Astutely analyzed but dryly written. Not exactly a knee-slapper for the general reading public, though its insights will...

POLITICS IS A JOKE!

HOW TV COMEDIANS ARE REMAKING POLITICAL LIFE

Political humor on late-night TV is serious business, as three academics show in this study.

Listed as lead author, Lichter (Communication/George Mason Univ.; co-author: The Global President: International Media and the U.S. Government, 2013, etc.) is the director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which has been tracking political humor on TV for a quarter-century, compiling a database of 102,435 jokes from 1992 through 2011. Why 1992? It inaugurated “the golden age of political humor”—partly due to the change in the mainstream media culture, which now felt free to report salacious details of private lives that might previously have been kept secret (giving JFK, FDR and others a comparatively free pass), and partly due to the variety and latitude afforded by cable. Perhaps most importantly, however, was the ascendance of “scandalizer-in-chief” Bill Clinton, who “easily trumps his competitors as the all-time favorite target of late night comedians.” The academic prose by committee, augmented by graphs and charts, provides a jarring contrast with the edginess of the jokes, many of them still very funny (if dated). There is some provocative conjecture on how the negativity of the jokes (which almost all of them are) affects the public perceptions of the politicians and the process as a whole, though the authors admit that their work “shows how difficult it is to sort out the relationship among news, jokes and candidate evaluations” and that “if the jokes follow from the news, then it may be the news that is having the real effect.” Yet this study could well serve as a resource for other cultural analyses written in a livelier fashion, and it should be required reading for political strategists whose candidates’ images are both shaped and reflected by TV humor.

Astutely analyzed but dryly written. Not exactly a knee-slapper for the general reading public, though its insights will find their ways into the mainstream media.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8133-4717-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Westview/Perseus

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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