HUMANITIES SELF-IMMOLATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Assad or We Burn the Country

By: Sam Dagher

Narrated by Gary Tiedemann

Sam Dagher (Author, senior correspondent for the Wall Street Journal)

Humanity is at war with itself.  Sam Dagher’s examination of Syria and the Assad government exposes the depth of humanities self-immolation.  Bashar Assad’s atrocities in Syria represent the indecency of power and money in the hands of autocratic leaders.  Autocrats are never exactly alike but each is corrupted by money and power.

Bashar Hafez al-Assad (Syrian President since 2000, son of Hafez al-Assad)

Hafez al-Assad (Syrian President 1971-2000.)

For Syria’s atrocities, every country in the world is guilty.  All are guilty because of apathy, support, or complicity. Dagher spares no one.  America, Russia, Turkey, France, Great Britain, Iran, Syrian generals, and indigenous Syrian leaders are complicit in the slaughter of innocents.

Hafez first son is groomed to takeover after Hafez’s death. Bassel was a Syrian engineer, colonel, and heir apparent but he dies in a car crash before Hafez’s death.

Seated are Hafez and his wife Anisa Makhlouf. From left to right in the back row are Maher, Bashar, Bassel, Majid, and Bushra.

Dagher paints a picture of a feckless son of Syria’s deceased brutal dictator.  Bashar al-Asaad assumes power as President of Syria after the death of his father. He is characterized by Dagher as an effete leader with poor leadership skill who inherits a job for which he is ill qualified. (Bashar graduated from medical school in 1988 and worked as a doctor in the Syrian army. He had little military training.)  

Dagher suggests Bashar inherits money and power with the sole purpose of aggrandizing himself and his family.  Political, military, and economic wealth and power are bequeathed to Assad family members. Syrian money and power rest with relatives ranging from distant cousins to the President.

Dagher notes that Bashar uses his power and position to order imprisonment, torture, and murder of anyone opposing him. Dagher suggests Bashar sleeps with any woman he wants (married or not). In the mean time, he, his wife, and family live in isolated luxury. 

Bashar al-Assad Palace (aka Shaab Palce overlooking Damascus)

With Bashar’s inherited money, power, and position, he rewards his family, bribes his generals, arrests, tortures, and murders his opposition. To complete Dagher’s picture, he notes Bashar fawns on world leaders who socially or militarily support his rule.  

Dagher reports on Bashar’s murder of Syrians.  Bashar is shown as a vengeful leader playing one faction against another to maintain his power and position. 

Religion is used as a tool to hide Bashar’s intent to remain in power.  Bashar paints himself as a protector of Christians from Muslim fanatics when his real motive is to cover brutal treatment of Muslim believers.

Bashar is shown to hide behind terrorism preached by Dash (aka ISIS) to justify gassing of his own people.  Dagher shows Bashar’s duplicity when he encourages Russian and Iranian intervention when his own people will not defend his regime.  Every country, including America, has their own agenda in the Syrian war.  Syrian war victims are fertilizer for Bashar’s ambition.

There are many complicit stories about America in Dagher’s exposure of Assad’s cruelty.  President Obama’s red-line statement about use of poison gas with no response from America; President Trump’s support of Russian intervention in a war that uses chlorine bombs to kill Syrian people; Turkey’s support of Bashar in return for repatriation of Kurdish territory; Iran’s intervention in Syria to put down Dash in return for political support from Bashar. Abu Bakr al-Baghdady-once a compatriot of Bashar and then the leader of Dash (Isis).

Dagher paints a frightening picture of Bashar and his wife.  It is a picture of self-delusion that endorses murder of their own people.  Bashar and his wife live in luxury while the Syrian people are murdered and starved.  Dagher contrasts Bashar’s wife’s placation of Syrian mothers with Syrian army atrocities. It reminds one of the French Revolution when Louis the XVI, and Marie Antoinette live in luxury while the public starves.

