Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation
Social media extremism has hijacked the global conversation. We face an informational crisis that is radicalizing youth, sowing confusion, and shaking democracy to its core. For his new book, Antisocial—named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019—Andrew Marantz spent four years with the two groups who increasingly control the internet: the founders of social media platforms, and the conspiracists, trolls, and white supremacists who use them to advance their toxic agendas. With clarity, courage, and even humor, Marantz explains how we got into this mess—and how we can get out.
“The most detailed and concrete account of how our politics have been changed by social media.”— Jaron Lanier, Author of You Are Not a Gadget
New Yorker staff writer and a TED 2019 speaker Andrew Marantz gained unprecedented access to the two key groups behind our current informational crisis for his book Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation . The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs—“the new gatekeepers”—who, acting out of naïvete and reckless ambition, upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information. How do they view the current reality they’ve helped shape? And what are they doing about it? The second group consists of the strangest and scariest denizens of the online fringes—“the gate crashers.” What are their motivations? And what can be done to stop them? Antisocial offers a compelling, thorough, and at times, frightening look at the very real threats the virtual world is enabling today. Named to both the New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019, and their 100 Notable Books of 2019, Marantz’s work shines an incicisve light on a dark and timely topic.
“The narrative is trenchant and intelligent; wry but not glib; humane but never indulgent.”— New York Times on Antisocial
Marantz has worked at The New Yorker since 2011, first as an editor and then as a writer. He has covered a wide array of subjects, from diversity in comedy to the Truman Show delusion. Ultimately, his main interest lies not in any particular subject but in how people form beliefs, and under what circumstances those beliefs can change for the better. Marantz is also a contributor to Radiolab and The New Yorker Radio Hour, and he has written for Harper's, Mother Jones, the New York Times, and has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. He holds an undergraduate degree in religion from Brown University and a master’s degree in literary nonfiction from New York University.
In keynotes, Marantz draws on his extensive and vital reporting. He tells anecdotes about touring a rural Illinois junkyard with a freelance Twitter propagandist, or drinking in a German beer hall with a not-quite-Nazi, or shadowing a far-right troll during his first week as a White House press correspondent. He also talks about his visits to Silicon Valley, where senior leaders have started to reckon with the fact that their platforms have been overrun by hate speech and online extremism, and have started to think seriously about how to get things under control. Always, Marantz keeps his eyes on the bigger questions: what is this doing to public life, and how can we do better as a society?
How much of your life is online? Not just your social life, but your news, entertainment, and how you form your worldview? The free and democratic internet was a beautiful dream—but now, it’s increasingly corrupted by conspiracists, contorted by propagandists and twisted into a nightmare full of trolls and the toxic alt-right. New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz traces how the unthinkable becomes reality: how alienated young people are easy prey, led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization; and how fringe ideas spread from festering in anonymous corners of the web, to being broadcast on cable TV.
What can we do to keep away “the gate crashers”—the white supremacists, conspiracists, and nihilist trolls who expertly use the internet to advance their poisonous agenda? Will we be able to solve the communication crisis caused by incredible advancements in technology and social media, or will our interventions be too little, too late? Marantz reveals exactly how the erasure of boundaries between technology, politics and media has resulted in the disturbing, deeply broken informational landscape we all inhabit now—and what we can do about it.