The MAGA diaries My surreal adventures inside the right-wing (and how I got out)

Tina Nguyen

Book - 2024

"An explosive, first-person account chronicling the rise of the MAGA movement from acclaimed political journalist Tina Nguyen, who began her career--and her education--on the ground levels of the conservative recruiting machine."--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 320.52/Nguyen (NEW SHELF) Checked In
New York : One Signal Publishers/Atria 2024.
Main Author
Tina Nguyen (author)
First One Signal Publishers/Atria Books hardcover edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
ix, 261 pages ; 24 cm
  • Author's Note
  • Prelude: Start the Show
  • 1. The Young Claremonster
  • 2. Preserving the Ideals of the American Founding
  • 3. Right-Wing Summer Camp
  • 4. The Daily Caller
  • 5. Exile in Frumland
  • 6. Escape from the Conservative Ghetto
  • 7. The New Leaders Council
  • 8. The Lowest Class
  • 9. The Progressive Snowflake Power Hour
  • 10. The Year of the Storm
  • 11. The Road Trip
  • 12. Feels Bad, Man
  • 13. The Patriot Academy
  • Epilogue: Tucker and Me
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A journalist revisits her youthful dalliance with and later disaffection from the conservative movement in this entertaining and insightful debut. Puck correspondent Nguyen recounts her infatuation with conventional conservatism--she loved constitutional history and revered the founding fathers--at California's Claremont McKenna College, where she hooked into a web of internships and mentors including John Elliott at George Mason University's Institute for Humane Studies, who helped her land a stint at the Daily Caller. (She paints its founding editor Tucker Carlson as a nice man fond of antics like fly-casting in the newsroom.) But she came to realize that many conservative publications were disguised PR outfits bankrolled by right-wing foundations that pressured her and others to slant their reporting. Drifting away from conservatism after 2013, she started writing about politics at Vanity Fair, often reporting on right-wing figures; her distance from the movement increased after news broke that Elliott belonged to a secret circle of journalists who tried to infuse white-nationalist themes into mainstream conservative media. Nguyen cannily depicts conservatives as models of organizational strength, patiently growing their numbers through mentoring and career-building programs. Meanwhile, progressives she encounters are hampered in their efforts to foster new talent by donors who seek "instant gratification." The result is a spirited take on America's political operative class. (Jan.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Adventures inside the rabbit hole of right-wing extremism. Raised in "borderline poverty" by an "oblivious immigrant tiger mom," Nguyen fell under the spell of libertarianism early on. In prep school on a scholarship, she became involved with a young man who went on to become "Peter Thiel's hatchet man, introducing the billionaire to white supremacists." White supremacists were a dime a dozen in the orbits in which Nguyen would travel following college, moving from think tank to foundation to fellowship before finally landing as a journalist, at first writing from the right and then, following an apotheosis that makes for excellent reading, covering the right for the much-hated mainstream media. Among the players in her book are Tucker Carlson, a former boss when he, too, was a genuine journalist, and David Frum, one of whose articles, he told the author, was "my suicide note to the GOP." Following her disenchantment with "Conservatism Inc.," Nguyen writes, "the easiest thing to do was become nihilistic about the ideology." Instead, she dug in deep after trying to avoid the politics beat--lured back in by the emergence of Trump, for whom she has little affection. (That former boyfriend? He was not only an insider but also a leading Holocaust denier.) Nguyen's episodic anecdotes--they're not quite a diary, so the title is a touch misplaced--are fascinating, including the process of Carlson's becoming ensorcelled by the world of Trumpian power politics while not actually seeming to believe much of it or much of anything, as well as a passing story about a former mentor who had developed a not-so-secret code to "disguise ethnic slurs and pro-Hitler slogans." The bad news? In their relentless quest to reshape American society brick by brick, the rightists "are winning." A sobering, endlessly readable fly-on-the-wall account of creeping fascism. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.