Asma al-Assad is the First Lady of Syria.  Born and raised in London, a graduate in computer science and French literature from King’s College.

Asma supports her husband’s atrocity.  She sees it as a justified means to modernize Syria.  A cynic would suggest her justification has more to do with Assad wealth and privilege than modernization.

Humanity is at war with itself.  There seems no end to violence in the world.  What is the solution?  Neither real-politic nor “let it be” answer the question.

BULLY FOR YOU

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Topeka School

By: Ben Lerner

Narrated by Nancy Linari, Peter Berkrot, Tristan Wright

Ben Lerner is a writer with academic and literary awards that attest to his intelligence and accomplishment. 

“The Topeka School” appeals to those who are blessed with intelligence, raised by accomplished parents, and unburdened by financial insecurity.  It is a story of a child bully that grows into adulthood.

“The Topeka School” makes one wonder what makes a child become a bully.  Does affluence have anything to do with it?  Is it because of superior intelligence?  Is it because of genetic pre-disposition?  Lerner creates a boy’s childhood that suggests some bullies do come from the aforementioned. 

Adam Gordon is Lerner’s main character in “The Topeka School”.  Adam is a highly competitive youth who excels in public debate because of his innate intelligence, training, and articulateness.  His mother and father are accomplished professionals. 

Adam is a body builder who suffers from migraine headaches.  The source of his headaches is not clearly known. Adam is treated by a psychiatrist and emotionally supported by his parents.

By the end of Lerner’s story, Adam has grown into a responsible adult.  His journey involves many experiences that resonate with all boys who grow to manhood.  To a large extent, Adam outgrows his penchant for bullying by resorting to reason rather than force when confronted with opposition.  However, he can still lose his temper when reason and polite argument are ignored. 

Lerner tells a story of an incident in a park with a father who condones his son’s bullying of Adam’s two daughters.  The young boy will not allow the daughters to play on a public park slide. The little bully resorts to calling the girls ugly and refuses to let the daughters on the slide.

Adam sees the father sitting on a bench in the park observing his boy’s behavior. Adam walks over to the bench to talk to the father. He fails to persuade the father to discipline his bullying son He asks the father to tell his son to share the slide.  The father argues the children should work it out among themselves. Adam explains the “ugly” insult to his daughters and that the boy would not allow them to use the slide.

The father demurs and tells Adam to quit talking to him. In frustration, Adam slaps a phone out of the father’s hand.  Whether the incident grows beyond the slapped phone is unrevealed but, under the circumstance, Adam’s frustration seems justified; not as a bully, but as an aggrieved parent.

“The Topeka School” largely takes place in the 1990 s but is brought current with a reference to family separation actions of ICE; warranted by President Trump. 

Adam and his foreign born wife and two children attend an ICE’ protest. Adam confronts an ICE officer who tells him to have his daughter stop drawing on the sidewalk outside of the ICE office. Adam engages the officer with arguments about public space and the erasable nature of chalk on a sidewalk. Adam handles the confrontation as a mature adult; not a bully.

The structure of “The Topeka School” is disconcerting and may make some reader/listeners put the book down.  The book will lose some who cannot identify with Lerner’s characters because of their social status and accomplishment in life.  The struggles of the Gordon family seem distant from the lives of many people who do not come from families as smart or financially accomplished as those in Lerner’s story.

CARROLL AND FEYNMAN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Something Deeply Hidden (Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

By: Sean Carroll

Narrated by Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist.  He explains the science of physics to the general public with unusual clarity for non-scientists.  “Something Deeply Hidden” explains a theory that has the potential for explaining everything about everything.

Carroll touches on the theoretical history of Quantum Mechanics.  He notes the fundamental objection to Quantum Mechanics raised by Einstein and his followers.

Einstein insists that Quantum Mechanics is an incomplete theory of space, time, and motion.  Einstein’s famous quote is “God does not play dice with the universe.”  Carroll agrees. 

