cover image America Besieged

America Besieged

Michael Parenti. City Lights Books, $9.95 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-87286-338-5

Originally presented as radio commentaries in 1996, these assaults on corporate venality, militarism and government indifference to the poor sometimes sound better read aloud than on paper; while heated sound bites are numerous, additional light might have been shed if the polemics were supplemented more frequently by data. Nonetheless, Parenti's (Democracy for the Few) voice is sharp and urgent, providing a short but comprehensive course in radical analysis. He ticks off what he feels are America's problems: a political culture all too ready to worship politicians rather than ask hard questions (""[I]t is the essence of democracy,"" he cautions, ""that we not trust and not have faith in our leaders""); a fundamentally unjust economy in which ""pollution, like sin, is regularly denounced but vigorously practiced""; a state shockingly willing to tolerate the murder of left-wing dissidents from other countries; and a narrow-minded, jingoistic mass media that serves as the handmaid of corporate power (why, he asks, did neo-Nazi--but pro-capitalist--David Duke's failed Senate bid receive so much more attention than Socialist Bernard Sanders's victory?). Rather more hyperbolically, he notes that the recent Olympics ""felt more like Munich 1936 than Atlanta 1996."" Opinionated and angry, but also reasonable and sincerely hopeful in the possibility of a better future through collective action, this is a book Joe Hill would have loved. (June)