A potent call for democracies to resist the insidious encroachment of fascism.

HOW FASCISM WORKS

THE POLITICS OF US AND THEM

A philosopher examines political tactics that give rise to fascism.

The son of immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, Stanley (Philosophy/Yale Univ.; How Propaganda Works, 2015, etc.) has directly observed the consequences of fascism. Troubled that fascist politics is on the rise throughout the world, he offers an analysis of the many strategies that fascist regimes employ: publicizing the idea of a mythic past, use of propaganda and conspiracy theories, anti-intellectualism, the replacement of “reasoned debate with fear and anger,” casting doubt on the media, denial of equality and insistence on a hierarchy legitimized by nature (e.g., whites being superior to nonwhites), propagation of a culture of victimhood, campaigns based on law and order, incitement of male sexual anxiety, appeals to rural voters and suspicion of cosmopolitan urban dwellers, and perpetuation of a national conflict between “us” and “them,” based on ethnic, religious, and racial identities. Like Madeleine Albright and Timothy Snyder in their recent books, Stanley sees fascism threatening democracies, not least in the United States, where Donald Trump has all the earmarks of a fascist leader. Drawing on research by sociologists, philosophers, and other scholars—as well as sources such as his grandmother’s memoir of Nazi Germany and Mein Kampf—Stanley argues convincingly that fascists employ “legitimation myths” to promote their ideas, exploiting, for example, “a human tendency to organize society hierarchically” to justify the idea that “the principle of equality is a denial of natural law.” Fascists foment the distinction between “us” and “them” by using specific coded language, which psychologists call Linguistic Intergroup Bias, to describe individuals’ actions. Using the term “criminal” to describe murder, traffic violations, and political protest “changes attitudes and shapes policy.” Fascists stir up suspicion of intellectuals by presenting “liberal tolerance” as synonymous with “elite privilege.” Stanley also rightly worries about complacency: Many of his grandmother’s friends and neighbors refused to acknowledge the Nazi threat until it was too late; today, the “normalization of extreme policies” poses an urgent challenge.

A potent call for democracies to resist the insidious encroachment of fascism.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51183-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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