Milquetoast: How Bland Titles Let Authors Act Like Kids and Undermine Democracy

You’ve seen this story about a thousand times by now. Hard-hitting author pulls no punches in his/her newest book which exposes the elite for the scum they are.

That’s right: ‘ECONned’ blames economists for financial disaster! How bold, how daring!

My favorite part of this piece of ideological tripe is its title, which you have also seen about a thousand times before: ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Damaged Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism. Is anyone in America not sick of this formulation by now? “Catchphrase: How This Thing I Hate is Stupid and Did Some Things I Disapprove Of.” Granted, these authors have absolutely nothing new to say, so it behooves them to give their best effort on the cover of the book.

But seriously, authors, how about we lighten up on how seriously we take our books. Not only will no one care about them in three years, but it’s not like they are even standing out in the market anymore. In less than twenty minutes of searching on Amazon I came up with these titles:

  • God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
  • Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
  • The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream
  • Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of “Energy Independence”
  • Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda
  • One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All
  • Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches
  • Big Lies : The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth
  • The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy
  • The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right
  • Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else
  • What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
  • Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America
  • Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America
  • Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future
  • Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
  • The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
  • The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church
  • The New Color Line: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy
  • Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy
  • Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance
  • Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America
  • The Raw Deal: How the Bush Republicans Plan to Destroy Social Security and the Legacy of the New Deal
  • Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin
  • Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation
  • Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America
  • Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane
  • Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses

. . . and I was nowhere near exhausting the supply of titles bearing this meme. I really despise this fad in publishing and writing, as should all true Americans. In fact, you can pretty much live by this rule of thumb: any book containing this kind of trope for its title is not worth reading, period.

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  • I find this post amusing, and many such books annoying,but books are made to be sold, and probably publishers have concluded that this sort of title sells books. (In many cases, I suspect the titles are entirely the publisher’s idea, not the author’s.) And why wouldn’t this style of title sell books? You need something short that’s reasonably catchy and easy to say, then you need a subtitle that concisely, provocatively says what the book’s about. And probably some of the books are actually good. I haven’t read Obamanomics, but I bet it’s okay. The full title of Tom Woods’s Meltdown is a little like that, and it’s more than okay. Most political books will, of course, be bad, regardless of their title.

    • Ah yes, but imagine if Mises or Rothbard were subjected to this in their day. Instead of the aptly-named treatise Socialism we might have Incalculable: Why the Socialists Are Wrong and How They’re Destroying the Fatherland.

      I concede your broader point, of course: nobody would be this obnoxious about book titles if such titles didn’t sell. I also should acknowledge the clear signal it gives consumers like me: I don’t have to crack open 99% of these books to know that they simply aren’t worth my time.

      • that faux-Socialism title is brilliant.

      • But that’s not comparing like things. As far as I’ve noticed, academics today don’t give their books for an academic audience titles like this. They’re titles for polemical books for a popular audience, which have their place. (We should wish someone in Mises’s time had written their equivalent using his ideas!)

  • The disheartening thing for me is that all these books are being published. People read this crap?

    And fiddlesticks! Mr. Coleman already renamed a libertarian classic using this formula. I find it quite fun.

    The Road to Serfdom: Why Your Government Is Turning into a Totalitarian State
    Defending the Undefendable: Why Pimps, Blackmailers and Profiteers are Heroes
    Economic Sophisms: What Wealth Is and How Mercantilists are Destroying It
    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: How Nations Grow Rich and Why The Government’s Policies are Impoverishing Us