Neither Einstein or Carroll are talking about belief in God but belief that there is a deeply hidden secret in Quantum Mechanics that may explain everything about everything.

Carroll recalls the history of the 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference where quantum theory was discussed by the world’s most notable physicists. 

The confrontation between Niels Bohr and Einstein results in agreement on the truth of Quantum Mechanics as a construct for calculation of space, time, and motion in the sub-atomic world.  The disagreement comes with Bohr’s opinions about Quantum Mechanics.  Einstein suggests Quantum Mechanics is an incomplete description of subatomic unpredictability. 

Carroll explains that Quantum Mechanics has been reinforced as true by every experiment tried since its discovery.  It fulfills Karl Popper’s dictum that a theory of anything must be falsifiable to be called science. 

The many experiments on Quantum Mechanics have proven its validity as a theory of time, space, and motion in the sub-atomic world. 

However, Quantum Mechanics remain a subject that Richard Feynman said no one can clearly explain or understand. 

Carroll accepts Feynman’s and Einstein’s views.  The theory of Quantum Mechanics is not explainable and (as Einstein suggested) it may simply be an incomplete theory.

Carroll suggests Quantum Mechanics remains unexplainable because of human inability to observe its truth from what is called a superposition.  We cannot look at Quantum Mechanics outside the realm of personal cognition.

His answer is to acknowledge its truth by adhering to the Schrodinger equation which insists that a cat in a box is both dead and alive.  Carroll argues that scientists waste their time challenging Schrodinger’s equation.  Carroll suggests the cat in the box is both dead (actually Carroll prefers asleep) and alive.

Carroll argues that probability is an essential ingredient of Quantum Mechanics but he explains it is not the “probability” often understood by the public.  Carroll’s view of probability is in knowing our human limitation of not being able to look at nature outside of what we understand as nature.

Humans cannot be in a superposition to see the effect of Quantum Mechanics because humans are trapped in their own sense of space, time, and motion.  Probability, rather than certainty, is a function of a personal observation trap.

What Carroll suggests is other worlds are created because of the nature of Quantum Fields that are the essence of everything that exists in the universe.

Carroll explains particle physics were once considered the holy grail of understanding nature.  Now, there is wide recognition that fields; not particles, are the building blocks of nature.  Every particle vibrates like a string and emits a wave that permeates all space; including a vacuum where no particles exist. 

Empty space is simply a low state of energy with no extant particles within its emptiness (aka a vacuum).  It is not to suggest particles are not important.  They are the source of the waves that permeate space. 

Finding the Higgs-bosun is confirmation of the importance of particles in showing that it is undiscovered glue that holds atoms together.

Carroll’s books are excellent physics primers for non-scientists because they reduce science complexity to understandable examples; at least most of the time.  (Space-time remains a mystery to me; even with Carroll’s valiant effort to explain it.) He may not be right about everything he explains, and a listener/readers’ interpretation of his writing may be wrong, but Carroll’s explanations are fascinating. 

Feynman is said to have had the ability to explain the complexity of physics to the non-scientist. Carroll is today’s Feynman.  

BAD PARENTING

Kevin Wilson (American writer from Sewanee, Tennessee).

Bad parenting is endemic in America. Wilson offers four examples in “Nothing to See Here”.

In the richest country in the world, Americans waste their lives seeking money, power, and prestige at the expense of their children.

The heroine of Wilson’s story is a child raised by a neglectful single parent. The “friend” is an acquaintance from an exclusive and expensive school that the heroine attends because of her superior intelligence.

The two young girls become “friends” in the boarding school. The “friend” is from a wealthy and privileged family. She has great ambition, superior athletic skill, and extraordinary beauty. The “friend” slips into the thrill of drugs and is caught with a bag of cocaine. Her father comes to her rescue by bribing the mother of the heroine with $10,000 to say it was her daughter and not his that had the cocaine.

