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

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Author: Emile McAnany
Date: June 2020
From: Communication Research Trends(Vol. 39, Issue 2)
Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,490 words
Lexile Measure: 1260L

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Marantz, Andrew. Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of American Conversation. New York: Viking, 2019. Pp. 400. ISBN 9780525522263 (cloth) $28.00.

One of the lead quotes from experts on the book's cover got my attention: "This book scared the hell out of me, but every American [I would add, every communication professor] could benefit from reading it" (Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found). Yes, this is a scary book, but the author means to inform and not just alarm. Andrew Marantz is a longtime journalist working for The New Yorker writing in-depth interviews. In 2014 he began an interest in the just emerging internet underground of the radical right. To some of his colleagues this was a bizarre and even suspect topic (was he a budding alt-right convert?). But Marantz had begun to put together the pieces of the online revolution created in the previous decade by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. Creators of these communication technologies were techno-utopian true believers in the benefits of their technologies. They would, they argued, bring the world together and "change the world" for the better. The beliefs of the latter group had helped to propel amazing growth and fabulous wealth, but the trolls were beginning to use this new power for their own purposes. Marantz began his work cautiously with a series of long interviews with the emerging users as well as a few of the alt-right creators of the open internet which was just morphing from the traditional media of print, broadcast, and cable into the social media.

The book that emerged in late 2019 was based on a series of interviews that Marantz had done with the New Yorker over five years. The book uses these sources to tell the story through the eyes of a series of the participants, mostly of the radical right but also of the tech moguls. He structures the book around the election of 2016 and the involvement of these bloggers, conspiracy theorists, and alt-right true believers in the outcome of President Trump's election. Marantz never makes the claim that these online warriors made the major difference in 2016. Rather, he wanted to find out more about this group, how they succeeded...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A631451758