Essential reading that shows the straight line that runs from Sandy Hook to Charlottesville and Jan. 6.

SANDY HOOK

AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY AND THE BATTLE FOR TRUTH

A sobering, even depressing book that speaks to the American addiction to conspiracy theories and outright lies.

New York Times writer Williamson has made her beat the prosecution of right-wing ideologues and the dismantling of their machineries of deception. Here, she excoriates Alex Jones, the online blowhard who, soon after a young man killed 20 first graders and six teachers at a Connecticut elementary school, declared the massacre a “false flag” exercise meant to provide the Obama administration the opportunity to attack the Second Amendment. Anyone who followed Jones at the time could have seen his harangues coming; what’s surprising about this account is how so many credentialed academics followed suit, lumping the Sandy Hook killings into a messy cycle of conspiracy theories involving the JFK assassination, 9/11, and other events. Millions of like-minded people who have the right to vote (and own guns) partake of such theories, fanned recently by Trump, the fomenter of a mendacious conspiracy theory that he rightfully won the 2020 presidential election. “From a decade’s distance,” writes Williamson, “Sandy Hook stands as a portent: a warning of the power of unquenchable viral lies to leap the firewalls of decency and tradition, to engulf accepted fact and established science, and to lap at the foundations of our democratic institutions.” Sandy Hook became part and parcel of the paranoiac style of American thought—or perhaps better, nonthought. It can be fought, and Williamson records how the battle was taken into the courtroom, where numerous conspiracy theorists paid for their lies with jury-ruled financial penalties, while Jones’ social media outlets were “deplatformed” and most of the errant academics lost their jobs. We won’t know the outcome of the actions against Jones until 2022, but the author makes it clear that the remedies to curb what Kellyanne Conway called “alternative facts” exist.

Essential reading that shows the straight line that runs from Sandy Hook to Charlottesville and Jan. 6.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4657-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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