The young heroine has no say in the matter but she idolizes her “friend” and chooses to go along with the lie. She is expelled from the school, returns to her mother’s home, and works at odd jobs until several years later when she hears from her childhood friend. The heroine is now twenty eight with few prospects in life.

The parenting quality of Wilson’s next two families is revealed when the heroine’s friend calls to ask a favor. The favor is to take care of two children that literally catch on fire when frustrated or angry.

The “friend” marries a rich southerner who divorces his wife and marries the “friend” because she is beautiful and a highly capable manager of her husband’s campaign as a Senator. He is a Senator with interest in becoming a Secretary of State; and maybe future President of the U.S.

However, his ex-wife commits suicide, leaving their two children to her aged parents who are too old and unhealthy to raise the children. His ex-wife home-schooled the twins because of their penchant to catch on fire. The children are isolated from society, and are now being raised by incompetent grandparents.

The rich southerner becomes Secretary of State but chooses to abandon his two children because of their “catch on fire” notoriety. He now has a new wife and son by his second marriage. One presumes the “catch on fire” character of his former wife’s children is a genetic anomaly that came from his ex-wife. However, it turns out–the child of the Senator’s new wife also catches on fire. The genetic anomaly, if that is the cause of the “fire” children, came from the father.

A new favor is asked by the heroine’s “friend”. Please take care of the twins for the rest of your life, and keep them out of the Secretary of State’s daily life. The twins are abandoned by their father and his new wife.

The irony of Wilson’s story is the resurrection of the heroine as a parental surrogate for the abandoned children. She becomes a parent that outshines the four dysfunctional families of the story. At least, we hope so.

A PUNCH IN THE FACE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

American Carnage (On the front-line of the Republican Civil War and the rise of President Trump)

By: Tim Alberta

Narrated by Jason Culp

Tim Alberta (Author, Politico reporter, contributor to the National Review, National Journal, and Wall Street Journal.)

Alberta welcomes reader/listeners to a grudge match in American Carnage

Alberta details the rise of President Trump. 

Alberta has credential as a conservative considering the publications for which he writes.  In his analysis of the rise of Trump, he details Republican discontent with the idea of a Trump nomination.  Many Republicans object to Trump’s rise.  However, their objections are overcome by the truth of the public’s disgust with the direction of American government. 

In the best light, the rise of Trump punches American government in the face; in its worst light, it denigrates the institution of Democracy.

As one finishes Alberta’s analysis of Trump’s rise to the Presidency, both American views seem correct. 

Some Americans will be offended by Alberta’s book. 

Americans might argue Alberta impugns the reputation of the “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” President.  In their minds, government deserves a punch in the face.  Trump gives voice to many American workers. Particularly, Americans who have been marginalized by corporate America.

Some say American Democracy needs reform because Americans are being left behind by their political leaders. 

Others will laud Alberta’s exposure of what some say is the worst American President in history. 

Trump is characterized as a “showman” with no moral center who panders to the ugliest instincts of humankind. Democracy will be the judge of Trump’s performance in November 2020.

Government’s punch in the face is detailed by Alberta with inappropriate remarks Trump makes about immigrants, women, and minorities.  Trump manages to conflate loss of jobs with false accusations and self-serving actions.

Arguably, American government does deserve a punch in the face.  However, even if true, Democracy remains the best form of government in the world.

Alberta implies Trump’s punch to government fails to address the real causes of job loss. Creating a trade war has not, and will not, increase American manufacturing. 

Contrary to Trump’s belief that the balance of trade will improve with increased trade sanctions, America’s balance of trade has worsened. Other countries are exporting more while America is exporting less.

Reality suggests re-education of workers are what America needs; not trade-wars, and border walls. 

Trump’s ubiquitous tweets offer titillation and news coverage without providing solutions. Technology is displacing manufacturing which means job skills must be changed.  Alberta, in detailing Trump’s rise, shows Trump is more show than go.

