Thoughtful proposals for protecting the integrity of news.

SAVING THE NEWS

WHY THE CONSTITUTION CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION TO PRESERVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The federal government has a moral and constitutional right to regulate digital platforms.

In the latest installment of the publisher’s Inalienable Rights series, longtime Harvard Law School professor Minow offers a cogent analysis of the contemporary news ecosystem along with suggestions for much-needed reforms. Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and the author’s father, notes in his preface that “two words—public interest—are disappearing from communications policy.” With the dominance of digital sources, he adds, speech has become so democratized “that no one can be heard, bad actors flood social media, and democratic deliberation is damaged.” The author identifies major problems in news access, such as the declining roles of professional journalists and news outlets; the rise of “foreign actors, bots, and manipulative interests” on digital platforms; and the turning over of editorial activity to algorithms. Without reforms, she writes, “access to information, checks on falsehoods, government accountability, and journalism exposing corruption and other abuses of power are all in severe jeopardy.” The Constitution does not preclude governmental intervention, she asserts; “the First Amendment constrains Congress from abridging the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, but it does not bar actions to strengthen them.” At present, antitrust law, tax law, government subsidies, intellectual property law, and libel and defamation laws all coexist with the First Amendment. Minow examines a series of possible reforms, including requiring payment for news circulated on social media, to help support journalists and editors; curtailing immunity of platforms such as Google and Facebook to liability suits; regulating large digital platforms as public utilities; enforcing terms of service agreements to guard against fraud and deception; regulating and enforcing fraud protections; and supporting nonprofit consumer-protection efforts and nonprofit news sources. Acknowledging that “no one initiative would be sufficient,” Minow underscores the urgency of restoring public interest to communications policy.

Thoughtful proposals for protecting the integrity of news.

Pub Date: July 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-094841-2

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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