Note this special “Updated Post-Election Edition” of this excellent book was not updated with 45‘s ascendency, but, rather, that of President Barack Obama.
Published by Penguin-Random-House, it is one of the favorite things I’ve read, and I don’t often read about politics or political history.
Forboding quote. Remember, this was written in 2009:
If, as I will argue in this book, America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism — as opposed to the recognizable cyclical strains the past — the virulence of the current outbreak is inseparable from an unmindfulness that is, paradoxically, both aggressive and passive. This condition is aggressively promoted by everyone, from politicians to media executives, whose livelihood depends on a public that derives its opinions from sound bits and blogs, and it is passively accepted by a public in thrall to the serpent promising effortless enjoyment from the fruit of the tree of infotainment. Is there still time and will for cultural conservationists to ameliorate the degenerative effects of the poisoned apple? Insofar as the weight one’s will is thrown onto the scales of history, one lives in the stubborn hope that it might be so.
It is ironic that this is being posted on a blog, and that the blog’s author is employed by a company which obtains much of its revenue from “a public that derives its opinions from sound bits and blogs”. Still, in the same way that some saw the foreshadowings of the 1987 market crash(*), an anniversary which was just celebrated today, it is the responsibility of those inculcated in the rough process leading to catastrophe to cry out the dangers.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
That’s by William Butler Yeats, who “Being Irish, … had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy”.
This is Professor Susan Jacoby with a more recent look. Let’s just say Silicon Valley’s computing and Internet revolution does not survive unscathed.
(*) Some, in fact, profited.