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THE WANNABE FASCISTS

A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE GREATEST THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

An important book about the most significant threat to global democracy.

A historian of fascist movements encourages us to use "the f-word" when describing contemporary far-right populist leaders.

During his career, Finchelstein, author of A Brief History of Fascist Lies, has focused his research on the tendency of right-wing populism to escalate into full-blown fascism. The author’s concern is both personal and professional. He was born in Argentina as that nation descended into "gruesome dictatorship.” In November 2020, he authored a prescient Washington Post op-ed that warned readers about a possible coup attempt in the U.S. With this cautionary perspective, Finchelstein describes a new breed of politician willing to destroy democracy for short-term political gain: the "wannabe fascist." He makes a strong case that Trumpism is a new chapter in the history of antidemocratic politics, drawing on research and scholarship into the histories of fascism and populism. He zeroes in on a few key elements of fascism, including political violence and the militarization of politics; lies and propaganda; xenophobia; and dictatorship. In his sobering analysis, features of Trumpism seem eerily reminiscent of past fascist history. Trump's cries of "witch hunt" echo fascist warrior-martyr tropes, and social media outlets provide him with what historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat calls “a direct channel to the people.” Furthermore, Trump's comments on the "infection" of immigrants reflect classic fascism's need for "mortal enemies" and their dehumanization. Similarly, the GOP's blithe enabling of Trumpism recalls earlier apathetic responses to the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. In an epilogue, Finchelstein considers whether the world is on the cusp of a deep shift into fascism, assessing the global potential for a destruction of democracies from within. He implores readers "to learn from history to gain an understanding of the fascist dangers of the present,” and he provides a cogent user's manual for making those vital connections.

An important book about the most significant threat to global democracy.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780520392496

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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