Now middle-aged, the enfant terrible novelist Bret Easton Ellis, has turned to nonfiction to mock the "childlike fascism" and "demented narcissism" of American liberals that helped put President Trump in the White House and left them facing "mental and emotional collapse."
For good measure, Ellis, 55, also denounces the "legacy media" in his new book "White" — originally due to be called "White Privileged Male" — describing it as "a moral disaster for the country" that had covered Trump in the 2016 with such bias and "absolute cluelessness" that it assisted him. The Washington Examiner obtained a copy in advance of its publication Tuesday.
Already facing a backlash from the liberal intelligentsia he disdains — a Q&A with the New Yorker was intensely hostile — Ellis has also been praised for his devil-may-care contrarianism. Interview Magazine described "White" as containing "searing points about how the national obsession with being liked at all costs and the silencing of opposing voices under the banner of inclusivity can create its own American hellscape."
As the author of the 1991 dystopian novel American Psycho, in which the Wall Street banker — and serial killer — protagonist Patrick Bateman venerates Manhattan real estate mogul Donald Trump, Ellis has a unique perspective on the 45th president of the United States.
He places Trump's 2016 victory and what he sees as the Left's continued refusal to accept his legitimacy squarely in the context of millennials — those who reached adulthood around the start of the 21st century. He brands them"Generation Wuss" and laments their "oversensitivity, their sense of entitlement, their insistence they were always right despite sometimes overwhelming proof to the contrary, their joint tendencies of overreaction and passive-aggressive possibility."
This, he argues, has been fostered by "overprotective, helicopter moms and dads mapping their every move" while "smothering their kids and not teaching them how to deal with life's hardships ... people might not like you, this person will not love you back, kids are really cruel, work sucks, it's hard to be good at something, your days will be made up of failure and disappointment, you're not talented, people suffer, people grow older, people die."
"Generation Wuss," he writes, became consumed by "victim narratives" and "anxiety and neediness." More darkly, and with the help of social media, Ellis diagnoses a growing inability to accept or even listen to viewpoints that differ from a "woke" status quo.
"This is an age that judges everybody so harshly through the lens of identity politics that if you resist the threatening groupthink of 'progressive ideology,' which proposes universal inclusivity except for those who dare to ask any questions, you’re somehow fucked," Ellis writes. "Everyone has to be the same, and have the same reactions to any given work of art, or movement or idea, and if you refuse to join the chorus of approval you will be tagged a racist or a misogynist."
Ellis identifies disgust with this as one of the factors behind the rise of Trump. Born in Los Angeles and now living there again after decamping from New York, Ellis found himself as an almost lone voice in the "Hollywood bubble" who believed Trump could defeat Hillary Clinton.
In the summer of 2015, he began to feel that "legacy institutions like The New York Times and CNN [were not] tracking what seemed to me a shifting reality ... the media became so freaked out that they abandoned the hallmarks of neutrality and perspective."
Trump insulted everyone, Ellis argues, "and white men got it first and far more than anyone else, yet as the national press corps explained it, this was not the case."
He continues: "Trump was the poster-boy antithesis of the proud moral superiority of the Left as defined forever by Clinton's 'basket of deplorables' comment, as well as by Michelle Obama's breathlessly condescending 'when they go low, we go high,' both of which were quoted approvingly in the legacy media."
If the media had reported "Trump more objectively he wouldn't have won. ... the way the legacy media was covering the election of 2016 — Clinton as heroine, Trump as villain — would prove to be an utter moral disaster for the country because it helped turn Donald Trump into the biggest underdog in American political history."
For his part, Ellis voted for neither candidate. "I hadn't voted for anyone, not only because I lived in rest-assured California but also because during the campaign I'd realized I wasn't a conservative or a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican, and I didn't buy into what either party was selling. (I'd also thought Bernie Sanders's platform was impractical to the point of absurdity.)"
But Ellis found himself being pilloried merely for failing to be distraught that Trump had won. "When my traumatized boyfriend criticized me for not being angrier about the election (five months after it had happened) I shot back that I didn't want to talk about Trump anymore. I didn't care. He was elected president. Get over it." His boyfriend shot back that "by simply accepting the elections' results I was 'colluding' with the new administration and, by extension, with Moscow."
He began to tune out those who harped on about Clinton winning the popular vote, a mantra that "started reminding me — as the resistance continued — of the complaints of spoiled children at a birthday party when they didn't win the relay race, and who wanted the race rerun with different rules, while stomping their feet, arms crossed, pinched faces crimson and wet with tears."
When he heard people using words like "Hitlerian" and "apocalypse," he writes, he'd "stare at them while a tiny voice in the back of my head started sighing, You are the biggest fucking baby I've ever fucking heard in my entire fucking life and please you've got to fucking calm the fuck down — I get it, I get it, you don't like fucking Trump but for fuck's sake enough already for fuck's sake."
One friend told him that the Electoral College — the agreed rules by which Trump won — was "bullshit" and Los Angeles and New York should choose the president. "I don't want any goddam know-nothing rural hicks deciding who the president should be," Ellis quoted him as saying. "I am a proud liberal coastal elite and I think we should pick the president because we know better."
Ellis found the incident in which White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was refused service in a Virginia restaurant to be especially ominous. "The shunning of others who don't like you had moved past protest and resistance into childlike fascism. ... the differing viewpoints were judged as immoral, racist and misogynist." During the Senate hearings into the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the Left "had turned into haters, helped by an inordinate amount of encouragement from the mainstream media and now came across as anti-common-sense, anti-rational and anti-American."
On one level, Ellis concludes, this may have been "simply the year of endless low points for a resistance that was spinning epic fails in venting their anger about Trump," the latest episode in the reality show that is the Trump presidency.
"Or maybe when you're roiling in childish rage, the first thing you lose is judgment, and then comes common sense. And finally you lose your mind and along with that, your freedom."