James McNamara reviews 'Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right' by Jane Mayer

James McNamara reviews 'Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right' by Jane Mayer

Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right

by Jane Mayer

Scribe, $35 pb, 464 pp, 9781925321715

When I arrived in America, green card in hand, I soon got down to my favourite pastime: discussing politics over grain-based liquor. I was surprised to find that President Barack Obama was widely reviled. I had spent the previous decade in England and Australia where, in my experience, Obama was considered a decent president or, at least, a decent man. Not, it would seem, in the United States.

That opinions could so differ between Western nations was partly attributable to the radicalisation of American politics in the Obama era. From their first leadership meeting after Obama's election, Republicans mounted an unprecedented 'guerilla war' against his presidency. Denying any Democratic victory was more important than governing. This extremist shift, Jane Mayer argues in Dark Money, reflects a sophisticated, multi-decade effort by a small group of billionaires to inject radical right-wing views into the political mainstream. This might sound a bit Bond villain, but Mayer, a veteran New Yorker journalist, proves her case through masterful investigative reporting.

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Published in October 2016, no. 385
James McNamara

James McNamara

James McNamara is an Australian television writer based in Los Angeles. His television work includes comedy and drama writers rooms for the Academy Award-winning See-Saw Films, Matchbox Pictures/NBC Universal, Foxtel, ABC, Porchlight Films, and Endemol Shine, and developing shows for Goalpost Pictures and Playmaker Media/Sony Pictures. McNamara received ABR’s third Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship for his long-form essay, ‘The Golden Age of Television?’ (ABR, April 2015), praised by Clive James as ‘a global contribution to cultural analysis’. McNamara’s essays and criticism have also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Times Literary Supplement, and The Spectator.

Born in Western Australia in 1982, McNamara received degrees in English and Law from the University of Western Australia, graduated in screenwriting from AFTRS, and holds a doctorate in English from Oxford, where he was a Clarendon Scholar. Before becoming a writer, McNamara was a litigator specialising in international disputes at a top-tier US law firm. He was recently named a BAFTA LA Newcomer. 

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