The great enemy of social media, it would seem, is any notion of objective truth. This eye-opening book reveals a theater of...

WAR IN 140 CHARACTERS

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS RESHAPING CONFLICT IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them with our thumbs….

“War, a virus, must mutate to survive.” So writes political journalist Patrikarakos (Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State, 2012), who posits that in at least one manifestation of modern war, what matters is less boots-on-the-ground victory than which narrative about what’s happening emerges as the most convincing. In that regard, marketing, public relations, and counterintelligence become as critical as special ops forces. The author finds an example in his own experience in Ukraine as Russian separatists attempted to carve off a portion of the country as well as in a close study of the Islamic State group and other nonstate actors. This kind of warfare is nebulous, fought between nation-states and sometimes not easily identified enemies, and it often involves citizens, individually or in network; it is open-ended, and because of that, it is not easy to determine when and how victory or defeat can be declared. The great avatar of this new warfare, writes the author, is Donald Trump, who “employed Twitter as one of his primary campaign tools”—and continues to do so in office. “This is both a force for good,” writes Patrikarakos, “in that it brings greater transparency, and a force for ill, in that it is destabilizing.” Destroying any semblance of stability being the great desideratum of strongmen and terrorists alike, social media is now a much-used weapon in the modern arsenal. Traveling from “troll farms” in Russia to jihadi corners of YouTube, the author studies how social media is used to undermine truthful accounts of events, recruit radicals, sow confusion, and overturn old doctrines of warfare. “How do you defeat Islamic State,” he writes meaningfully, “when its demands are such that it can never be met?”

The great enemy of social media, it would seem, is any notion of objective truth. This eye-opening book reveals a theater of conflict that aims to destroy reality, waged by all sides.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09614-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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 Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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