Let's Read The Overton Window pt. 9: www.stuartkearns.com

Programming note: updates will be less frequent for the forseeable future, due to Brain Problems 

As chapter fifteen opens, Noah brings Molly to his fancy rich-guy apartment, humble-bragging about how he lives near the Met and all the big embassies because he's such a mister fancy pants. It feels like approximately a month in real time since anything interesting has happened.

In the elevator, they encounter a Cool Dude, who turns into a Gross Dude when he horns out over Molly. Noah casually reveals that he's Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York.

“He lives here?”

“That’s not all. This five-million-dollar co-op apartment that we’re going to stay in tonight? My father owns that. Spitzer’s father owns the whole building.”


Seriously, what about this douche-canoe is appealing to Molly?

They arrive at Noah's apartment, which is suitably luxurious and large.

The instant he’d keyed them inside, Molly took off to explore, marveling at the panoramic floor-to-ceiling view, running from room to room like a toy-starved moppet cut loose in FAO Schwarz.

Hey, dude writers of the world? Can you all make a lifelong commitment to not describe women your hero is going to bone (or is currently boning, or has boned, or wants to bone) as children? Shit's seriously creepy.

It's been a long night of harrowing adventure, so our two heroes head for bed, separately. Before too long...

In the middle of chapter two he heard a soft knock from the hallway, looked over, then sat up a little straighter when he saw her peeking in.



Molly isn't there for some patriotic boinking. Instead she reveals that she made some inquiries about Danny, who vanished mysteriously after the raid. I feel like it's a bit naive of them to not at least consider whether he was in on the police sting. I know he's Molly's ex and all, but he was ranting about starting a violent revolution right before the plants all started getting rowdy.

Although if he was involved, that's kind of risky because the gunman was firing directly at the stage. I'd want some pretty hefty assurances that his aim was real good before I agreed to that.

Molly pushes her "I don't want to sleep with you, really" claim to the absolute limit by lying down on Noah's bed and inquiring about what he's reading (he's in a chair). The following scene just reinforces my idea that one of the ghost writers has some serious romance chops, because it's actually kind of sweet. They're both doing that initial we're-into-each-other-but-dancing-around-it-a-bit thing, and it's genuinely well portrayed. It almost makes up for Noah having no personality.

“Suit yourself, lady. I’m telling you right now, you made the rules, but you’re playing with fire here. I’ve got some rules, too, and rule number one is, don’t tease the panther.”

And then Noah ruins it with this. If "the panther" is what he calls his dick, I'll literally drop dead.

To my surprise, our heroes do not make the patriotic beast with two patriotic backs, and they both fall asleep together as the sun rises. Daaawww.

PART TWO begins with two more exciting quotes, from authors we've heard about already: Carroll Quigley and Herbert Croly. I'm not going to bother quoting them because whatever.

In chapter 17, we get a POV shift! Our new playable character is Stuart Kearns, an FBI agent on a mission from a covert anti-terrorism task force. As we join him, he's about to interview a prisoner being held at the Manhattan Detention Complex, aka The Tombs. Somehow, this is a real prison and not a location from Batman: The Animated Series.

And it looks like this

And it looks like this

Stuart is a grizzled, burned-out agent with two ex-wives. The sergeant he speaks to to get into the facility is also grizzled and burned out, as was the police officer who interviewed Noah a few chapters ago. Because apparently, everything Beck knows about the justice system in America, he learned from hacky cop shows.

Who is Stuart going to interview? Drum roll...

“Daniel Carroll Bailey?”

Yes, it's Youtube's very own Danny Bailey! Apparently he wasn't working for the government after all. He will be soon, though.

So, here's a conundrum. Danny, we're told, is being held on trumped-up and blatantly false charges, was shoved into a cell with a bunch of hardened criminals via "covert order" so he could be beaten, and has been denied access to a lawyer all night. And of course, he was arrested in the first place in an illegal raid organized by the police.

