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

ALT-AMERICA

THE RISE OF THE RADICAL RIGHT IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

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. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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