that, but I do try.

    And boring, well I’m not sure why being compassionate and helpful has to be equated with being boring, but thats your opinion and you are entitled to it. If you find compassionate people boring I’m not sure I’d want to meet the people you find exciting.

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    David:

    Che is my real name.

  • gonzo marx

    Che…don’t let ‘em get ta ya about the name thing…

    you should read how much shit i’ve taken over this moniker…

    heh

    fuck ‘em

    thanks for the read

    Excelsior!

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Thanks gonzo!

    I posted a pic of myself so people would know I don’t wear a beret, tote a gun or have a beard.

    Well, okay, maybe a bit of a mustache though.

  • zingzing

    che: “caring about people,” “I’ve learned some hard but valuable lessons in recent times, and I try to apply them to my daily living. I don’t always succeed with that, but I do try,” and “I’m not sure why being compassionate and helpful has to be equated with being boring, but thats your opinion and you are entitled to it.”

    i’m just saying that you can say these things… but if the only way you ever show it is to give to charity now and again, you are no better than richbitch, and the fact that she is honest (obviously she is, unless she’s just trying to wind someone up,) puts her over the top. i’m not saying that you don’t do your part and i’m not saying that you aren’t good, but i also don’t believe everything someone says, especially over the internet. i just felt like defending her a bit. how you gonna make someone who despises humanity realize that it ain’t all that bad by telling her she’s a nutcase? an empty, souless shell? that’s not caring, or compassionate?

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    I’m not sure whose comments you are reading but I never called anyone a “nutcase”.

    It also seems strange to me that you seem willing to doubt the veracity of my comments without “proof” of my caring nature, but you are very willing to accept RB’s comments as truthful, though you have no real proof that she is anywhere near as misanthropic as she sounds. It would seem to me that if you want me to run right out and build a homeless shelter to prove myself, you should at least demand that RB kick a hobo for you.

    It also seems to me that it is easier for you to see people as unfeeling and cruel than it is to accept anyone’s decency. I’m very sorry that you must go through life being so suspicious and untrusting.

  • zingzing

    see? i wasn’t doing anything but trying to defend her against such ideas that she was “shallow” and had a “defect.” i wasn’t really trying to attack you. not at all. like i said, maybe she wasn’t being honest. maybe you are. i don’t know you… but i just saw the two of you ganging up on her, discounting everything about her without even really responding to her, all that… i just tried to defend her a bit. i’m not asking for anyone to judge my outlook or send me their pity. thanks, though.

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Well you did praise RB’s honesty while calling mine into question, even though I’ve never claimed to be anything other than an average person with many faults who tries to behave according to the standards and values I’ve set for myself over the years. (small print: values and standards subject to change without notice).

    And if it is true that RB, as she stated, doesn’t care what we think, then I doubt she needs defending.

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Would anyone like to discuss the book or the book review?

  • zingzing

    shrug. i didn’t really mean to offend anyone…

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Well Che, you’ve stirred my interest in this book, so that should be a compliment. I’ve always been curious about the “dittohead” mind and how one can subscribe to such outlandish beliefs and so much hatred and make peace with it, so I’m interested in the insights this may contain…

  • MCH

    “Someone going by ‘Che’ is displaying a lot more than just ‘goodness’ and it’s not all good.”
    – Dave Nalle

    Great…another baseless, unprovoked personal attack. There was a time when BC editors set a better example than Nalle’s hateful commentary.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Well, I guess I won’t be inviting my friend Billy Polpot to join Blogcritics.

    lolz!!! Mussolini Castro Hirohito!!!

  • Dave Nalle

    Ok, MCH. Let’s hear your defense of Che Guevara and the great benefits which International Socialism has brought to the people of South and Central America.

    Maybe if you don’t understand my comments you shouldn’t respond to them.

    Dave

  • MCH

    “Well, I guess I won’t be inviting my friend Billy Polpot to join Blogcritics.
    lolz!!! Mussolini Castro Hirohito!!!”
    – Matthew Sussman

    Huh? So you’re supporting Nalle’s attack that Che is “not all that good,” Sussman? The lady said her real name is Che and she posted a photo of herself.