And according to Stuart, this isn't unusual. Due process and the presumption of innocence are rapidly eroding as people willingly hand over their civil liberties in exchange for security from terrorism. 

So, here's my question: why do the bad guys need this elaborate plot to turn America into an Orwellian dystopia? They seem to be halfway there already, without even lifting their fingers. To pull all of this off, they'd have to have infiltrated or corrupted most of the justice system, and suspended at least part of the constitution. 

Beck is stacking the deck here. He wants to write a book about America becoming an unjust police state, but it's already an unjust police state. And in the book as well, KABOOM.

Anyway, Stuart lays out the cards for Danny: he's guaranteed to be found guilty of starting the "riot" at the freedom meeting, unless he agrees to work with Stuart on a secret project. What is that project?

First, I want to point out something that bugs me:

“I want my phone call, they won’t let me have my phone call—”

You don't get "a phone call" when you get arrested in the US. You're guaranteed access to an attorney, which can involve however many phone calls it involves. Beyond that, the location detaining you can let you call as many people as you want, or they can restrict access to the phone entirely. A lot of jails and police stations are generous with the phone privileges so they can withdraw them as punishment for bad behaviour (and also because suspects apparently tend to incriminate themselves, not realizing that the calls are monitored).

Stuart and Danny get on a chartered jet, and we listen to Stuart lament the fact that you can't smoke cigars on passenger jets anymore.

“Hey, remind me, how old are you?”

“I’m thirty-four.”

“In the decade you were born a man could still smoke a cigar on any flight across this country. Can you believe that?”

Is this meant to be a bad thing? If I was on a flight and some asshole took out a fucking cigar, I'd shove him out the passenger exit.

Stuart explains the plan (or rather, the narration explains the plan, because dialogue takes longer to write). 

The targets for the operation were low-level militia types with a desire to graduate to a full-blown act of domestic terrorism. They were in the market for funding, logistical support, and some serious weapons. If all went well then the only thing they’d be getting at the final handoff was arrested.

Danny Bailey would be brought along to the first in-person meet-up, to lend a crowning bit of credibility to the proceedings; he was currently the closest thing the Patriot underground had to a national spokesperson. In essence, Bailey would play the Oprah to Kearns’s Dr. Phil.

Stuart has been posing as a disgruntled agent who quit the FBI when they stopped him from revealing The Truth; he even has a website! Unfortunately www.stuartkearns.com does not lead anywhere, although I'm severely tempted to register it and have it redirect to this blog.

The global villains named on the site were a grab bag pulled from the latest full-color catalog of extremist paranoia: the Zionists, the Royals, the IMF and World Bankers, the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, the Bilderbergers, the Masons, the Grovers, the Vatican, you name it.

No space lizards?

This site and its inflammatory content formed what’s known as a troll in the parlance of the Internet culture.


To my absolute delight, the chapter continues to use this incorrect terminology, detailing how the feds used their "troll" to snag extremists, like a fishing lure (troll in internet terms being taken from a style of fishing, don't you know). Eventually, they caught a big 'un.

A new discussion group had formed in a private chat room on the site, under the heading of “Direct Action.” The members began to kick around the logistics of the Oklahoma City bombing, Tim McVeigh’s attack on the Murrah Federal Building in 1995: what had gone right, what had gone wrong, and the various conspiracy theories still swirling around the event and its aftermath. With some encouragement from the forum leader the discussion evolved—some half-baked plans that would’ve gotten the job done better, other vulnerable targets, men, methods, and materials. Many dropped out of the conversation as things got more serious, but eight stayed on.

I know of at least four places--off the top of my head--where I could go, right now, and see people spit-balling how to commit terrorist acts in the name of various ridiculous causes. Which probably means I should spend less time online staring into the screaming void of human depravity, but the point is, people talk about doing all sorts of shit on the internet. There are probably tens of thousands of people doing exactly what the book describes as I type this.

