An argument that, though seemingly from the fringe, bears consideration as the next election cycle heats up.

THE CULT OF TRUMP

A LEADING CULT EXPERT EXPLAINS HOW THE PRESIDENT USES MIND CONTROL

A psychological portrait of the sitting president, whom the author considers a master of mind control.

Having been a longtime member of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and now an apostate, Hassan (Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, 2012, etc.), the director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, is an authority on breaking away from cults. That there is a “cult of Trump” is something he takes as given; were there not, Evangelical Christians would not be allying with a man twice divorced and, by his own admission, many times adulterous, among other sins of the flesh and spirit. “Trump’s over 500 rallies are far more choreographed and stage-managed than Moon’s assemblies ever were,” writes the author, going on to examine the techniques of gaslighting and outright lying that Trump has employed from the very beginning, “influence techniques with a need for attention and control over others.” Even if one does not accept that Trump is a cult leader as such—all politicians, after all, have their core of true believers—Hassan makes it clear that he is a master of certain rhetorical devices that do not require much intelligence but speak to much practice: the repetition of words and phrases (e.g., “I’m a very stable genius, very smart”) that, through “a primarily unconscious and memory-based process,” lead the listener to think that they must be coming from more than one source and are therefore true, "crowding out analytical thinking and causing the mind to retreat into a kind of trance.” Hassan also counsels that challenging a cult member about the veracity of his or her object of veneration is bound to produce only a defensive reaction; in its place, he offers a diet that includes a good dose of healthy skepticism about what we read and hear. The author’s dark likening of Trump’s followers to those who drank poison at Jonestown is, let us hope, hyperbolic.

An argument that, though seemingly from the fringe, bears consideration as the next election cycle heats up.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982127-33-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 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.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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