Books in Brief: May 2022

Reclaiming Populism: How Economic Fairness Can Win Back Disenchanted Voters, by Eric Protzer and Paul Summerville (Polity; 180 pp., $59.95). The authors of this welcome and overdue treatment of populism make their case in two ways. First, they scoured the social science literature to compile the academy’s best explanations of today’s alarming economic inequalities. Second, and more importantly, they explain how “low social mobility … correlates with indicators of mass support for populism.” Chronicles readers—actually anyone who graduated from kindergarten—will have to stifle the urge to throw a penalty flag for stating the obvious.
Reclaiming Populism’s low social-mobility argument holds across developed societies, not just our formerly fruited plain. The book proves this magazine’s long-held contention that global elites have concocted a system in which, as the authors euphemistically argue, “Citizens earnings are deeply influenced by how wealthy their parents were.” In their assessment, this metric provides “the most plausible channel leading to Trumpian populism.” So much for Russian electoral interference, white supremacy, or the xenophobia of ’Muricans.
Decades of record immigration and the destruction of America’s manufacturing base make it hard to quarrel with the book’s abstract central argument: “Populism results from public policy regimes that leave citizens vulnerable to economic unfairness.” A “based” tweeter (i.e., one who doesn’t care about political correctness)  could rephrase its contention more sensibly as “Hatred of politicians is guaranteed when they purposely screw those who elected them.” Luckily, the book illustrates that cri de coeur more elegantly, with reams of historical data and impeccable logic.
Unfortunately, Protzer and Summerville claim that economic fairness is “wholly unrelated” to knee-jerk remedies like “deporting immigrants, regulating online speech, soaking the rich, or shutting down international trade.” Even kindergarten dropouts can imagine a fairer world may in fact result from some of those solutions. American laborers shouldn’t have to compete against illegal aliens. Online monopolies benefit from impotent Internet regulations. Rich capital pays a lower tax rate than poor labor. And tariffs benefit the sugar cartel, so why not less-devious American small businesses, too? The authors are sending out an apocalyptic Mayday when they conclude by telling the “liberal democratic mainstream” to “take populist voters very seriously and understand their concerns very precisely.”
(John Greenville)
BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution, by Mike Gonzalez (Encounter; 264 pp., $28.99). In 2020, following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd—a drug-addled career criminal-cum-martyr—many cities were besieged under the banners of “Black Lives Matter.” Just as disconcerting was the attendant political movement that swept the nation, complete with sophisticated messaging, “spontaneous” protests, and, despite the movement’s anti-capitalist rhetoric, a tsunami of corporate support. Seemingly overnight, an anti-police slogan morphed into a radical agenda, apparently with widespread support.
Veteran journalist Mike Gonzalez explains the nefarious origins and Marxist objectives of Black Lives Matter (BLM), which to date have been sugarcoated by the mainstream media and sacralized by Democrat politicians. He identifies BLM’s top leaders as “three African American lesbians [with] long-standing ties to domestic Marxist revolutionaries.” He also traces the history of Communist attempts to rally American blacks to the cause of world revolution during the 20th century.
Fortunately, those efforts were unavailing. Beginning with the 1960s, however, homegrown Marxists would accomplish more than covert Soviet machinations ever could. Gonzalez synopsizes the development of domestic terrorist groups in America—the Black Power movement and its many extremist variants, as well as the wellspring of white guilt that enabled them. Angela Davis and Bill Ayers are among the better-known insurgents who are featured in Gonzalez’s detailed overview.
BLM started as a hashtag in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in connection with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. When it was formed as an organization a year later, in the wake of the police shooting of violent teenage thug Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, BLM tapped into decades of Marxist organizing. It was boosted by the power of the Internet, social media, Antifa hoodlums, and a generation indoctrinated by the sixties-era radicals whose ideology currently dominates academia.
Gonzalez explores the roles of corporate America, deep-pocketed philanthropic foundations, the FBI, the mendacious media, “woke” K-12 education, and progressive Democrats in perpetuating the myth that BLM is a benign, spontaneous reaction to “systemic racism.” The most depressing aspect is the extent to which the American public—in the throes of “mass hysteria”—so readily embraced an extremist ideology that in the past had only a fringe following. A subversive education system that cultivates white guilt is largely to blame.
(Mark Pulliam)

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