That doesn't mean the authorities shouldn't take this sort of thing seriously (I wish they'd take threats against individuals a whole lot more seriously), but there's no particular reason why this group of keyboard warriors would be given any more credence than any of the others.

This reminds me of the bit at the start of Tron: Legacy where the Microsoft stand-in's new operating system leaks online and prime-time news anchors interrupt their regular scheduling to report on this shocking, unprecedented event. It was clearly written by someone who knows a bit about computers and technology, but not nearly enough.

“These aren’t my people,” Bailey said. “You’ve gotta be kidding me, man, I’ve never told anybody to do any violence—”

You were just on stage, probably being recorded by a whole bunch of people, ranting about how it was time to take violent action against the government.

“I’ve watched your videos, son, and you don’t exactly tell them not to, either.”

And he also explicitly told them to as well.

Is this a symptom of the book having three writers? Did they forget what the other two writers had already set down or something?

Stuart explains that he wants Danny to use his big-name Youtube status to impress the militia goons.

You’re just going to come in and stroke them a little bit,

Excuse me?

Before this sexy event can occur, Stuart gives Danny some extremely vague and not very convincing promises that he'll be off the hook once he finishes the mission. I bet he gets shot. 

In order to convince Stuart that he has the acting chops to pull this off, Danny tells him about the time he pretended to be Colonel Sanders in order to score a meeting with the president of the UN General Assembly. No, really.

“Those pictures made the Daily News that week. It was a publicity stunt for my DVD on UN corruption, United AbomiNations. It’s sold out, but I’ll see if I can get you a copy.”

At times, this book seems like it's trying to be this deadly serious political and philosophical tract, and at other times, like here and the zany taxi scene, it comes off more like an attempt at a comedy story.

“Oh, Stuart, that’s not just good. That’s finger-lickin’ good.”




Here's the opening sentence of chapter 18:


This chapter brought to you by the internet.

(Yes, the "B" is un-italicized in the original version as well).

We're back with home boy Noah again, as he wakes up the next morning to find his room empty of Molly, but filled with the alluring scent of meme-jerky.

Molly was nowhere to be seen, though an alluring girl-shaped indentation was still evident in the gathering of covers beside him.

Either the Rapture happened while he was sleeping, or Molly got zapped by Thanos.

He pushed back the quilt and squinted to read the clock on the far wall: 4:35 it said, with no clue whether that made it early the following morning or late that same afternoon. It might take all weekend to get his body clock reset to normal again.

Tenses are supposed to change mid-way through paragraphs, right

Molly and Noah spend some time trading banter while she does a crossword puzzle (we're 41% through this thing, and that WORLD-CHANGING EVENT that the synopsis implied was going to be the inciting incident hasn't happened yet), then Molly says that she's going to be leaving town soon. Maybe you should have told him that before you got all romantic in the limo last night.

“What is this?” she asked.

“That was a penmanship exercise, from the fifth grade.” He pulled up a chair and sat beside her. “I don’t even think they teach that anymore, do they? Penmanship?”

Sweet Jesus now they're talking about their childhoods. Again. They've already had several conversations about that. Which somehow didn't turn into a lecture on how Big Government shouldn't interfere in the sacred covenant of the family, but I bet Beck will get to it before the end of the book, and it will probably make me blow out a ventricle because I can guess full well what his ideal family dynamic looks like.

This, basically

This, basically

The writing exercise is a Rudyard Kipling poem that's probably meant to mean something in the context of the story, but fucking whatever.

...OH WAIT NEVER MIND, Noah explains what the damn poem means. Just in case you didn't get it.

“He told me the poem meant that history always repeats itself, that the same mistakes are made over and over, only bigger each time. The wise man knows that if you can’t change that, you might as well take full advantage of it. But to me it meant something else.”

“And what’s that?”

“It’s a warning, I guess, about what happens when you forget common sense. You have to read the whole thing to get it. I think it means that there really is such a thing as the truth, the real objective truth, and people can see it if they’ll just look hard enough, and remember who they really are. But most of the time they choose to give in and believe all the lies instead.”

