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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  580 ratings  ·  86 reviews
From a rising star at The New Yorker , a deeply immersive chronicle of how the optimistic entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley set out to create a free and democratic internet—and how the cynical propagandists of the alt-right exploited that freedom to propel the extreme into the mainstream.

For several years, Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer, has been embedded in
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Viking
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Neil Griffin
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Right before the election, I was sharing a meal with one of the smarter people I know. He's a little younger and a bit more online than I am, so sometimes our conversations go to places that surprise me. After I said something with an implied assumption that he'd be voting for Clinton, he said, "No. I'm going 3rd party." I pressed him for reasons why he would, in my opinion, throw his vote away when the fight against a dangerous narcissist seemed more important than hand-wringing over Clinton's ...more
This is a difficult book to review. Depending on ones level of prior familiarity with the subject the author is discussing, it will feel either familiar or revelatory. For me it probably fell more in the former category. Marantz investigates the rise of the populist political internet in the United States and spends time with some of its major figures like Mike Cernovich, Cassandra Fairbanks, Gavin McInnes and an assortment of other people who will be immediately recognizable to most followers ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Probably people who thought Hillary's What Happened? was a good read
We are presented with a torturously detailed narration centered around the usual suspects, Deplorable Twitter personalities, and written by (who better than) someone who truly detests them, and is not too shy to say it. In some instances, he straight out assumes someone's internal feelings and thoughts. Conjectures abound. To make it worse, it also feels like this was written by and for someone who cannot or does not care to distinguish sinister from intentional trolling or shallow and ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been reading a lot of these exposes recently as we all "normies" or the "un-redpilled" all of a sudden discover this community of the alt-right. This one is among the better of these books because Marantz is reasonable in describing these groups--they are not that big or powerful and certainly not the downfall of civilization. In fact, the more of these books I read, it seems like it's the same 5 dudes that are popping up. They must feel so thrilled with the amount of hand-wringing they've ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the book you want to read about the on-line underground.

It is superior in everyday to the rantish Troll Nation or the too personal, too disorganized Troll Hunting. Trolls are just part of the problem, and not all of the online meming entwined with the British and American elections in 2016 were trolls, nor were they all Russians.

Antisocial is exquisitely reported, written, and researched. And, based on his subsequent interview appearances, it was hard for Marantz to be so balanced. It
When I first read Marantz' "The Virologist" four years ago I was immediately hooked. He became one of the New Yorker writers I was most interested in, along with Hua Hsu, Jia Tolentino, and Emily Nussbaum. They were all fluent in the contradictions and strangeness of the modern world and wrote with a joyous realism about how you could get pleasure from the products of late capitalism while deeply questioning it.

I'm listening to Burial's "Tunes 2011-2019" right now on Hsu's recommendation and
Ryan Lackey
Marantz had pretty good access to a lot of interesting (bad) people, but didn't make particularly good use of that access. He seems better when writing about people he likes, but even less objective then -- he basically fellated the Reddit team when they became censorious and seems to not understand the value of free speech given the asymmetric harm of censorship/chilling effects vs. random idiots saying things which are easily debunked, the Streisand effect, etc.

One really interesting thing
Matt Schiavenza
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who is the alt-right? They're conservative extremists, sure, and most are outright racists and anti-Semites. They hate political correctness. They despise feminism. They think the general idea of America — that it is a multiracial social democracy — is a load of shit. And they now have a champion in the White House in Donald Trump.

The members of the alt-right profiled in Andrew Marantz's fascinating book anti-social are less driven by ideology than by a searing desire to reject conventional
Jason Sullivan
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
The themes of Antisocial are probably familiar to anyone who's spent more than 20 minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit in the past 5 years, but the interviews and other details that come from Marantz having been embedded with the techbros and "deplorables" are still fascinating. The failure to connect the toxicity of the alt-right to extremists of other ideologies, who have adopted a lot of the same tactics and vocabulary, seems like a missed opportunity though. And it was super awkward to ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really important for anyone who spends time thinking about the future of media, the internet, and politics. Or for like anyone.

Marantz is pretty funny which was great because the content of this book was mostly BLEAK.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and fascinating book that about our times and helps to understand what's going on line.
Even if it's about USA the content can be applied to different countries and it's a clear depiction of what is changing the rules of the conversation online.
It's well written, well researched and engrossing.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Elliot Ratzman
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an indispensable ‘down the rabbit hole’ account, but it was frustrating that a book which shrewdly deploys philosopher Richard Rorty is just too smart by half. Authors Vegas Tenold and Andrew Marantz embedded themselves with the far-right. Tenold’s book is a journey among thugs; Marantz’s is a journey consuming toxic internet content and its charming supervillains. The result are strikingly different portraits of the far-right, both books humanizing these lacerated souls. Marantz’s ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No question the author personally struggled with this book, which combines several short loosely related pieces (some adapted from either previously published articles or as article preparations). The topic is a difficult one to present unemotionally and focuses only on the Alt-Right extremists, ignoring how other groups similarly misuse and manipulate social media systems. As the old saying goes, "Crimes are only committed by others." Although the book adds insights to the bigger problem, the ...more
James Beggarly
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that digs deep into on line life of the fringe sites on the right and how they find a brief moment in the sun as their candidate makes it all the way to the White House. The book shows this group before and after the election, and in some cases how these people came to believe what they do, with years of reporting from this world and expanding on the many excellent articles he’s done for the New Yorker. You have to feel for the author as he spends years listening to all this ...more
A book that covers a broad swathe of shitty people all down the hard right radicalism slide. Alt-right, alt-light, straight up nazis, and various dipshits in between.

