In this brief yet vigorous broadside, Kalb concludes that the media must shoulder the burden of checking the authoritarian...



The press is the enemy of the people? No, writes veteran journalist Kalb (Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War, 2015, etc.): That’s just another presidential projection.

In a sense, the free press is its own defense as a guarantor of a free society. But only in a sense, and it has frequently come under attack, especially under the administrations of Richard Nixon and now Donald Trump. Of the latter, the author, now associated with the Brookings Institution, confesses to not having taken him seriously, adding, “and when I did, finally, it was too late.” Trump constantly attacks the press as the ocean attacks the beach, gnawing away at it so when journalists present evidence of his bad behavior, he can brush it away. Ironically, as Kalb notes, an early master of this strategy was Democratic advance man Pat Caddell, who worked for Jimmy Carter before going over to the Breitbart side of the force and pushing the thesis that the press was an instrument of the elite—and worse yet, “the network anchors and newspaper columnists themselves had become part of the elite, and they had to be made the target of an angry, outlier candidate.” Enter Trump. While not necessarily sanguine about the chances, Kalb looks closely at the clash of visions between Joseph McCarthy and Dwight Eisenhower more than 60 years ago, with the hopeful thought that some like force might help temper Trump. However, he notes, McCarthy “was the most popular Republican in the country” after Ike himself. McCarthy connects to Roy Cohn, and Cohn to Trump, who learned his lessons well: Never admit error, and never apologize. While there’s a little too much appeal here to the ghost of Edward R. Murrow and perhaps not enough practical resistance, the author rightly points out how the media brought some of the trouble on themselves by allowing Trump all the oxygen in the room—which can be fixed.

In this brief yet vigorous broadside, Kalb concludes that the media must shoulder the burden of checking the authoritarian impulse at work today: “There is no other option.”

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8157-3530-4

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Brookings Institution Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?