Ever since American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Chomsky has been obsessed with uncovering the pernicious relationships between state power, intellectuals, and the media (especially print). In this collection of 13 previously published essays—plus a new introduction and two new afterwords—he is still on the scent. Loosely grouped, eight of the selections deal with the Cold War, four with the Middle East, and one with East Timor. In Chomsky's view of the world, there is the truth, which he culls from a stupefying amount of news and documentary material; and then there is propaganda and falsehood, which amounts to most of what everyone else has to say about the truth that Chomsky knows. Much of what he contends makes a good deal of sense, but it gets twisted through the vehemence with which he says it. For example, he rails against American indifference to the Indonesian invastion of East Timor (and subsequent massacres), rightly pointing out that the Indonesians are supplied with American weapons and would be susceptible to American pressure: the US could mitigate the suffering. By contrast, the American media have made a great deal of events in Cambodia, a situation similar to that in East Timor—which, however, the US cannot influence, because Washington refuses to enter into diplomatic relations with Hanoi. Thus Chomsky concludes that there's a virtual conspiracy of silence in the media over East Timor and a highly effective propaganda campaign to exploit the situation in Vietnam. Given the blinkered approach of the American press to world events, US involvement in Southeast Asia goes a long way to explain why the media pay attention to any "good story" there; but Chomsky gets so exercised that he winds up pushing "his" national tragedy over the official one: forget about Cambodia, what about Timor? Sometimes, true, Chomsky's stridency is almost justified—Henry Kissinger's memoirs are "vacuous," Guenther Lewy's pseudo-scholarly whitewash of American actions in Vietnam is a "squalid tract"—but overall it undercuts his arguments. In essence, Chomsky is an anti-statist, and his enemies are his fellow-intellectuals who fail to see the catastrophic effects of state power and who, knowingly or not, aid and abet the interests represented by the state. His first book of political essays was an important assault on those foes, but the subsequent ones have grown increasingly high-strung, which helps neither Chomsky nor his cause.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1981

ISBN: 1565848594

Page Count: 539

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1981

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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

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