John Dolan (writer)

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John Carroll Dolan (born July 1955) is an American poet, author and essayist. He formerly wrote for and co-edited the now defunct the eXile and was a regular contributor to NSFWCorp. He is currently[needs update?] a contributor at PandoDaily, and - under his long-time pseudonym "Gary Brecher"(vide infra) - has a regular podcast "Radio War Nerd", which he co-hosts with Mark Ames.[1][2]


John Dolan was born in Denver, Colorado in 1955. Dolan taught and studied at UC Berkeley, where he completed a PhD thesis on the literary works of the Marquis de Sade.[3]

He has published poems in many US and New Zealand literary journals and his first collection won the Berkeley Poetry Prize in 1988. In 1993, he moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where he lectured at the University of Otago. During his time in Dunedin, Dolan contributed regularly to the Otago literary journal Deep South. In 2001 Dolan resigned his academic post, and moved to Moscow to become co-editor of the eXile, a bi-weekly English-language publication based there.

He was the first reviewer of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, a bestseller featured on Oprah's monthly bookclub, to correctly expose this alleged memoir as fraudulent years before that was officially brought to light (the title of Dolan's review was "A Million Pieces of Shit" and the first line was "This is the worst thing I have ever read") [1]. He is married to his former student, Katherine Liddy. Dolan then relocated to Canada to teach at the University of Victoria in Canada in 2006. He claims to have been fired for encouraging students to criticize George Monbiot in 2008.[4]

Until spring 2010, Dolan was an associate professor of English composition and literature at the American University of Iraq - Sulaimani. He was fired in 2010 and wrote a lengthy article on his experience there.[5] He subsequently taught ESL Saudi Arabia in Najran, until he was fired for one of the War Nerd Articles, and shortly after from Timor Leste, where he was fired for writing an article on the Indonesian occupation of Timor. He is currently based out of Europe as he writes his next novel, a re-telling of The Illiad.


Short fiction[edit]




Other publications[edit]

  • Masculinities in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Aotearoa Dunmore Press: Palmerston North (1999). In addition to co-editing with R. Law and H. Campbell, Dolan collaborated on the introduction, one chapter of original material, and an interview. The table of contents is available online.
  • Writing Well, Speaking Clearly, University of Otago Press 1997, ISBN 1-877133-69-8. A textbook.
  • Dolan has acknowledged writing The War Nerd column for The eXile, under the pseudonym Gary Brecher.[6]
  • While this has not been publicly acknowledged by Dolan, critical reading reveals that the club reviews of one 'Denis Salnikov', in The Exile, are very probably his own work as well.

Gary Brecher[edit]

Gary Brecher is the pseudonym of John Dolan, author of The War Nerd, a twice-monthly column discussing current wars and other military conflicts, published originally in the eXile, then NSFWCorp,[7] and currently in PandoDaily. A collection of his columns was published by Soft Skull Press in June 2008 (ISBN 0979663687).

Brecher analyzes military strategy, tactics, and contexts of ongoing and past conflicts. Brecher has participated in radio interviews including a April 5, 2008, interview by Chuck Mertz on the Evanston/Chicago radio station WNUR [8] and a May 25, 2008 interview by Steve Paulson on Wisconsin Public Radio.[9]


Other than the Steve Paulson interview, the only non-eXile source of information about Brecher is an email interview with him conducted by Steve Sailer and published by United Press International.[10] The image at the top of each War Nerd column supposedly representing Brecher is actually that of Roger Edvardsen of the Norwegian rhythm & blues band Ehem.[11]

Brecher claims to have been born in 1965 and to have attended community college after high school, dropping out before graduating.[12] He claims to be employed as a data entry clerk in Fresno, California and deeply unsatisfied with his job.[13] Around that time he met Mark Ames, editor of the Moscow-based, English language newspaper the eXile, who offered Brecher a column. He wrote in his first eXile column that life in Fresno is a "death sentence" and that he spends 15 hours a day in front of a computer ("6 or 7 hours entering civilian numbers for the paycheck and the rest surfing the war news"). The War Nerd has since established a large following of its own, and Brecher's work is a regular subject in the eXile's letters to editor.

No one outside of the eXile has proven any direct interaction with Gary Brecher. Brecher's reclusive nature and the lack of information about him have raised speculation (e.g. during his email interview with Sailer) that Brecher is a pseudonym for another eXile contributor. The use of invented characters is not unprecedented for the eXile.[14]

A Buffalo Beast review [15] of eXile editor John Dolan's novel "Pleasant Hell" states that "a faithful eXile reader [would] have to be as dense as young John Dolan not to realize you’re reading about the birth of 'Gary Brecher' - nome [sic] de guerre of the famed 'War Nerd'." In the memoir, Dolan writes of obsessively studying military history and Jane's manuals while binging on junk food in the basement of a UC Berkeley library building in the mid-seventies. In one War Nerd column, Brecher writes, "I used to spend every free hour, back before there was an internet, going over those big heavy reference books in the library: Jane's Tanks, Jane's Missile Systems, Jane's Combat Vehicles."[16] Also, one should note that in an 2001 eXile article, "Cleanse the World", John Dolan openly admits being a 'war-nerd': "Oh, my poor naive war-nerd brothers, how could you ever have dreamed that Bush...".[17]

On June 25, 2008, the following revelation was published within a short book review in Philadelphia[18] But the War Nerd is, in fact, neither of those things. He is not even Gary Brecher! Brecher is the creation of John Dolan, a poet, novelist, lecturer in English at the University of Victoria, and The eXile co-editor. That's very exciting news for the War Nerd's regular readers: The columns you've been dissecting and debating for the last six years were written by an English professor who writes poetry!