    Yes, I know who Che Guevera was, Nalle, and I still feel your hateful attack on a new BC member was below the standards of a so-called “editor.”

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Matthew: I’m going to be laughing about Billy Polpot all day.

    David: Che Guevara is dead. I promise. I saw the picture of his corpse and it looked really convincing to me so he won’t be bothering you anymore. I’m not him. I’m not the reincarnation of him. We just happen to share the same name. I suppose if my name were spelled Shay or Shea or some other girlie crap you wouldn’t be having this problem. But it isn’t. Che is my name, I’m happy with it and if you don’t like it, then I’ll be happy to politely tell you where you can take it.

    Thanks MCH for the defense.

    I’m not sure what the problem is. Should I put on my profile that its my real name? No one else has to. Should I use a nickname? I work hard on what I write and I want it attributed to me, not some nebulous pseudo-identity. I’m not going to change my name because one jack-ass is offended by my real one.

    Now if you’ll all excuse me, I must run. I have a revolution to organize.

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    PS. For those sans sense of humour – I was joking about the revolution thing.

  • gonzo marx

    Che sez…
    *PS. For those sans sense of humour – I was joking about the revolution thing.*

    damn!!! here i was gonna offer ta help…

    after all, folks say i’m pretty revolting…

    but i digress

    Excelsior!

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Oh Gonzo, there’s too much sweating and lack of comfortable amenities involved in a revolution.

    I’d rather just form a cult.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    MCH: “Huh?”

    We were talking about names that mirror those of controversial historical figures and/or ruthless dictators. I was taking a stab at what those intials of yours meant.

    “Oh, Samsonite! I was way off!”

  • MCH

    Well, OK, although I do think it’s rather sophomoric humor, Wussman…

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    You’re giving me way too much credit. And I think an equal jab back would be to fiddle with my “T” initial.

    Sincerely,

    Matthew Torquemada Sussman

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    I was going to say Tito!

    My middle initial is D.

    anyone?

  • MCH

    One thing that’s always amazed me about Ditto Heads is hypocrisy of the phoney demi-God they worship:

    **Limbaugh preaches family values, and yet he’s been married and divorced three times;

    **He professes to be a champion of “rugged individualism,” but the only real jobs he’s ever had were as a disc jockey and a talk show host; I mean, how “rugged” can a guy be who’s toughest work has been flipping 45s and sitting on his rear-end flapping his jaws?;

    **Limbaugh claims to be a “great American patriot,” when in actuality he dodged the draft (using a medical deferment for a cyst on his bummy) when he had a chance to serve during Vietnam;

    **Limbaugh constantly denounces government waste, but prior to his success he had no problem whatsoever drawing unemployment several times between firings…

    (source; “The Rush Limbaugh Story” by Paul Colford)

  • http://noumenal.net/blogs/weblog.php Che

    Thanks MCH, I have to agree with you there; hypocrisy does seem to be prevalent in the man’s nature.

  • Dan

    Sorry, but this sounds like just another fake, I-was-a-conservative-but-I-saw-the-light, conversion scam that liberals pathetically think lends credibility to their delusional sense of moral and intellectual superiority.

    Real Dittoheads aren’t created by Rush, they’re re-enforced by Rush.

    If it weren’t for the ethical lapses of a leftist infested main stream news media, Limbaugh wouldn’t be needed.

    Rush’s show is one of only a few places where you can hear actual, in context, recordings of liberal politicians talking out of both sides of their mouths. Thankfully, that’s changing.

    In fact, it seems likely that Rush has inspired much of the conservative revolution that has transpired in American politics over the last couple of decades. Even the gullible, idealistic youth votes that liberals have traditionally exploited are becoming more politically savvy. Which explains why liberals are now pushing for the illegal immigrant and felon voters.

    Closed minded liberals really don’t understand the attraction. They seldom listen to the show objectively, (if at all) so they have no way to grapple with what Rush brings. They don’t get the difference between truthful propaganda and simple demagoguery. More telling, is that they don’t seem to care. They entertain this fantasy caricature of Rush as some humorless, moralistic, judgemental, authoritarian, who has no tolerance of human failings.

    That’s why liberal millionaire puppetmasters desperately throw money down the rat-hole of a pathetically sad, and deceitful, Air America venture.