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ALT-AMERICA

THE RISE OF THE RADICAL RIGHT IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

A prescient discussion of one of the darkest issues facing America today.

An alarming, well-researched account of how the far-right extremist underground became empowered in the era of Trump.

Journalist Neiwert (Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us, 2015, etc.) takes a long view, noting how “most Americans did not realize that far from going extinct, these groups had been growing and flourishing in recent years.” To explain this, he returns to the 1990s, “when the radical right first began to try to mainstream itself as a ‘patriot’ and militia movement.” The author documents how mainstream conservatives helped legitimize such groups while purportedly staying aloof from their bigotry. Simultaneously, a profitable right-wing media juggernaut fed the incivility and provided a constant stream of propagandistic viewpoints, barely checked following movement-related atrocities like the Oklahoma City or Olympics bombings. While militia culture declined during the Bush years, 9/11 ramped up a “nativist backlash…[alleging] that ‘white culture’ was under attack in the form of this ‘invasion’ of brown faces speaking foreign tongues.” As Neiwert notes, Barack Obama’s presidency unified the racist right and mainstream conservatism; their denial of his legitimacy inspired the “Birther” movement and, ultimately, Trump’s campaign. Concurrently, seemingly trivial online episodes like the misogynist “Gamergate” video game controversy were unifying disparate factions in the alienated, intolerant “Manosphere,” communicating through raunchy memes that normalized racism. The author further examines the rise of a young, media-savvy generation of online white supremacists and “academic racists,” who connected with Trump’s coded appeals to racial grievance. Ultimately, “the interrelated but often disputatious spheres occupied by the followers of these ideologies were united by Donald Trump.” The author documents a great deal of violence, committed by those influenced by the universe of bigoted conspiracy theory through which he guides readers. He writes in a clear, cool fashion, aware that this shameful political tale may signal a “potentially dangerous proto-fascist” future, the subject of his epilogue.

A prescient discussion of one of the darkest issues facing America today.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78663-423-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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