David Mamet is one of the great American writers, the playwright behind American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, and the screenwriter who brought us Wag the Dog and The Spanish Prisoner. However, the genius that has allowed Mamet to place his distinctive, crackling dialogue into the mouths of some of the most indelible characters in modern American drama does not extend to the world of politics. If the reviews of his new nonfiction book, The Secret Knowledge, are to be believed, Mamet has no better grasp on that subject than most facile, factually-challenged right-wing radio hosts.
The Secret Knowledge was reviewed last week in The New York Times by none other than Christopher Hitchens. From his review:
This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason. In order to be persuaded by it, you would have to be open to propositions like this:
“Part of the left’s savage animus against Sarah Palin is attributable to her status not as a woman, neither as a Conservative, but as a Worker.”
“America is a Christian country. Its Constitution is the distillation of the wisdom and experience of Christian men, in a tradition whose codification is the Bible.”
[. . .]
Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating. For example, Mamet writes in “The Secret Knowledge” that “the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all.” Whatever one’s opinion of that conflict may be, this (twice-made) claim of his abolishes any need to analyze or even discuss it. It has a long way to go before it can even be called simplistic. By now, perhaps, you will not be surprised to know that Mamet regards global warming as a false alarm, and demands to be told “by what magical process” bumper stickers can “save whales, and free Tibet.” This again is not uncharacteristic of his pointlessly aggressive style: who on earth maintains that they can? If I were as prone to sloganizing as Mamet, I’d keep clear of bumper-sticker comparisons altogether.
Read the full review here.