Teen takes on the left online, in book, in person

September 30, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Self-published political author Alex Knepper is so intent on seeing John Kerry's presidential candidacy thwarted, he seems eager to debate the senator himself tonight.

While politics is old hat for Kerry, 60, though, it's a new phenomenon for Alex, 14, who lives in Hagerstown.

It wasn't until early this year, as Democrats jockeyed to be the party's presidential nominee, that Alex first paid attention.

He listened closely to his stepfather, Kurt Britner, and learned. He read and researched.

Then, he set out on a path of Republican punditry.

He likes President Bush - although not entirely - and he likes to debate with whomever will argue back, on the Internet or in person.

"Throw me a Democratic talking point and I'll rebut it," he said.

While the No Child Left Behind Act is intrusive and heavy-handed and illegal immigrants shouldn't get special rights, Bush has done a commendable job fighting terrorism, Alex said.


In a two-week period this summer, Alex dashed off his first book, which is titled "Carnival: The Sideshow Act Liberals Have Become Through the Eyes of a Teenage Conservative" and had it published through a Web site called Lulu.

In his book, he lights into Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore and affirmative action. He wrote a chapter called "Al Franken is a Lying, Lying Liar."

Alex, a ninth-grader at North Hagerstown High School, said the only cost of publishing the book was buying it for himself. He bought two copies, for $10 apiece.

Lulu's Web site, where the book can be downloaded for $3, says: "In this bold, fiery, and outraged book, teenage conservative pundit Alexander Knepper takes on the liberal big shots - and their lies and hypocrisy in the process."

But even Alex is skeptical. He said he wants to forget about the book because it needed more editing and proofreading before it was published. He didn't market it and, as far as he knows, no one else bought it.

Instead, he's throwing himself into a second book, "Saddamites!: A Guidebook to American Liberals," which will be finished when he adds his thoughts after the presidential election. He's hoping to find a publisher who can make a splash for him.

Alex, who's considering attending the University of Maryland, believes he's destined to be in politics. But can he hold high office? "I may be too outspoken to be elected to any position of any real importance," he said.

This year, Alex ran for class president and lost.

In pundit mode, he said the result can be explained: He and four other candidates who attended Northern Middle School split votes, leaving a student who attended Western Heights Middle School to step in and win.

"I think he'd like a spot on (the TV show) The O'Reilly Factor, but I don't know if he'll get there ....," said Alex's mother, Amy Britner, a North Hagerstown High School special education teacher. "He has to be in a career where he can express his viewpoints."

She said Alex's peers rarely can back up opinions about the election, if they have them, with the knowledge he has.

Alex can't get enough of conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Michael Savage. At the same time, he'll read everything liberals Al Franken and Michael Moore write, so he knows what they're up to.

Kurt Britner said he might have indoctrinated Alex in conservatism, but Alex still must establish his own thoughts, to make his ideology and his books meaningful.

"I can see him doing it as long as he runs the course of experience that's necessary to become interesting, to give himself depth, so his opinions are his own, his experiences are his own, his thoughts are his own," Kurt Britner said, "and I think he's on his way."

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