On November 2, 2010, in an interview with Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio,[19] John Dolan spoke for the first time about his Gary Brecher alter-ego which he described as being strongly based on his younger self. During the interview, he described Gary Brecher "as a more honest version of who I really am".

War Nerd writings[edit]

Every two to five weeks, Brecher publishes his War Nerd column in eXile.[needs update] In each installment, Brecher offers his idiosyncratic analyses of armed conflict from a military, political, or (rarely) social standpoint. In his first eXile column, Brecher declared that The War Nerd was to be "a column on how all the wars are going, kind of a war reviewer." He has since migrated to the subscription-only Radio War Nerd podcast,[2] arguably a counterpart to previously established talk radio.

"American peace truly sucks (That's what I live in and work in: American peace. Fresno. Townhouses in a dry riverbed. Scrub acreage with fancy British names. America the hot and stupid)."
"That's why we need a war now and then. You can drain your dick at every bondage site on the web, but you can't really drain your head there, it takes something bigger like a decent war and some of those guncamera shots. I figure about one a year. Which is why this was already a good year."

Brecher describes himself as a nationalist "who just wants America to kick ass." While typically enjoying war as a spectator, Brecher has been highly critical of the foreign policy of the Bush administration. One basis of his critique has been that Bush has gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and possibly planned for war in Iran and North Korea, without publicly defining a sound strategy or acknowledging the ruthlessness required for victory.

Following publication of Brecher's article, "Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor", Hanson responded with an article accusing Brecher of being an anarchist.[20]

In the September 9, 2005 of the eXile, the editors announced that the War Nerd would be suspended without pay for one issue as a result of these accusations. It is doubtful that this was a serious reprimand. Nonetheless, the subsequent issue of the eXile did not contain Brecher's regular column. Another similarly themed Brecher article, 'It’s All Greek to Victor Davis Hanson', appeared in the December 19, 2005 issue of the American Conservative.[21]

On June 24, 2006, Newsday columnist James Pinkerton appeared on Fox News and referenced Brecher's analysis of the alleged Haditha massacre, in which he took the view that, in any war, Haditha-like events are to a great degree unavoidable, as a position held by a distinct "minority" of commentators, but nevertheless "correct".[citation needed] In that column, Brecher stated that massacres like Haditha were a staple of counter-insurgency warfare, but doubted that this particular instance would be of any use to the effort, characterising it as 'too little or too much'.[citation needed]

Brecher has summarized his view of modern warfare as follows:

  1. Most wars are asymmetrical/irregular.
  2. In these wars, the guerrillas/irregulars/insurgents do not aim for military victory.
  3. You cannot defeat these groups by killing lots of their members. In fact, they want you to do that.
  4. Hi-tech weaponry is mostly useless in these wars.
  5. "Hearts and minds," meaning propaganda and morale, are more important than military superiority.
  6. Most people are not rational, they are TRIBAL: "my gang yay, your gang boo!" It really is that simple. The rest is cosmetics.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PandoDaily acquires NSFWCORP to double down on investigative reporting". PandoDaily. November 25, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Radio War Nerd podcast - with a few exceptions,* episodes available by subscription only (*free "unlocked" full episodes or short episode previews usually noted accordingly in the written episode summary descriptions), retrieved April 9, 2017
  3. ^ Dolan, John Carroll (May 1985). Sadean sympathy : genre, pathos and intention in the fiction of the Marquis de Sade, University of California, Berkeley. 346 leaves (University library listing only; abstract not available). Retrieved April 9, 2017
  4. ^ "LIVING WITH CONS AND PAUPERS IN CANADA’S ARCTIC WATERS". The eXile. August 18, 2009. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  5. ^ Dolan, John. "I Was a Professor at the Horribly Corrupt American University of Iraq... Until the Neocons Fired Me". AlterNet. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ Review of 'Pleasant Hell'Buffalo Beast, December 14, 2005
  7. ^ "About NSFWCORP". Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  9. ^ "To the best of our KNOWLEDGE". To the best of our KNOWLEDGE. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  10. ^ War Nerd's Interview with UPI - Sailer, Steve - United Press International, March 2003
  11. ^ "Roger Edvardsen". Archived from the original on March 16, 2004. 
  12. ^ Conceived in Sin: The Online Audience and the Case of the eXile - Dolan, John, April 2005
  13. ^ Meet The War Nerd - Brecher, Gary - the eXile, 2002
  14. ^ Feis the Music! - the eXile, 2003
  15. ^ Review of 'Pleasant Hell' - Buffalo Beast, 14 Dec 2005
  16. ^ Most Valuable Weapon: the RPG - Brecher, Gary - the eXile, 2001
  17. ^ Cleanse the World - Dolan, John - eXile, 2001
  18. ^ Fertig, Tami (July 10-16, 2008). Review of "War Nerd" by Gary Brecher - 4th review from top in Non-Fiction Reviews, first published June 25, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  19. ^ "Gary Brecher «  Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton". 
  20. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (August 26, 2005). "The Paranoid Style". National Review Online. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 23, 2006. Retrieved November 6, 2006. 
  22. ^ "THE EXILE - The Doctrine of Asymmetrical War - By Gary Brecher - The War Nerd". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 

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