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

Andrew Marantz. Viking, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-525-52226-3
Marantz, a staff writer at the New Yorker, makes a timely and excellent debut with his chronicle of how a “motley cadre of edgelords” gleefully embraced social media to spread their “puerile” brand of white nationalism. In examining how “the unthinkable became thinkable” in American politics, he narrates that tech entrepreneurs disrupted the old ways of vetting and spreading information—including the traditional media of which Marantz identifies himself as a part—but refused to take up a role as gatekeepers, and the white nationalists seeped in like poison. Marantz profiles alt-right figures and tech titans alike: vlogger Cassandra Fairbanks, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes, antifeminist Mike Cernovich, Reddit founder Steve Huffman (who experimented with gatekeeping by deleting the site’s forum dedicated to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory), The Filter Bubble author and tech entrepreneur Eli Pariser, and clickbait startup CEO Emerson Spartz, who opines, “If it gets shared, it’s quality.” A running theme is how journalists should cover “a racist movement full of hypocrites and liars,” and, indeed, Marantz doesn’t shy away from asking pointed questions or noting his subjects’ inconsistencies. This insightful and well-crafted book is a must-read account of how quickly the ideas of what’s acceptable public discourse can shift. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/06/2019
Release date: 10/08/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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