(It's "The God of The Copybook Headings", in case you're interested).

Noah and Molly go outside for a stroll, and then they kiss and it's as if it's Noah's first kiss because all of the other romantic encounters he's had were just shallow one-night stands that didn't really count.

I might be way off the mark here, but I'm wondering if Beck (who's a devout Mormon, remember) is trying to smuggle in a "no sex before marriage" lesson here. In the previous chapter we learned that Molly had previously had casual sex, but as of the time the story is taking place doesn't any longer, and now we're getting this tortured chain of logic to try to make it so none of the awesome sex Noah had in the past was "real." And despite very clearly being way into each other, Noah and Molly express it like two shy teenagers having their first serious crush.

It's like Beck realized that explicitly condemning premarital badoink-a-doink would give the game away about the book's ideological leanings, so he's trying to insert it via stealth.

Molly looked into his eyes, and what he saw in her was a perfect reflection of a wanting that he also felt, so there was no delay of invitation and acceptance.

Please tell us what these two see in each other. Their political opinions are polar opposites, Noah has publicly derided the cause that seems to form the core of Molly's life, and he just got done telling her about all the heinous shit his company has done over the last sixty years. Why is she in love with him? What about her, specifically, makes her so different to all the hot women Noah has boned in the past?

After they're done kissing, our two lover birds retire to a coffee shop so we can get down to what's really important: conservative political policy.

No, really. Molly asks Noah what he'd recommend her merry band of freedom fighters should do if they hired him to help them advance their cause.

Is this how PR works? Would your PR guy actually be recommending a political platform, with specific policy implementations? Wouldn't Molly and the other Trapper Keepers know more about all of that than him?

Noah says to start with the tax code since Molly's mom seemed to be so passionate about it.

How about a set of specific spending cuts and a thirteen percent flat tax to start with? Get that ridiculous sixty-seven-thousand-page tax code down to four or five bullet points, and show exactly what effects it’ll have on trade, and employment, and the debt, and the future of the country.

Some real revolutionary civic thinking going on here. Make the tax code really small, that'll solve all of America's fiscal problems.

And I’m winging it here, but how about real immigration reform? The kind of policies that welcome people who want to come here for the right reasons, and succeed.

"The kind(s) of policies that welcome people who have money, and also if they were mostly white that would be cool too. Have you considered locking immigrant children up in detention centers? I don't know where that idea came from, I'm just throwing stuff out here."

Isn't it a wild coincidence that Noah, who is supposed to be completely politically neutral and apathetic, just happens to hold conservative viewpoints on all the big topics in American politics?

In our business we call it the elevator pitch: how you’d explain your whole outlook, features, and benefits if you had only a ten-floor elevator ride during which to get it across to a stranger.

"Fuck you I got mine, and I also want yours." 

If any Republicans or Libertarians are reading this, you can have that for half a million dollars.

“And what did you mean, save the country, by the way? Save it from what?”

She looked at him evenly. “You know what.”

“Oh, come on now, Molly. Please tell me you’re not really one of those people, I know you’re not—”

 Yeah, save it from what, Noah? Your dad? 

Molly reveals that she got a look at the guest list for the evil meeting the previous day, and she's guessed what it was about.

And do you want to know something else? I don’t even know what it was all about, so how could you?”



Molly says that Noah could alleviate her fears by giving her insider information on what went on at the meeting (which... would definitely not alleviate her fears at all), Noah refuses, and their beautiful relationship that's been going on for less than twelve hours almost falls apart before he changes his mind.

Noah watched her through the glass and let himself hope for a few seconds that she’d have a change of heart and turn back into his waiting arms so all could be forgiven. But, just like falling in love with someone you’ve known only for a single day, those things really happened only in the movies.

But... you did fall in love with her after less than a day. That literally happened.

This whole thing really comes across like Molly is just manipulating Noah to get closer to his company. I wonder if that's intentional? Guess we'll find out.