Many of these points were made with greater intellectual rigor in William Bernstein’s Masters of the Word (2013), and...

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WRITING ON THE WALL

SOCIAL MEDIA—THE FIRST 2,000 YEARS

The technologies are different, but the habit of sharing information horizontally and in two directions is a lot older than the Internet, argues the Economist’s digital editor.

Indeed, writes Standage (An Edible History of Humanity, 2009, etc.), it’s the mass media of the 19th and 20th centuries that are the anomalies. Humans are innately social animals, “built to form networks with others and to exchange information with them.” Once writing was invented and literacy became relatively widespread in ancient Rome, news could be shared outside a small, physically proximate group, and “the stage was set for the emergence of the first social-media ecosystem.” Educated Romans spread news (and gossip) by letters, which they expected to be copied and passed on, similar to the way emails are forwarded and tweets are retweeted today. Standage draws similar parallels between the Internet and the printed pamphlets that spread the Protestant revolution in the 16th century and the American and French ones in the 18th. Among the many other, sometimes-specious historical precedents he cites are the coffee houses in which 17th-century Europeans gathered to exchange news and poetry circulated in manuscript among members of the Elizabethan elite. The author’s main point is well-taken: In the mid 19th century, steam printing presses made it possible to print newspapers much faster and sell them much more cheaply; they also made it much more expensive to set up and maintain a newspaper, which now involved a staff of paid professional journalists. Radio and TV expanded this trend of disseminating information from the top down, with particularly sinister results in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The creation of the World Wide Web allowed people to reclaim their traditional roles in both spreading news and commenting on it.

Many of these points were made with greater intellectual rigor in William Bernstein’s Masters of the Word (2013), and Standage’s habit of seeing a proto-Internet in every historical use of media eventually prompts fatigue and disbelief.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-283-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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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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