Marantz covers a lot of gross people without ever coming across like he's actually buddies with them (though some of them clearly think he is), and is upfront about the weird emotional place it can put him in. He's nicer and less judgemental than they deserve, but he never comes off like he's going easy on them. He emphasizes
John Spiller
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although by no means definitive, "Antisocial" examines how a cadre of "alt-right" insurgents, white supremacists, and general shit-stirrers exploited the "anything goes" mindset of social media to disseminate claims and mindsets thought to have been banished from normal discourse. (Be sure you are familiar with the Overton Window; it is referenced throughout the book.) Unlike other books that tried to cover this area -- "Kill All Normies" and "Troll Nation," Marantz examines this explosive topic ...more
Fahd  Younus
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Expresses the problem so well that for the most part its a depressing book.
Further, it does not articulate the underlying arguments which are the heart of the matter, I think. Because the social media havoc created by the 'alt-right' is actually the culmination of free speech and the rise of click-bait wars are the epitome of democracy (more clicks make you 'right' and rich just as more votes gets you elected to exercise sovereignty).
The overarching assumption embedded in the ideals of liberty,
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly an awful book. . . or, more correctly, a very good book about an awful subject. The people Marantz had to hang out with in order to report this book are mostly young men and women with the most abhorrent views--racists, alt-right nazis, anti-semites, and the like--who spend their time spewing their filth on the internet. Some of them are just opportunists, modern-day marketers who say whatever gets them clicks, including fabricating "news" out of whole cloth. These are just soulless losers ...more
A book about the people behind the Alt-Right and internet memes. Most are heavily indoctrinated losers who have isolated themselves from family members and out themselves under the control people such as Richard Spencer. I knew most of these stories before I read the book and while important to know, it’s very disheartening and ugly to read about these White Supremacists and misogynists who are trying to destroy the government for the people and reinstall an ugly system in which white men get to ...more
Shirl Kennedy
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating...but profoundly depressing. Wondering if the author ended up with PTSD from spending so much time with so many reprehensible people.
Zach Finkelstein
This is the most convincing piece of journalism I have ever read on the current political dynamic in America. Deeply disturbing and important.
Margot Sheehan
Not as bad as it could be. Marantz is basically a tabloid journalist, specializing in ambush stuff. Completely amoral and sociopathic, with no compunction about trashing innocent people and chasing down their relatives. He makes bad choices, but has enough craftsmanship and energy to deserve three stars here.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not to generalize too much, but anyone who dislikes or hates this book and writer is at, the very LEAST, a nazi sympathizer.
José María
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's like "Kill all normies", but good.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
The same success story : a small group, less than 1% of the society bewitching the 99%. It was the Jews. Or the Free Masons. It's the one percenters. Or the "online extremists".
Austin Ross
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Timely and necessary. Recommended for anyone working directly with any sort of online presence or anyone curious about the darker (and highly influential) aspects of social media.
Simon deVeer
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an eye-opening read about how messages go from obscure corners of the internet right into the mouths of cable news hosts and politicians. Those of us who do not monitor these channels will be surprised to learn how much of contemporary expression has originated and becomes amplified through the social web. In that last year, I have read a number of books warning about the dangers of social media, but this one manages to take a distinctly different take than any others I've read.

Matthew James
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Went in hoping this would be a serious discussion of the transmission of hateful, alt-right memes and the nexus between these ideas and the “tech-utopians” whose platforms are used to disseminate discord.

Instead, 100 pages in, it reads like “Dispatches from a Cocktail Party.”

Bruce Katz
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rounded up a bit -- much of the material appeared on slightly different form in the New Yorker, and sometimes it shows. But I liked it a lot. Marantz is an insightful and open guide.

"Antisocial" is a combination of expedition (spending untold hours with alt.right and alt.light figures, anarchists, self-promoters, and individuals who are just plain lost), anthropology (what is the lay of this strange new land of social media), psychology (who are the key figures? what motivates them? what led
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Andrew Marantz writes narrative journalism about politics, the internet and the way we understand our world.

Andrew Marantz became a staff writer at the New Yorker in 2017. Prior to that, he worked on the magazine's editorial staff, splitting his time between writing stories (about such topics as hip-hop purism and the Truman Show delusion) and editing stories (about Las Vegas night clubs, Liberian
“Their opinions about specific matters of policy were almost beside the point. Of course, reasonable people can and should disagree in good faith, both about mundane issues (tort reform) and incendiary ones (immigration, abortion). But anybody who was paying attention could see that the leaders of the Deplorable movement were not good-faith interlocutors. They didn’t care to be.*” 0 likes
“Their long-term goal was to shift the Overton window, or to smash it and rebuild it in their image.” 0 likes
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