Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Internet's Dark Side, The Price of Everything, the Pledge, and War in the book reviews

With the uprising in Egypt, fueled by social networking, dominating the news, it may be jarring to read Lee Siegel's review of a "brilliant and courageous book," THE NET DELUSION: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov in today's New York Times.
Morozov is interested in the Internet’s political ramifications. “What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?” he asks. The Net delusion of his title is just that. Contrary to the “cyberutopians,” as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom.
The twittered Iranian revolution was crushed:  "The elements of a successful revolution — the complicity of the military, of a powerful political class, of an almost universally discontented population — simply weren’t there."  The internet itself aided repression, as "the Iranian regime used the Web to identify photographs of protesters...and to text the population into counterrevolutionary paranoia."  Continue reading here.

No mention is made of Egypt in this nevertheless very timely and sobering review, but Siegel writes that the book "is immediately tested by events" in Egypt in a recent Arts Beat post.  "Just as with every other type of technology of communication, the internet is not a solution to human conflict but an amplifier for all aspects of a conflict. As you read about pro-government agitators charging into crowds of protesters on horseback and camel, you realize that nothing has changed in our new internet age."
THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING:  Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porteris, also reviewed in the New York Times, is "devoted to teasing out the rationale underlying the 'cold accounting' that determines the value of things people think are priceless, like human life and national security."

The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance by Jeffrey Owen Jones and Peter Meyer is taken up in The Book (The New Republic).

Many books related to war have been reviewed this week.  Two books on the military-industrial complex are discussed in the Washington Post:  Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex by and Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex by 'The Longest War' by Peter L. Bergen and Michael Scheuer's 'Osama Bin Laden' are taken up in the Los Angeles Times, and three books are briefly noted in the Washington Post:  Stephen L. Carter's The Violence of Peace; Dominic Tierney, How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires, and the American Way of War; and Between War and Peace: How America Ends Its Wars, edited by Col. Matthew Moten. This interesting group of reviews of books that are all by men (Moten's collection has multiple all-male contributors), and all reviewed by men calls out for Ann Bartow's persistent question:  where are the women?  And what are we missing when we leave brilliant women writing about war out of the conversation?