Liar's Circus: A Strange and Terrifying Journey Into the Upside-Down World of Trump's MAGA Rallies (Hardcover)

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Journalist Carl Hoffman embeds himself with Trump's fervent followers in this eye-opening diary of stadium shows and bizarre personalities. Hoffman finds most rally-goers welcoming and eager to convince him that Trump is "heaven-sent." He puts into context quotes from MAGA-goers and Trump himself with observations from sociologists and historians noting, for example, the similarity between cultural identity rituals in remote communities half a world away and MAGA rallies "where the identity of the hundreds of thousands who participated in them was solidified, confirmed." Liar's Circus is an illuminating and weirdly entertaining addition to the slew of books currently in print about President Trump, offering a well-documented, personal look at the people who placed him in power.


— From Cindy's Recs


"A brilliant, riveting, funny, terrifying journey into the beating heart of Trumpland." —Liza Mundy, author of Code Girls

In this daring work of immersive journalism, based on hundreds of hours of reporting, Carl Hoffman journeys deep inside Donald Trump’s rallies, seeking to understand the strange and powerful tribe that forms the president’s base. 

Hoffman, who has written about the most dangerous and remote corners of the world, pierced this alternate society, welcomed in and initiated into its rites and upside-down beliefs, and finally ushered to its inner sanctum. Equally freewheeling and profound, Liar’s Circus tracks the MAGA faithful across five thousand miles of the American heartland during a crucial arc of the Trump presidency stretching from the impeachment saga to the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic that ended the rallies as we know it.

Trump’s rallies are a singular and defining force in American history—a kind of Rosetta stone to understanding the Age of Trump. Yet while much remarked upon, they are, in fact, little examined, with the focus almost always on Trump’s latest outrageous statement. But who are the tens of thousands of people who fill these arenas? What do they see in Trump? And what curious alchemy—between president and adoring crowd—happens there that might explain Trump’s rise and powerful hold over both his base and the GOP?

To those on the left, the rallies are a Black Mass of American politics at which Trump plays high priest, recklessly summoning the darkest forces within the nation. To the MAGA faithful, the rallies are a form of pilgrimage, a joyous ceremony that like all rituals binds people together and makes them feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Both sides would acknowledge that this traveling roadshow is the pressurized, combustible core of Trump’s political power, a meeting of the faithful where Trump is unshackled and his rhetoric reaches its most extreme, with downstream consequences for the rest of the nation.

To date, no reporter has sought to understand the rallies as a sociological phenomenon examined from the bottom up. Hoffman has done just this. He has stood in line for more than 170 hours with Trump's most ardent superfans and joined them at the very front row; he has traveled from Minnesota to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Hampshire immersing himself in their culture. 

Liar’s Circus is a revelatory portrait of Trump’s America, from one of our most intrepid journalists. 

About the Author

Carl Hoffman is the author of the New York Times bestseller Savage Harvest, hailed as a “masterpiece” by Outside and named a New York Times editors’ choice and one of the Washington Post’s 50 notable works of nonfiction for 2014, as well as The Lunatic Express. He is a former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Wired, and has traveled on assignment to eighty countries.

Praise For…

"The indefatigable Carl Hoffman journeys deep into the world of a no-less exotic tribe: the hardest of the hard-core supporters of President Donald Trump. Joining the infatuated at campaign rallies from Minnesota to Texas, Hoffman brilliantly evokes both the hypnotic cadences of a demagogue and the misguided faith of his followers. He plunges with them down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, grievances, and alienation - without ever losing sight of their humanity. It is trenchant, surprising and profound.”
— Joshua Hammer, NYT bestselling author ofT he Falcon Thief and The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu

"Liar's Circus is a brilliant, riveting, funny, terrifying, unflaggingly readable journey into the beating heart of Trumpland."
— Liza Mundy, author of Code Girls

Liar's Circus is a wildly entertaining road trip into the belly of the beast that is Trump rallies. A reader comes away knowing more about the Trump supporters who equate belief in Trump with belief in America. Hoffman never condescends or dismisses and brings these Americans to life with fascinating subtleties and contradictions. Many of us have wondered ‘who are these people’ and Hoffman answers that question with great grace and understanding. It’s a hell of a trip you’ll be glad you took.”
— Stuart Stevens, legendary GOP strategist and author of It Was All A Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump

"Powerful. ... Examines the nature of Trump’s authoritarianism, and presents connections with other autocratic regimes, showing how the past and present of strongmen are deeply intertwined."
— New Republic

"A riveting deep dive into the world of Trump political rallies. ... Conveys the horror of Mr. Trump’s con game while remaining sympathetic to those being swindled by him."
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The author of outstanding books that blend travel, history, and anthropology such as Savage Harvest (2014), turns his eye on Donald Trump’s MAGA rallies. . . . Hoffman often shakes his head in wonderment but rarely condescends, and he approaches his subject with scholarly vigor . . . A valuable portrait of authoritarianism in action and its more-than-willing adherents.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An illuminating and weirdly entertaining addition to the slew of books currently in print about President Trump, offering a well-documented, personal look at the people who placed him in power. ... Carl Hoffman investigates the weird, wild world of MAGA rallies in this informative, entertaining piece of immersive journalism."
— Shelf Awareness
Product Details
ISBN: 9780063009769
ISBN-10: 0063009765
Publisher: Custom House
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Pages: 272
Language: English