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THE REVOLUTION THAT WASN’T

HOW DIGITAL ACTIVISM FAVORS CONSERVATIVES

A rather arid but useful work in the sociology of political communication.

Academic study of how contending political groups do—or do not—leverage digital media in their quests to recruit support and members.

Focusing on the workers rights movement in the battleground state of North Carolina, documentary filmmaker and sociologist Schradie points out a great gulf in technological sophistication between left and right, with the former “having belatedly awoken to the notion that they were on the wrong side of a digital political divide that they weren’t even aware existed.” Part of the problem, writes the author in a book likely to appeal most to sociologists and aspiring digital activists, is that many working-class labor activists have neither the interest nor the resources required to master social media even as conservative activists manage to form themselves into “hierarchical organizations” with the money to buy computers and the people committed to getting their message out. Thus, Schradie suggests, the image the words “digital activist” should conjure is not of a left-wing student or labor activist but instead a well-heeled think-tank denizen or technologically adept tea party member. Though the latter groups tend to be well-funded, it’s not only money that carries the day; it’s that very hierarchical organization that seems central. Moreover, as Schradie observes, the decline of traditional journalism has come in an atmosphere in which rightward organizations such as Fox News and Breitbart have filled the vacuum even as left-leaning publications have struggled to find space in the cybersphere and funding to permit them to compete. “As a result,” she notes, “digital evangelists were able to spread their anti-government message in sync with the convergence and ascent of social media, conservative news, and the Christian right.” If they are to compete, leftist activists must do more to gain access to media and attain the skills necessary to put out a coherent message; if not, the gulf will only grow.

A rather arid but useful work in the sociology of political communication.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-674-97233-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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