In 2008, loss of homes from unscrupulous lenders hurt working Americans who could not fight back. They lost their jobs and could not pay their mortgages.  Countrywide Financial became the face of lenders accused of misleading marketing to sell mortgages to people who could not afford them.

Angelo Mozillo (Former Chairman of the Board and of Countrywide.)

One might argue Obama, Bush, and their administrations manage to keep American out of a deep depression but at the same time–banks and corporate America were bailed out at the expense of most Americans. 

Today, the Republican party is unquestionably standing behind Donald Trump.  He might even be re-elected.  But Alberta illustrates there are Republicans (like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Jeff Flake, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Tim Scott, Bob Corker to name a few) who decry many of Trump’s racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments.  These Republicans will not disappear.  Their time may not be 2020 but they will carry water in future elections.

In the 2016 election, Trump capitalizes on worker discontent while Democrats ignore their grievances as something in the past that will be changed in the future.  To every person who lost their home or job, the future is now.

Hillary Clinton and most Democrats, in the previous election, failed to understand how working middle class and lower income Americans felt let down by their government.    One might argue many Trump votes were simply anti-Clinton votes.  Ironically, that will be the plan of some voters in the next election, but it will be anti-Trump.

Hillary Clinton (American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker, former New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State.)

Hillary Clinton may have been the most capable of the candidates for the Presidency in 2016, but her negatives outweighed her positives in the minds of the electorate.  Clinton, as with all the world’s women, had to deal with gender discrimination.

Whatever happens in 2020, Democracy will prevail.  Tim Alberta offers many facts that illustrate the resilience of American Democracy.  There are, and always will be, good people on both sides of the political aisle in America.  One hesitates to use that phrase in view of Trump’s ugly remark about the South Carolina conflict between white supremacists and the public.

History shows the Democrats will rise again; and so will Republicans. That is the strength and weakness of Democracy in America.

EGYPTS REVOLUTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Buried-An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution

By: Peter Hessler

Narrated by Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler (American Author, and journalist.)

Peter Hessler chooses to move from China to Egypt just before the 2011 Egyptian revolution.  He, his wife, and twin newborns live in Egypt for five years.

Hessler worked for The New Yorker as a staff writer from 2000 to 2007 and became the magazine’s correspondent for China from 2011 to 2016. 

Hessler looks at Egypt through the eyes of an American who lived in both China and Egypt as a reporter.  His perspective melds Chinese and American acculturation with interesting incite to Egypt’s history, language, and politics.

Egypt is a fascinating country for anyone who has visited or read about its ancient civilizations.  With brief comments about Egypt’s historic monuments and museums, Hessler touches the culture of modern Egypt. 

Hessler notes the extraordinary ability of Egyptians to hold two opposing thoughts and adjust behavior to accommodate both beliefs.  On the one hand, there is a sense of “let it be” when minor or major events occur in the lives of modern Egyptians.  On the other, there is a history of autocratic Egyptian rulers who insist on strict control of society.   In view of the many non-Egyptian’ governments after the Pharohs, it comes as no surprise that Egyptians are adaptive.

Sadat, Mubarak, & Nasser were military dictators before the election of Morsi who is deposed in the revolution by today’s military leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Hessler comments on the ability of Egyptians to learn languages at varying ages of maturity.  Language skill is the lingua franca of the ability to adapt. 

From ancient times of the Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks; to more modern times of the Ottomans and British–Egypt remains Egyptian despite their adaptability.

Hessler offers an understanding of Egypt through the eyes of its citizens.  He recounts the tumultuous relationship of an entrepreneurial garbage collector and his wife.  The garbage collector is illiterate.  His wife can read and write.

The garbage collector is in his 30s when he marries his 18-year-old wife.  Their marriage leads to three and then four children.  The garbage collector is exiled from his children with the threat of divorce initiated by his conservative wife.  His wife follows Egyptian culture in covering her face but rejects some of the discriminatory aspects of a patriarchal society.

