Q&A with Journalist and author Michael McCord
The longtime journalist has just written a political satire, "The Execution Channel: A Political Fable"
Michael McCord, a longtime New Hampshire journalist, has written and published ‘The Execution Channel: A Political Fable,’ a political satire about an America in the not-too-distant future.
Michael McCord, a longtime New Hampshire journalist (he’s a former NHBR staff writer and still contributes to the newspaper as a freelancer) has pretty much seen it all, especially when it comes to politics, which he’s been covering for over 30 years. But his newly published satirical novel, “The Execution Channel: A Political Fable,” takes things to the next level.
McCord – who covered his first New Hampshire presidential primary in 1980 – has authored a book that imagines a not-too-distant future America whose political landscape takes a bizarre, hilarious and often disconcerting turn.
McCord published the book himself, with a little help from a lot of friends – he raised money to help cover his publishing, marketing and public relations costs through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
“The Execution Channel: A Political Fable” is available online through the-execution-channel.com.
Q. What inspired you to write “The Execution Channel: A Political Fable”?
A. That's a hard question to answer easily. It's been building in one form or another for the past three decades, since Ronald Reagan targeted government as the problem to most of America's ills. This attitude set the stage for an ideology that calls into question the need for government – or, to put it another way, some form of collective response to pressing issues – and to delegitimize government at every chance as though it was an abstract, alien life form. In the Real America of my book, we get to see what happens when political leaders kill the beast of government, prove they can create a “government worth hating” and find that rhetorical incoherence is popular.
Q. Some readers might come away from the book thinking we're not too far off from some of this stuff actually happening. What's your take on that?
A. Clearly I've taken some current headlines and created a parallel political and economic universe in the near future that looks familiar. The initial spark for the book came from a Republican presidential debate in 2011, when some members of the audience cheered at the policy of just letting people die who didn't have health insurance. I'll let readers decide just how real the connection is between the wacky headlines of today and the somewhat grotesque but uniquely American dystopia in the book.
Q. What role did your experiences covering politics in New Hampshire, particularly presidential politics, play in dreaming up and writing the book?
A. It played a major role, especially as I've watched the evolution (or perhaps devolution) in political rhetoric and policy.
The story doesn't spend much time in Washington, D.C., because – and let's shift to reality here – the real mischief and ideological extremism takes place in the states with Republican/tea party dominated-legislatures that are obsessed with anti-abortion and voter suppression efforts: Texas, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina. Just the sort of focus a country needs with an unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.
In New Hampshire, we had a taste of it in 2011-2012, when the first thing tea party leaders did was allow guns in the State House and on the House floor as though it was 1870. It showed a remarkable deficit of imagination and lack of seriousness about governing, which I think was the point.
Q. Deification of the Ayn Rand character John Galt is central to the book. Why?
A. I always considered Rand a talented con as a writer and a thinker. I first read “Atlas Shrugged” while serving in the U.S. Army in the 1970s and then later when I was finishing undergraduate studies at Keene State College. My late history professor mentor, a wonderful man by the name of Michael Keller, was a dedicated Rand disciple, and we had many spirited discussions about Rand and her creations.
I was amused when there was a popular Rand revival with the tea party uprising in 2009, and “Atlas Shrugged” emerged as a ready-made remedy for an age of economic disruption and the election of President Obama.
Galt is deified in the Real America of my book because he represents the triumph of unrestrained self-interest and genius unleashed. Hence, the magic of the book’s “Galtian Imperatives,” which takes free-market worshiping to a biblical level, and best of all, no one understands them or how they work, but everyone in Real America agrees that they work to create prosperity by promoting private sector profits and glory via public sector looting and bankruptcy. Seems perfectly logical to me.
Q. Any real-life politicians or political movements in mind while writing the book?
A. Sorry, I'm not giving away any trade secrets. That said, I think readers may have a good time figuring out the roots of the political caricatures in the book.
Q. What's your main objective in publishing the book?
A. This sounds suspiciously like the “Why are you running for president?” question that vexes the best of candidates. I've admired many satirical masters, such as Jonathan Swift, Joseph Heller, Voltaire, and George Orwell. I figured I had at least one satire to get out of my system while having fun playing with ideas and American politics while provoking a discussion or two about the future of America.
Q. What was the crowdfunding experience like?
A. It was interesting, and I was grateful to so many that allowed me to reach the funding goal of more than $3,000. But let me be clear – with a few exceptions, this particular project was all about friends and family, and I suspect that might be the case for many crowdfunding projects.
Q. What are your marketing plans?
A. Guerrilla marketing at its best: word of mouth, interviews like this, social media, bookstore appearances, etc. The goal is to start locally and hopefully generate buzz about the book from there.
Q. At some point, people who cover politics for any extended period encounter bouts of cynicism, to put it mildly. Is writing a book a good way of addressing it?
A. Believe it or not, I'm not a cynic – a skeptic, to be sure, but not a cynic. I'm fascinated by this country, its strengths and weaknesses and its debates and priorities. It's an amazing mix of the exotic, absurd and the practical and we fight about what our history means with a ferocity that is quite remarkable.
I think the political and economic tension in this country is maybe close to that found in the decade before the Civil War. In our case, can we exist as a country with one side determined to eliminate government and the other side not? I couldn't have created what I believe is a plausible mix of humor and American dystopian excess with a cynical frame of mind. My perspective is more along these lines: Are we really paying attention to what's happening here?