Reviews

Black Ops Advertising

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The internet is “nothing more than a purveyor of sales messages”, says Mara Einstein. “Your phone is an advertising medium” and social media “less about community than commerce”, and she is right.

Little wonder that Facebook’s former head of data, Jeff Hammerbacher, complained, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

Imperialism in the 21st Century

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Everyone remembers the 1,133 deaths from the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse. But who knows about Bangladeshi workers who earn just one euro cent for every 18 T-shirts they make, and take home €1.36 after a ten or 12 hour day?

Ultimate villains of this “super-exploitation” are corporate buyers from the Global North and race-to-the-bottom capitalist market competition.

Splinternet

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Malcolmson’s history of the development of the computer and the internet, going as far back as the abacus and punched cards for weaving looms, is readable and informative.

But the text keeps jumping out at you with bald assertions such as, “Industrialisation did not lead to war, which had always existed” and “most human activities including war were steadily taken out of the animal world into the countable, machine world”.

Actually, in the earliest epochs of humanity, before surpluses in food or other goods existed, there was no war.

Left Field

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Left Field is a thoughtful and gentle memoir. Born in 1945, David Wilson “had contact at a young age with people who’d led dangerous political lives”, such as the Danish doctor who helped Jews fleeing the Nazis.

His father had radical views and had witnessed the horrors of war and fascism first hand, being one of the first medics to go into Bergen-Belsen camp after liberation, and had shown the young David photographs of the horrifying scenes he had found there.

Strangers at our Door

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Strangers at Our Door puts forward an alternative narrative, one that is humanitarian, about refugees and migrants. It succeeds in combating the racist propaganda churned out by the media and our politicians.

Bauman correctly lambasts them for causing public anxiety by portraying migrants as overwhelming Europe and portending the demise of the European way of life.

Damnificados

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Can someone who is not South American write good South American magical realism? Probably, though where this novel’s concerned the answer is not quite. While it has all the elements — social realism combined with aspects of myth, folklore and the fantastical, as well as sympathy for the downtrodden and for social justice — it skims the surface rather than getting under the skin of the world it portrays.

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

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Black Lives Matter has had a profound affect on US politics. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor describes how its emergence is partly down to the inadequate response to racist police killings by existing black leaders from Barack Obama to Al Sharpton.

The book is particularly useful for readers who want to know about the subtleties of developments in US politics and racism through recent decades.

When Adam Delved and Eve Span

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The revolt of 1381 by tens of thousands of peasants shook England’s rulers. This new edition of Mark O’Brien’s short but powerful book recognises the importance of this entry of the poor into English history.

England was dominated by the king; lords and the church reached into every area of the peasants’ lives. The authorities imposed a poll tax on people to help finance wars against France.

The situation of unfree peasants or “villeins” was grim. They owned “nothing but their bellies”. There were laws on what they could wear, and on what and when they could eat.

A Rebel's Guide to Malcolm X

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This book is a celebration of Malcolm X’s legacy: his uncompromising championing of black pride and the right to self defence; his revolutionary opposition to capitalism; his relatable and inspiring oratory talent; and his militant and tireless organising in poor black communities.

As the Black Lives Matter movement brings the fight against racist police brutality to the forefront of struggle in the US, the ideas and iconic symbol of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party are re-entering public consciousness.

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