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Reading List November 18, 2018

Our Favorite Interviews

Susan Sontag. Margaret Atwood. Errol Morris. David Runciman. China Miéville.

Earlier this week, Boston Review co-Editor-in-Chief Deb Chasman sat down with Yochai Benklerwho runs Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

Benkler’s new book (coauthored with Robert Faris and Hal Roberts) pushes back against the narrative that digital platforms or Russian hackers are to blame for our extreme political polarization, arguing instead—with plenty of new data to support them—that the polarization is a twenty-year old trend dating back to traditional outlets such as talk radio and Fox News. Most urgently, Benkler argues that mainstream journalistic practices have fed this polarization, especially when it comes to the rise of the extreme right.

Below, we have paired this interview with some of our favorites from the archive, including Susan SontagMargaret AtwoodErrol Morris, and our discussion with Max Ritvo—which took place just before his untimely death.

—Rosie Gillies

Selling Outrage
an interview with law professor Yochai Benkler

“Journalists and editors need some new norms: do not amplify; emphasize falsehood before the falsehood is explained; and be much, much more careful about documentary evidence such as emails.”

• • •

The Pathos of Photography
an interview with art theorist Susan Sontag

“The main tradition in photography is the one that implies that anything can be interesting if you take a photograph of it. It consists in discovering beauty, a beauty that can exist anywhere but is assumed to reside particularly in the random and the banal.”

• • •

A Strategy for Ruination
an interview with writer China Miéville

“The technocratic, centrist, neoliberal project of the Democrats and New Labour is in major crisis. I mourn that project not one iota. It deserves to die.”

• • •

Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again
an interview with writer Margaret Atwood

“If the United States were going to have a totalitarianism, what kind of totalitarianism would it be? What would be the device under which they would do it?”

• • •

The Democratic Coming Apart
an interview with political theorist David Runciman

“Democracy promises two things to people: dignity and problem-solving. These things are moving further apart: there is problem-solving going on, but it’s not happening through the expression of voice.”

• • •

The Dragons Were Blue Too Soon
an interview with poet Max Ritvo

“I like sophistry in the old sense of the word. Peeling things apart, challenging things, making phrases mean their opposites, is a way to get to know them, a way to love them.”

• • •

Who’s Got Personality?
an interview with feminist scholar Merve Emre

“The MBTI is completely designed to reify hierarchies that already exist. People just can’t have personalities if they are not smart enough.”

• • •

Steve Bannon’s Dangerous ‘Dharma’
an interview with filmmaker Errol Morris

“Does he believe in throwing all of the DACA people out of the United States or separating mothers and children at the border? I know he does.”

• • •

Teaching Philosophy on Death Row
an interview with philosophy professor Lisa Guenther

“For the past three years, I have been reading Plato with a group of graduate students at the Riverbend maximum-security prison in Nashville every week.”

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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