Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781590170731
Pages: 64
Publication Date: May 1, 2003

Fixed IdeasAmerica Since 9.11

by Joan Didion



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In Fixed Ideas, published in 2003 during the Bush Administration, Joan Didion describes how, since September 11, 2001, there has been a determined effort by the administration to promote an imperial America—a "New Unilateralism"—and how, in many parts of America, there is now a "disconnect" between the government and citizens.

"[Americans] recognized even then [immediately after 9/11], with flames still visible in lower Manhattan, that the words 'bipartisanship' and 'national unity' had come to mean acquiescence to the administration's preexisting agenda—for example the imperative for further tax cuts, the necessity for Arctic drilling, the systematic elimination of regulatory and union protections, even the funding for the missile shield."

Frank Rich in his preface notes: "The reassuring point of the fixed ideas was to suppress other ideas that might prompt questions or fears about either the logic or hidden political agendas of those conducting what CNN branded as 'America's New War.'"

He adds, "This White House is famously secretive and on-message, but its skills go beyond that. It knows the power of narrative, especially a single narrative with clear-cut heroes and evildoers, and it knows how to drown out any distracting subplots before they undermine the main story."

Book and cover design by Milton Glaser, Inc.Joan Didion


In times of national crisis, the public turns to such proven, clear-eyed observers of American society as Didion to place events within a historical and political context....A shrewd, seasoned, and superbly articulate interpreter of the machinations of American politics, particularly the art of spin, Didion concisely but precisely breaks down the rhetoric and media strategies of George W. Bush and company, identifying key "fixed ideas, or national pieties" that were marshaled "to stake new ground in old domestic wars" and bolster the administration's stand on everything from environmental laws to school prayer to the war in Iraq, which, Didion reminds readers, has actually been on the agenda since the Reagan administration. First published in the New York Review of Books, this is an essential work of clarity in a time of obfuscation. Political teens will want to read and talk about this.— Booklist