”The pamphlet is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and ‘highbrow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals... It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of “reportage.” All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.”
– George Orwell
The 21st Century seems like an odd time to see the resurgence of the old eighteenth century age of pamphleteering described so well in texts like Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, but that is precisely where Wyoming author, Wyoming Future’s Project member, and former correspondent for The Economist magazine has taken us in his first solo publication, Pushed Off the Mountain, Sold Down the River: Wyoming’s Search for Its Soul.
But we always were behind the times here in Wyoming. Or were we?
That’s one of the many questions Western poses and makes a good attempt at answering, in his weird fashion, here.
Pushed Off the Mountain is no less than a call for revolution in the way we live in, and think about, Wyoming. It’s a fine piece of rabble rousing that, to judge from the letters columns in the Casper Star Tribune is having a rousing effect on those of the ordinary citizenry of Wyoming who have been crafty enough or fortunate enough to get a copy of the thing. Indeed; Western has found an audience so uncritically ready for what he has to say that CST letter writers in particular have taken to just barely skirting plagiarism in their desire to spread his word; wholesale rip-offs of entire paragraphs from Pushed Off the Mountain pepper letters printed in support of everything from candidates for mayor of Evansville to Dave Freudenthal’s campaign for governor.
Actually, this uncritical audience – the review page on Amazon.com for this book, too, is a study in “attaboys” – is something new in a way this particular broadside is not. If Josiah Quincy or Samuel Adams or Ebenezer Chaplin had enjoyed such acclaim in pre-Revolutionary America, there would not have been any Empire Loyalists at all and Canada would probably all be French-speaking. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I will always claim the right to do so. Nyeah.