I’m giving this book a full rating for three reasons: 1) I haven’t read a history book in at least over a decade and so I am naïve concerning the convI’m giving this book a full rating for three reasons: 1) I haven’t read a history book in at least over a decade and so I am naïve concerning the conventions that may or may not have been well executed; 2) The book is very well written, researched/documented, and accessible to a person not familiar with the genre and/or topic; and 3) Yes, this book IS biased. It has an agenda. But from my background there is no such thing as objective reporting. Be it history, journalism, literature, what have you. I think Isenberg is successful in her aims and thoroughly demonstrates her argument. That being said I can understand why many people may find this book uncomfortable. Isenberg doesn’t so much as re-write history or argue counter causes but rather adds a new element to the national dialogue. The majority of the book is devoted to colonial to civil war America and the reason for this I see as being that this period is wrought with myth and misconception. I am not one for reading primary sources in history. I do not think they show a representative presentation of the situation. The secondary sources of publication that Isenberg pulls from allow one to form a context around those more pivotal writings. As someone who has studied Derrida there is nothing without context and people read the Constitution and Federalist papers as if they were the end all be all of American democracy. Isenberg shows something different, however. That upward mobility was never the goal for the whole society of America. That full equality was never conceived of as pertaining to the dregs of society. And that class was always a factor in the supposedly egalitarian rhetoric we are taught to believe.
Along with the writings of the forefathers (who premised many of their opinions of human nature and subsequent policies on shockingly naïve behaviorist experiments and analogies to animals) I find that one of the more shocking revelations may come from the depiction of the Confederacy. The civil war, yes, was very much about slavery, but so too was it about class. The Confederates, even more so than their Unionist neighbors, were staunchly classist. They espoused aristocratic ideals and saw the abolition of slavery not so much as a threat on their rights but as a way to upturn the class system. Pulling quotes from Davis and other significant figures Isenberg is even able to show how the ruling elite of the south did not themselves see federal intervention as an intrusion on their inalienable rights, hell some even saw property ownership as a right predicated on one’s ability to maintain it and were in no way aghast to the idea of having the government intervene on issues of ownership when the holder was deemed ill—suited. This idea of federal intervention was something they used as propaganda to get the poorer/lower classes of white men to fight for their cause. It’s ironic today how the confederate flag has become a source of “red neck” pride when, according to Isenberg, they leaders of the Confederacy saw them as an inferior RACE (not just class) who were entirely expendable.
I brought the topic of this book up to my supervisor at a University library who is head of archives and an expert on local history (I live in Florida). He wasn’t familiar with the book but was well versed on the topic. He corroborated with me many of Isenberg’s claims of class/racial superiority in the south, not just in regards to blacks but “white trash” as well. He showed me a copy of a book he found while working as a public librarian that a child brought up to him asking if it was a good source for doing a book report on the history of Florida. The book in question is deceptively entitled “History of Florida” and is virtually a propaganda tool for the lower educated (reading level wise) that condemns the northerners as “carpetbaggers” and even extols the activities of the Ku Klux Klan as a savior organization that would keep the scalawags and northerners from inciting the black population and stealing all the resources from the rich.
Discussion of the 20th century is dominated by Eugenics and the Depression. It is interesting to see the evolution (or lack-there-of) of public assistance. The way the media transformed America’s perception of the lower classes, and how much of a role it played in politics. I always knew Clinton was considered the first black president but I was unaware of the “white trash” label he had. It puts the infidelity scandal in a whole new context and shows how the self-righteous conceptions of what good breeding stood for contributed to the scandal. What is written on Palin is not surprising at all except for the fact that we still maintain our heritage of class prejudice. I found it shocking at first that nothing was written about George W. Bush but after thinking about it I realized the Bill Clinton was far more white trash than Bush ever could be. Sure, the liberals portrayed him as a yokel who couldn’t form a proper sentence, but even though he heralded from the south he is part of the very lineage of southerners who saw themselves as aristocrats and the superior race who were born with blood and opportunity. A far cry from the derided sum that that they so heavily disdained. These are just the points that I found most interesting. The last chapter is not a historical summary but a polemic calling for awareness. I find this an important book, one that addresses something that very few are willing to acknowledge. To this day we still fight about the existence of institutional racism against blacks. If we can’t even acknowledge that inequality how will we ever see the class distinctions that make it possible?
“If this book accomplishes anything it will be to have exposed a number of myths about the American dream, to have disabused readers of the notion that upward mobility is a function of the founders’ ingenious plan, or that Jacksonian democracy was liberating, or that the Confederacy was about states’ rights rather than preserving class and racial distinctions.” p. 313 ...more
I gave this book four stars because it is well considered and offers some valuable insights concerning the social organization of public opinion. HoweI gave this book four stars because it is well considered and offers some valuable insights concerning the social organization of public opinion. However, not only are there questionable depictions of the historical account of the "public sphere," but I cannot accept the normative indictment on social organization. Habermas paints a convincing picture of what he considers the ideal form of civic participation of 18th century white culture. I object to its limitations though. It is very exclusive and is unapologetic on this point. Also, as a materialist dialectic on the human condition, I don't see how this idealized form could ever be re-captured. The logic precludes it and so the normative aspect of the discourse is self-defeating. ...more
I fortuitously came across this book while at work. I just so happen to be writing my Master's thesis on the dark web and Bartlett's investigation offI fortuitously came across this book while at work. I just so happen to be writing my Master's thesis on the dark web and Bartlett's investigation offers some good perspective and useful history on the topic. However, I would have liked for the book to explore more of the Hidden Services of Tor and the networks of users that take advantage of the dark web. Bartlett spends most of his research on aspects of the internet in general that are unsavory. This does not all fall under the term "dark net." The closing reflections also did not fit well with the content and contributed little to the appreciation of the dark web. ...more