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Publisher's Summary

"Trenchant and intelligent." (The New York Times)

As seen/heard on NPR, New Yorker Radio Hour, The New York Book Review Podcast, PBS Newshour, CNBC, and more

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A New York Times Notable Book of 2019

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 two worlds. The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs, who, acting out of naïvete and reckless ambition, upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information. The second is the world of the people he calls "the gate crashers" - the conspiracists, white supremacists, and nihilist trolls who have become experts at using social media to advance their corrosive agenda. Antisocial ranges broadly - from the first mass-printed books to the trending hashtags of the present; from secret gatherings of neo-fascists to the White House press briefing room - and traces how the unthinkable becomes thinkable, and then how it becomes reality.

Combining the keen narrative detail of Bill Buford's Among the Thugs and the sweep of George Packer's The Unwinding, Antisocial reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in a deeply broken informational landscape - the landscape in which we all now live. Marantz shows how alienated young people are led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization, and how fringe ideas spread - from anonymous corners of social media to cable TV to the President's Twitter feed. Marantz also sits with the creators of social media as they start to reckon with the forces they've unleashed. Will they be able to solve the communication crisis they helped bring about, or are their interventions too little too late?

©2019 Andrew Marantz (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Antisocial is...Marantz’s searching attempt to understand people he describes as truly deplorable without letting his moral compass get wrecked.... [Antisocial] is trenchant and intelligent; wry but not glib; humane but never indulgent." (Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times)

"Imagine a world bereft of gates and uncrossable lines, with no discernable rules. That’s the Hadean landscape that has been painted expertly, in dark hues, by Andrew Marantz in his book Antisocial." (Kara Swisher, The New York Times Book Review)

"With force and elegance, New Yorker staff writer Marantz clearly documents social media’s empowerment of bigotry, propaganda, and right-wing extremism. Deeply reported." (The National Book Review)

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Amazing read!!!

this is probably one of the most well written books I've ever read. the subject matter is rather scary but Andrew does a wonderful job keeping things interesting. not only did I learn a lot, but this book kicked in quite a few doors for me. I've been oversimplifying much of these arguments. out of all the books I've read in the last two or three years this one changed my mind the most, and I'm extremely grateful to Andrew for making that happen. I've never written a review before. I felt obligated with this one

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Excellent Narration, Narrative, and Analysis

Vape-pens, one word answers while staring at a phone, periscope-aired demonstrations, listicles, click-bait, contrarian psuedo-intellectualism. This book describes a culture that exists right now and if anyone asks decades from now—how did Trump get elected? This will likely be the first book I grab to describe the times. Very vivid, strong narrative (well voiced too), but also complete with useful analysis. Occasionally Marantz is smug, I suppose, and some of the reviews seem perhaps a bit (personally) peeved at that. But time and time again he encounters nit wits who self identify as journalists but proclaim no respect for knowledge, fact-checking, you know—vetted process, just more views, follows, internet traffic. I think for him to not frame it this way would be disingenuous. I can’t speak for anyone else but I imagine that those around the age of 30 will likely know people who identify with the culture in this book, even if they are in your past and I think this book offers compassionate and clear insight as to how they may have got there. To the extent that this book scares you, I hope it also motivates you to understand the algorithmic bias of social media better, appreciate it’s power, and take action for greater transparency and regulation.

8 people found this helpful

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America’s Dark, Pathetic Underbelly

The world of social media Nazis May be the underbelly but they have come close to the mainstream and we’re at least part of a movement combing anger, ignorance and cynicism that helped elect a president. I was familiar with many of the characters in the narrative, having discovered and tangling with them during the 2016 campaign. As I would have expected, most of them are predictable pathetic. Their outsized sense of importance combined with an inability to compete in the mainstream world of humanity seems to have pushed them to the fringes. On the fringe, a loser with enough cleverness and delusions of intelligence can become hero’s of the angry, stupid and ignorant. They combine pseudo-science, pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-history and mix in a little smarminess to impress losers. It’s hilarious that they all compete and deride all the other fringe groups that are a little more or a little less racist than they are. Apparently they believe that just the right degree of racism is the key to life. I found myself getting angry on every page. That not a criticism, I think if you don’t get angry there’s something wrong with you. I also laughed a lot, not with them but at them. So do I feel superior? Well not in a general sense but I sure fell superior to the losers in this book. However, we should not turn our heads from what our society contains. I have developed an even greater respect for what these hucksters call the “mainstream media” but I insist on calling the free press.

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MEDIA TROLLS

Marantz researches social media trolls in his book "Antisocial". For those who are not familiar with the meaning of media trolls, they are people who use the internet to create discord by writing or saying something that is controversial. Of course, what is said in the media does not have to be true. The difference is--the measure of success on the internet is an increase in the number of clicks one receives and the number of follower’s gob smacked by the messenger. It has zero to do with truth. What makes internet trolls a societal cancer is their distortion of truth. Some trolls believe “buyer beware". Like in any sale of product, the truth of speech (to a troll) is the responsibility of the individual. If a viewer or listener cannot separate the truth from fiction, that is the audience's problem. A troll feels no compunction for lying, misleading, or stretching the truth. A committed troll argues that everyone should have the choice to believe or not believe. Marantz notes the fallacy of the Troll’s argument is in the release of white supremacist and hate-filled speech that aims at changing the norms of society. The infancy of the internet needs regulation. The government must fight the hijacking of the American electorate by internet trolls. The internet is driven more by popularity and money than morality and truth. Marantz convinces a listener that American freedom of speech is not a license for anarchy

3 people found this helpful

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A hard look at our American culture

This book is an amazing look at America post Trump. It investigates the people behind the Twitter memes that control the manner in which the White House thinks. Andrew gives multiple examples of how talking points went from troll to Trump. The book gives a peak inside the mental state some people are in & how they lust after a life where power is likes and retweets. Andrew tackles an emotional roller coaster of fact & fiction (all depends on what ‘side’ you are on to what you may consider truth). If you are interested in where American culture is headed then this book is for you. I do recommend this as an informative listen to others.

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  • ZZ
  • 10-19-19

great performance

Fascinating material, well presented. And I was very impressed with the performance of the reader.

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lite weight anecdotes with no conclusions

lots of anecdotes about horrible people, but the author never comes to any serious conclusions. I got bored quickly.

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Amazing and deeply informative

An amazing and incredibly well researched read. As a leftist who has taken politics and the far right extremely seriously since 2016, I can say that this book taught me an incredible amount of new information about the current American fascist movement, and I’ve been obsessively immersing myself in news and information about politics on a daily basis since November 2016. Andrew did a great job with this and his research is invaluable when it comes to understanding the alt-right movement of today. Thank you Andrew for all your hard work, your book is great! I strongly recommend this to anyone interested in politics regardless of your political position. It’s deeply informative and helps to demystify all the strange events we’ve witnessed in American politics since the presidential race of 2015-16.

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illuminating!

I learned so much from this book! I highly recommend it, infect I've already recommended it. I was recommending it before I finished it! I would absolutely buy another book from this author. I bought it because I saw him talking about this on CBS News. Really well written and read.

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Essential Reading

An astonishing piece of journalism really. Andrew Marantz has given us a highly informative, and up to date, thoughtful look at the crucial role the internet is playing in shaping, the current political landscape. In the process of doing so, he displays just the kind of critical thinking that the internet has been so successful in silencing. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.