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OUTRAGE MACHINE

HOW TECH AMPLIFIES DISCONTENT AND DISRUPTS DEMOCRACY—AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

Based on solid research, this is a disturbing examination of the destructive impact of social media.

A study of how social media has become a driver of division and hatred.

When the internet first appeared, many observers thought it would bring people together through the exchange of information, news, and opinions. While that is true, it has also become a collection of dangerous echo chambers where minor disagreements quickly escalate into savage confrontations. Rose-Stockwell, a journalist specializing in technology issues, delves into how this happened. There are evolutionary reasons, he notes, for the human brain to focus on urgent, emotional signals, and a crucial aspect of civilization is that it tamps down instinctive responses in favor of moderation and tolerance. Social media aims at the primal parts of the psyche, including a desire to be part of a tribal in-group. The companies that run social media quickly realized that there was money to be made by promoting extremism on both sides of the political spectrum and, conversely, little profit in asking people to think rather than feel. Rose-Stockwell examines the key words, phrases, images, and ideas that are used to keep people glued to their screens, simmering with anger and fear. Eventually, the brain accepts outrage as the norm, and social ties contract to a small circle of the like-minded. The author suggests ways to reverse this pattern—e.g., think before you post, keep track of how much time you spend on social media, and seek to build relationships instead of shouting at strangers. These are solid ideas, but there is a sense of too little, too late. Like most addictions, the process of recovery begins with an acceptance that there is a problem, and it seems unlikely that the chronically outraged would do that. There is a way out of the anger trap, but you have to want to leave. Rose-Stockwell capably diagnoses the illness, but the remedy remains elusive.

Based on solid research, this is a disturbing examination of the destructive impact of social media.

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780306923326

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Legacy Lit/Hachette

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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