Anyone who thinks that the only thing to fear is fear itself should meet Brad Thor. The novelist of numerous bestselling books about the war on terrorism, Thor is angry about and afraid of seemingly everything: a government he believes isn’t aggressive enough in pursuing jihadists, a media that plays dead to avoid telling the truth about Islam, a CIA that has lost its mojo, among others.
“I don’t even think President Bush went far enough in taking it to our enemies,” Thor says by phone from Chicago, where he lives with his wife. “Even under him, the rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan were way too restrictive. I don’t think Bush did enough.”
Thor, who looks like an aging beach bum with burly good looks, continues. “Al Qaeda doesn’t abide by the Geneva Conventions, so in my opinion, they should not be afforded the protections of them. In my books, when the shackles come off and my guys take it to the terrorists, that’s the way I would like to see it.”
In Thor’s new book, Full Black, the axis of evil centers on a liberal billionaire named James Standing (think George Soros), who advocates for higher taxes for the rich, more generous wages for the poor, and greater government spending. In private, Standing is bankrolling terrorist networks and plotting the assassinations of those who seek to expose him.
The conflation of liberals with terrorist sympathizers no doubt plays to Thor’s base. Over the last few years, the novelist has found a successful niche on the right-wing talk-show circuit, most notably on Glenn Beck’s shows. And he numbers among his fans Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.
But Thor also practices what he writes about by serving with the Analytic Red Cell Unit, a Department of Homeland Security program that has called on a variety of individuals in fields like computer programming and academia to help envision possible terrorist scenarios and plots to stop them. He has a habit of using this fact to bolster his antiterrorism bona fides. Not everyone who has participated is so convinced the program was all that important. As Brad Meltzer, another thriller writer who was with the program, puts it: “They gave us serious scenarios and we gave them the most serious answers we could come up with. Did we save lives? I don’t know. Were we secret agents with 007 rankings? Only in my dreams.”
Though Thor likes to rail against the “media” for its failure to properly vet Obama (he is of the belief the Jeremiah Wright controversy was not sufficiently covered), he seems to be doing just fine getting media attention for himself. He has even been gaining traction in Hollywood, where Warner Brothers is currently developing one of his books. He calls this a “great turning point in Hollywood.”
“The last movies we saw with Muslim bad guys were True Lies (1994) and Executive Decision (1996),” Thor says. “After 9/11, if people made movies about terrorism, the U.S. was evil and Muslims were misunderstood: Lions for Lambs, Stop-Loss, Rendition. Well, all these movies didn’t do particularly well. In Hollywood people scratched their heads, but the reason they didn’t do well is because in Middle America people want to see their values triumph.”
Thor does worry some about being pilloried as a propagandist for the right—a Tom Clancy for the Tea Party set. Since the death of Osama bin Laden, Thor has become more generous in his assessment of President Obama. “You’d have to be a partisan hack to whack him [for killing him]. You need to be fair,” he says.