by Mike Wendling ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2018
A thoughtful distillation of research that is sadly relevant to our current political moment.
The factions and personalities behind the so-called alt-right, associated both with a white nationalist resurgence and Donald Trump.
BBC senior broadcast journalist Wendling has experience in investigating political extremism, which familiarized him with the unpleasant online “trolling” culture that seemed central to alt-right politics. He finds the alt-right fascinating due to its amorphous nature, terming it “an incredibly loose set of ideologies held together by what they oppose: feminism, Islam, the Black Lives Matter movement, political correctness, a fuzzy idea they call ‘globalism,’ and establishment politics of both the left and the right.” The author distinguishes between “the so-called ‘alt-light’ and a harder core,” lumping cynical provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos in the former group and the latter, “people who are devoted to the idea of ethno-nationalism.” For both factions, “the heady days between Trump’s victory and his inauguration were the high-water mark for the popularity and cohesiveness of the alt-right.” Wendling narrates the improbable journey of Trump and his acolytes in chapters focused on a particular subgrouping of the alt-right—e.g. “Ordinary Guys,” “Conspiracy Theorists,” “The Violent Fringe.” He first looks at the far-right intellectuals who, disheartened by Barack Obama’s election, termed themselves “paleoconservatives” opposed to multiculturalism and immigration, inspiring white supremacist Richard Spencer to develop “a raw online communications strategy.” A consensus developed among users of the anything-goes message board 4chan and angry mens’ rights activists, pickup artists, and video game fans, evident in the Gamergate movement, which targeted women in gaming for abuse. Meanwhile, media figures like Steve Bannon and Alex Jones normalized conspiracy theories while attacking progressives. All these ugly threads came together in the 2016 election via “a technical and philosophical alliance between the alt-right and pro-Putin activists online.” Wendling writes clearly, bolstering his argument with the words and activities of fringe figures, yet in concluding the alt-right movement has evoked its own obsolescence, he underestimates the violent potential of white supremacy’s mainstreaming.A thoughtful distillation of research that is sadly relevant to our current political moment.
Pub Date: April 15, 2018
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Pluto Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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