As this is being written, Russia is invading Ukraine, and the world is watching to see what the Russian President Vladimir Putin, ex-Soviet apparatchik and KGB agent, might have in store. In We Are Bellingcat: Global Crime, Online Sleuths, and the Bold Future of News by Eliot Higgins, the author takes a look at some earlier incidents that reflect Russian policy and practice, and maybe help to understand Putin’s thinking and what he might consider doing. “Bellingcat” is the name given a group of citizens/journalists founded by Higgins. Based in England, they constitute a kind of private investigative cooperative. According to Higgins, they were responsible for uncovering the Russian military intelligence agents responsible for the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018, when no governmental counterspy agencies had been able to do so. Why? Reviewers Britta H. Crandall and Russell Crandall say this is because whereas a generation ago the vast majority of governmental information was secret, today the vast majority is “all right in front of our faces—or, really, our screens. All it takes is a group of minds to connect all the dots, `picking apart disinformation’ as they go along.” A very timely book!
A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should be Uncivil
A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should be Uncivilby Candice Delmas is broadly about the moral obligations an individual must assume in order to live in a society governed by the rule of law. But Delmas goes beyond those obligations mainly focused on the duty to be law abiding, and adds a duty to resist the law in the face of injustice. Our reviewer, Michael Sevel, is critical of Delmas’ approach to the subject. He writes that whereas most philosophy has traditionally been viewed as “a search for timeless, transcendent answers to enduring questions,” this author, he says, seems uninterested in that. Instead, she has written a call to political action. And the book itself, he believes, can be viewed as “an act of resistance to perceived injustice.”
The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team
In addition to the Ukraine invasion, another event taking place as of this writing is March Madness. Although certainly of a different order of magnitude, it does focus the attention of a considerable portion of the US populace on college basketball. Thus, a review of a book about college basketball also seems particularly timely. The book is The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team, by Matthew Goodman. It is the story of the 1950 City College of New York team that won both the NCAA and NIT basketball titles, in a never to be duplicated feat. A year later, it all collapsed when the players were charged in a point shaving scandal. The players went from heroes to villains – dismissed from the school and in some cases sent to prison. But reviewer, Jerald Podair, concludes that “the sins of the players were dwarfed by those of gamblers, bookmakers, policemen, politicians, arena executives, and even coaches and college administrators, all of whom contributed to a web of corruption that stretched from street corners, candy stores, and taverns to the highest echelons of civic life.”
A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantánamo
Two decades ago, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, prisoners alleged to have been involved in terrorism began to arrive at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some of those prisoners remain there today, neither charged nor convicted. While there have been numerous books and articles written about all the legal aspects of this policy, Peter Jan Honigsberg takes a different approach. His book, A Place Outside the Law: Voices from Guantánamo,according to reviewer Tun Yin, “differs from those other works in that the focus here is on the detention facility’s actual impact on human beings.” Given that there is a continuing concern about how to respond to threats of international terrorism, Yin concludes that “American leaders called upon to formulate the nation’s response to those threats would be well-advised to read A Place Outside the Law.”
Conspiracy theories about various subjects have probably been around forever. Such theories seem to provide answers to questions for which there do not appear to be other answers – and they especially resonate with people who are predisposed to be already thinking along the same lines. What is currently happening is that the 21st century information age enables such theories to instantly reach thousands and sometimes millions of people, and thus they can have great impact on the course of events. One such theory currently in play is QAnon. Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon, by Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko, provides a contemporary look at certain aspects of QAnon. Reviewer Matthew Hannah credits the authors with tackling “the particular gender dynamics at work in QAnon, offering an important look inside the social and psychological incentives for female adherents to join the movement.” Hannah considers the book to be a good resource for general readers interested in QAnon.
The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth
Our reviewer, Barry Feld, judges The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth by Kristin Henning, to be “a powerful but painful book to read because the breadth and depth of racism to which these children are exposed is so pervasive.” The children to whom Henning and Feld are referring are Black children. Henning is a law professor and practicing defense attorney who has advocated for such children and youth for 25 years. Feld says her thesis is quite straightforward: “we have failed to see Black children as children when they engage in ordinary childhood activities,” and as a result, “when Black children engage in normal adolescent behaviors, police, schools, and other people are more likely to perceive them as threatening and dangerous. These differential perceptions lead to the criminalization of commonplace Black teen-age behavior and traumatize its young victims.” The conclusion is thus really quite simple – Black children should be treated the same as their white contemporaries!