Hessler’s garbage collector is a great source of information about Egyptian culture because of the details he knows of other lives based on what Egypt’s citizens throw away.  The collector is scrupulously honest about the garbage he collects.  When he finds something in the trash that has value he returns to his customer.  It is a matter of pride; stoked by belief in a cosmic or religious wheel in his mind that tells him what is right.  However, the wheel seems to stop when it comes to relationship with his wife and children.  This leads to what Hessler suggests is a fundamental flaw in modern Egypt; i.e. women’s inequality. 

Because the collector’s wife knows how to read and write, she files an appeal to the court to strip her husband of his house and property.  She files for divorce but recants after finding the consequence of such action would make her and her children destitute.

Surprisingly, their tumultuous relationship becomes less combative as their life together matures. Their personal trials seem a paradigm of Egypt’s “let it be” and autocratic culture.

Hessler reports on the ponderous, corrupt justice system that both aids and thwarts the intentions of married couples seeking help.

Women are discriminated against based on their sex in Egypt. 

Women are raised to believe their role in life is to have and raise children, and take care of their husbands and families.  Girls are not afforded the same educational opportunities as men.  Women are expected to sacrifice their entrepreneurial right to a job when they are married.  Hessler notes female children are routinely genitally mutilated. This is a tradition based on a belief that sexual pleasure and desire are a threat to society. Hessler compares the torture of genital mutilation to the Chinese tradition of binding women’s feet.

Hessler compares Chinese with Egyptian culture to expose the consequence of sex discrimination.  The potential of women’s contribution to the economy in Egypt is eviscerated by its culture of discrimination.

In an adults most productive years, Egyptian housewives cannot work for pay outside of the home.  If a woman has a good job, she is expected to relinquish it when she is married.  In contrast, Chinese women are full participants in the economy.

 

Parenthetically, Hessler notes Egyptian homosexuals are persecuted for their sexual preference.  The irony of that homosexual persecution is in Egypt’s patriarchal culture that discourages social contact between the sexes.  Putting aside genetic predisposition, without social contact with women, male relationships become the only acceptable form of intimate relations.

Egypt’s demonstration against a crackdown on LGBT’ rights.

Hessler’s book is interesting because of his firsthand knowledge of the revolution that removes Morsi from the Egyptian Presidency.  In many conversations with Egyptian residents, Hessler notes the weakness of the Brotherhood in Egypt; both in number and in qualification for political leadership. 

Hessler contrasts the military with the Muslim religion of the Brotherhood.  The military has a long history in modern Egypt.  The tradition of strong leaders has an even longer history.  The Brotherhood is characterized by strong leaders who only press religion; without understanding the nature of society that desires order, safety, and economic opportunity. Order, safety, and economic opportunity are a “good despot’s” alleged intent.

Mohammed Morsi (Fifth President of Egypt for 1 year until removed from office by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Morsi dies of a heart attack in 2019.)

Hessler shows the Brotherhood as an association of religious believers that have little organizational skill.  They are not educated to lead.  They are educated to worship.  That educational limitation exhibits itself in Morsi’s weak government.  Egypt flounders economically with the election of Morsi.  One can argue it is still floundering under el-Sisi but Hessler shows the military is more prepared to lead based on the tenants of worldly desire rather than religious worship.

Egyptian Brotherhood Rally

(In a population of 80,000,000, there are an estimated 600,000 dues paying members of the Brotherhood; of which 100,000 are considered militant.)

Hessler explains there are many conspiracy theories surrounding the Brotherhood’s influence in Egypt. Their small numbers and inept management skill seem unlikely to create a successful uprising in Egypt. The Brotherhood’s revolutionary impact seems symbolic more than real. However, one realizes Russian Bolsheviks were a small minority in 1917.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Current President of Egypt)

Hessler notes that el-Sisi’s popularity is diminished by missteps in funding infrastructure improvements at the expense of more direct economic need.  He cites the expansion of the Suez Canal as an example of a prudent long-term aid to the economy but a neglect of medical services, justice reform, and housing needs for today’s general population.

