Review: Marantz’s Anti-Social

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

Andrew Marantz

Antisocial is an extension of the reporting Marantz did for the New Yorker, both before and after the election on the rise of clickbait websites and alt-right trolls. Some of this will be familiar ground to those who read the earlier articles, but there is more than enough new material here, and new insights to make this worth your while if you’re interested in how certain less savory corners of the internet work.

Marantz is a great journalist, who doesn’t shy away from the tricky questions that arise when you’re profiling some pretty unappealing people. If you’re humanizing an racist, anti-Semitic asshole like Mike Enoch, who is playing who? Marantz is forthcoming in the complexities of these relationships and if you follow this world at all, perhaps the most interesting insights here are into how figures like Enoch, Cernovich and others interact when an honest to goodness report is on the phone.

Perhaps in a year this will all feel very old, but for now, this is a book worth reading if you care about the conversation in this country and where “the narrative” is going.


Book Review – Nagle’s Kill All Normies

Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right
Angela Nagle

A brief overview of the current state of online culture from 4-chan style alt-right shock trolling, to gender nonconforming tumblr communities. Really informative for an old man like me, it traces the way left and right online activists have pushed each other (and our common discourse) into further and further extremes.

Nagle knows her memes. You’ll get an overview of the rise of Pepe the frog, dicks out for Harambe, and the major cyber bullying cases of the last five years. But she does more than present an overview of the garbage that has been filling up your newsfeed. She also attempts to explain why these nihilistic, misogynistic and racist corners of the internet have gained such prominence, why they have penetrated mainstream discourse, and where we might be headlining from here.

If I have a quibble with the book it’s the tone at times that progressive movements on the internet created the space for the rise of 4-chan style nastiness. I’m not buying that. We’re all probably a bit to blame for Milo and his ilk, but complaining about teenagers on tumblr trying out different gender expressions just doesn’t seem like the place to focus.

Still, this is an excellent, fascinating, read. My good friend Tom put it best when he said this book would feel outdated in two years and absolutely essential in twenty.  Get after it now and be outdated next year, but way ahead of the curve in twenty.