Despite its flaws, this book should help readers understand how organizations work, from the smallest nonprofit group to the...


The Book of Meme Law


A social psychologist explains how human groups or memes organize and operate, to the detriment and sometimes the benefit of civilization.

Minshall (The Jesus Book, 2012, etc.) describes memes as a “post personal force” that can aid society, but are often “the force behind all human tragedy.” The reason: once people join a meme, they yield their sense of morality to its amorality. Simply “Human Social Constructs,” memes form around a unifying idea or cause but then take on lives of their own. As with all living things, survival becomes paramount. More often destroyed from within rather than by external forces, memes may manufacture enemies to cement loyalty among followers. Minshall describes and dissects different types of memes, including nonprofit groups, government agencies, and corporations. The apparent leaders of memes, such as popes, presidents, and CEOs, seldom hold the real power. Bureaucrats, major stockholders, unions, or wealthy family dynasties typically call the shots. “The Cadre” or “enablers,” such as police and soldiers, enforce the social order, while “The Workers and Doers,” or producers, form the majority of members and accomplish most of the tasks. The lowest rungs include “Marginals,” such as youths and legal aliens, and “Outsiders,” including intruders, migrants, and illegal aliens, who are exploited as they try to gain a foothold. Although individuals may believe they can change the meme by rising to the top, it will either alter or expel them. Why not get rid of memes? Although they cause war and other havoc, memes also create the world’s positive things. Minshall has written a captivating book that can help anyone understand group behavior and why politicians promising change so seldom achieve it. His writing style is free-form and fluid, with touches of humor that sometimes fall flat with weak puns. The volume, littered with weird capitalization, superfluous exclamation points, and spelling mistakes of common as well as proper nouns, such as “Mark Zukerberg,” “Jack Welsh,” and “Julius Cesar,” cries out for a skillful editor and proofreader. It would also bolster Minshall’s case if he backed up his arguments with more footnotes. Like most critiques, this book is long on criticism but short on solutions, which seem in this case to boil down to hoping the United Nations will somehow get memes under control.

Despite its flaws, this book should help readers understand how organizations work, from the smallest nonprofit group to the largest political entity.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9642773-7-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Renaissance Institute Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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