There is also the issue of repression by el-Sisi.  Hessler recalls the incident of a tortured, and then killed, foreign student that criticizes the current government.  The author notes that el-Sisi’s defenders suggest the murder was an accident caused by young and inexperienced supporters of el-Sisi. 

In recalling my personal trip to Egypt in 2019, the Brotherhood is a big concern of the government. Tourism is a big industry for Egypt. That industry nearly dies with the election of Morsi. Some Egyptians feel something is getting done with el-Sisi; while no economic progress happened with Morsi.

Hessler offers a glimpse of the hardship Egypt faces in the 21st century.  His observations are at a local level of Egyptian society; not at the obscure level of a thirty-day tourist.  Time will tell if el-Sisi is the answer to Egypt’s failing economy. 

Sisi is acknowledged by Hessler as a good communicator.  Sisi is truly an Egyptian focusing on his perception of what Egypt needs now; not the religious salvation of the eternal.  The biggest criticism of Egypt’s leadership in Hessler’s book is the unequal treatment of women.  There seems no action taken by el-Sisi to address that reality. One wonders if the economy is likely to grow quickly enough to avoid another revolution without gender discrimination reform.

MEDIA TROLLS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Antisocial Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation

By: Andrew Marantz

Narrated by Andrew Marantz

Andrew Marantz (American author, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine)

Marantz researches social media trolls in his book “Antisocial”.

For those who are not familiar with the meaning of media trolls, they are people who use the internet to create discord by writing or saying something that is controversial. 

Of course, what is said in the media does not have to be true.  The difference is, the measure of success on the internet is an increase in the number of clicks one receives and the number of follower’s gob smacked by the messenger.  It has zero to do with truth.

The internet lists 8 of the greatest internet trolls of all time.  Their media names are irrelevant, but their followers are legion.  All hide behind the rubric of a free press.  

What makes internet trolls a societal cancer is their distortion of truth.  Some trolls believe “buyer beware”. Like in any sale of product, the truth of speech (to a troll) is the responsibility of the individual.  If a viewer or listener cannot separate the truth from fiction, that is the audience’s problem. A troll feels no compunction for lying, misleading, or stretching the truth.  A committed troll argues that everyone should have the choice to believe or not believe.

Trolls argue truth is fungible because of inherent bias in the messenger.  At best, trolls view their role is to mitigate corporate and government brain washing; at worst, they create a forum for massing hate and discrimination.

Say anything is the terrifying thing about social media.  The irony of America’s free speech is its only defense is free speech. 

Marantz interviews numerous trolls that believe all media communication is good, or at least useful communication.  Marantz explains trolls argue media has historically distorted the truth. 

Marantz notes the fallacy of the Troll’s argument is in the release of white supremacist and hate-filled speech that aims at changing the norms of society.

Trolls say the unsayable for wealth and notoriety; not for the betterment of humanity, or the search for truth. 

White supremacy becomes a flag around which a small minority of society can join to become a political force. 

The drive for wealth is nothing new in American society.  However, the monetization of lies and overt discrimination are licensed by media that reaches the worst prejudices of society. 

The risk to the American electorate from media trolls is that they create a disillusioned and apathetic public that doesn’t know who or what to believe.

In the book “1984” Orwell showed how media control is dangerous. Marantz shows how no control is equally dangerous; particularly in the internet era. 

Marantz makes listeners realize how dangerous internet trolls are to America, and any nation trying to improve the quality of life for their citizens. 

Twenty first century American democracy seems particularly at risk.  Americans believe in the critical importance of freedom, but American freedom has always been qualified by rule of law in “doing no harm” to others. 

The infancy of the internet needs regulation.  The government must fight the hijacking of the American electorate by internet trolls.  The internet is driven more by popularity and money than morality and truth.

Marantz convinces a listener that American freedom of speech is not a license for anarchy.