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




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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?