A messy but enlightening recap of the lessons of a tragic far-right gathering in Charlottesville.

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CONFESSIONS OF A FREE SPEECH LAWYER

CHARLOTTESVILLE AND THE POLITICS OF HATE

An analysis of what went wrong at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, and the social and historical forces that led up to it.

Nobody was prepared for a white supremacist to ram his car into the crowd at the rally, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many other counterprotestors. Who was to blame? Smolla, a civil liberties lawyer and dean of the Widener University Delaware Law School, weighs the evidence in a tangled mix of memoir, legal scholarship, and a timeline of the actions of the police, demonstrators, and elected officials on Aug. 12. The author sets the stage by analyzing related First Amendment cases, showing that while the U.S. Supreme Court has moved to the right, the liberal and conservative justices remain “remarkably aligned” on one issue: free speech, and especially the idea that laws can’t suppress it just because it offends “the prevailing views of good order and morality.” Since the 1960s, free speech has gained enough protections that people of any political stripe may take violent offense to its messages, a possibility for which Charlottesville was inadequately prepared. In the run-up to the rally, writes Smolla, “the lines of communication and coordination among the four law enforcement agencies in and around Charlottesville were shockingly deficient.” The Charlottesville Police Department and the Virginia State Police, for example, didn’t establish radio communications on the same channel. The author gives a repetitious and poorly edited account of such lapses; the narrative lacks the polish of far better memoirs by crusading lawyers, such as Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Yet it’s hard to imagine a mayor or police chief who—in planning for the arrival of controversial figures—wouldn’t profit from Smolla’s account of the cascade of missteps in Charlottesville. Ultimately, the raw facts of the events described transcend their disorganized presentation.

A messy but enlightening recap of the lessons of a tragic far-right gathering in Charlottesville.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5017-4965-0

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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