I saw it on the "New Non-Fiction" table at the Portsmouth Public Library. The title certainly appealed. How bad could it be?
Reader, it could be very bad. With two and a half months left, this book is pretty much a lock for Pun Salad's "Worst Non-Fiction Book Read in 2023".
I was reminded of that insightful line in George Orwell's classic 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language":
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’
The author, Jesse Kelly, similarly drains the word "communism" of all meaning. He uses it to signify anything he doesn't like.
Now much of what Kelly says isn't that objectionable. Marxism is junk, both sociologically and economically. Marxism put into practice, i.e., Communism, is a disaster for the citizenry, full of misery, oppression, war, and murder. American universities tilt wildly to the left, to their own detriment, and ours. Tearing down American history into simplistic fables of racism, sexism, rapacious businesses, etc. is despicable. BLM and Antifa are evil grifters. And so on.
But you can learn about that anywhere else. (And I recommend you do.)
One amusing (well, sort of amusing) feature is Kelly's near-complete lack of introspection or self-doubt. He can observe (for example) that in Weimar Germany, communist militants "used the term fascist to describe pretty much anyone with who they disagreed." Exactly what Orwell said! But…geez…has Kelly looked critically at his own use of "communist"?
Also on a more serious note, Kelly cheers on "cancel culture" as long as it's being used by the right people against the wrong people. He's a big fan of Ron DeSantis's use of governmental power against the Disney Corporation, because they took a political stand he disagreed with. They were being disloyal to the state! Must be punished!
It's become tiresome to read about the rise of illiberal tactics on both sides of the political debate. The "war" is no longer about reducing the power of the state to oppress the citizenry; it's about grabbing onto the power of the state so you can go after the Other Side. This is a negative-sum game in both the short and long runs. Kelly wants to play that game badly.
The style is grating, all the way through. He has a radio show, and a lot of the stuff here "reads" like lightly-edited spoken rant-monologues. You are never more than a few paragraphs away from wild overstatement. Picked at random from the gun control chapter: "The appetite of the communist will not be satisfied until civilian ownership of firearms is a thing of the past and Americans are at the complete mercy of the government.") He's also a practioner of what Jon Steward made famous: the “clown nose on, clown nose off” approach to commentary. Except the nose-on jokes seem to mostly involve observing that a lot of feminists are fat and ugly.