The Chaos Machine

By Max Fisher

Though you may find yourself being called a cynic, it’s always a good idea to suspect the motives of powerful elites.

We need more of such cynicism. I find few things as depressing as the spectacle of downtrodden, ordinary people hoping that the rich and famous might somehow come to their rescue, believing that billionaires and celebrities are their friends or (I have to shake my head as I write this recent favourite) “allies.” Such misguided souls think that the people at the very top, people in charge, have their best interests at heart and are only prevented from joining forces with the little guy by corrupt courtiers and a perfidious establishment. Protesters in St. Petersburg on what came to be known as Bloody Sunday, 1905 carried images of Nicholas II and sang patriotic hymns (“God Save the Tsar!”), certain that if Nicholas only heard their pleas for better working conditions he would do the right thing. In the Third Reich it was felt that everything bad being done by the Nazis was due to freelancing party bigwigs. “If only the Führer knew” became a kind of mantra. More recently, Donald Trump became the latest head of state whose populist mission was undone by the dark forces of the deep state.

Max Fisher begins this disturbing account of the takeover of our minds and our politics by social media by telling the story of “Jacob” (a pseudonym), “a contractor with one of the vast outsourcing firms to which Silicon Valley sends its dirty work.” Jacob grew up a techie at heart, with a love of computers and an admiration for web moguls like Mark Zuckerberg. When Jacob, in due course, starts to learn about the evil that Facebook is responsible for he has an idea.

It would mean cracking the security system at work, secreting confidential files abroad, and convincing the media to broadcast his warning for him – all in the hope of delivering them to the screen of one person: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. Distance and bureaucracy, he was sure, kept him from reaching the people in charge. If only he could get word to them then they would want to fix things.

Oh, if only Mark Zuckerberg knew!

Of course, Zuckerberg was well aware of what was happening, and indeed was much better informed than Jacob. But he had no intention of “fixing things.” No, he was too busy styling himself a “wartime CEO,” meaning he wasn’t going to listen to anyone telling him what to do. And what he wanted was for Facebook to grow, no matter what the human cost.

It’s pathetic, and I don’t mean that in the modern sense of being merely weak and contemptible, that so much faith is still placed in celebrities, political leaders, and CEOs, hoping that they will somehow save us from the breakdown in our democracy, climate change, and runaway economic inequality. But how can anyone, even the most starry-eyes of cybertopians, still believe that tech billionaires just want to create a better world for all of us? Do people really see the likes of Zuckerberg and Elon Musk as pioneers breaking a trail to an egalitarian utopia rather than just as run-of-the-mill, greedy sociopaths who want to make as much money as possible while the world burns?

This is a point Fisher himself seems a bit wobbly on. He bends as far as he can (too far, in my opinion) in giving the benefit of the doubt to tech titans who mouth platitudes about how increasing engagement on social media brings everyone together, with free speech (however loosely defined) being an ineluctable force for good. So when one critic says that Facebook’s biggest test is “whether it will ever truly put society and democracy ahead of profit and ideology,” I guess we’re supposed to think that the “ideology” part means something.

But I have no idea what. Zuckerberg and Musk, for example, have shown a flexible and situational attitude toward free speech online, to put it mildly. My own sense is that profit (or growth) is their only ideology. Similarly, when Fisher concludes by saying that “Some combination of ideology, greed, and the technological opacity of complex machine-learning blinds executives from seeing their creations in their entirety” I don’t know what blindness he’s talking about. If anything, his book exposes in some detail how, at the executive level, everyone is fully cognizant of what “their creations” are doing. Perhaps not initially, but certainly for the past fifteen or so years. It’s head-scratching then to end on the same old note of wanting to let the guys in charge know what’s happening. If only we could somehow get word to them and let them know what’s really going on!

This caveat entered, I think Fisher’s book provides an excellent primer on a subject that has, deservedly, been getting an increasing amount of attention. Traveling from Sri Lanka and Myanmar to Paris, Berlin, and Washington D.C., he outlines what has become a truly global threat. Drawing on research from evolutionary biology and social psychology that’s now been backed up by acres of big data, you’ll learn about concepts like status threat, the tyranny of the cousins, deindividuation, ampliganda, and irony poisoning. And you should be taking notes, because this stuff is important.

But while there are a lot of new kinks to trace, at heart this is an old story, and not a terribly complicated one either. Perhaps the biggest key to success in a capitalist system is finding a way to externalize costs. This has been most dramatically the case with the fossil fuel industry, not coincidentally one of the most profitable, if not the most profitable, business in history. For these companies the environment – the global environment, including everything from pollution to species extinction to climate change – is all one big externality. It’s a cost, but not one that fossil fuel companies have to worry about. They couldn’t pay the bill even if they wanted to (and they certainly don’t want to).

The tech giants don’t have to worry about any of the damage they cause either. Gutting democracy, creating a mental health crisis, broadcasting vaccine misinformation during a pandemic, even promoting violence that scales up from mass shootings to genocide . . . the companies that profit don’t have to take responsibility for any of this. They are all externalized costs. And, just as with the fossil fuel industry, by this point there’s little the companies who profit from the system could do to actually change it. If they did, it wouldn’t just be the end of business as usual but the end of their business. Take the call for increased moderation of content posted on Facebook. “On some level,” Fisher writes,

moderation was, they knew, a doomed mission. No rulebook could possibly stem the hate and misinformation that Facebook’s systems were engineered, however unintentionally, to mass-produce. It was like putting more and more air fresheners on the outside of a toxic-waste factory while production simultaneously ramped up inside.

Not to mention the way “moderation” has now been cast as political censorship by lefties, or more properly the “reality-based community,” in a transparent attempt to conceal its identity (more pronounced than ever under the chairmanship of Musk) as right-wing media. And so that waste Fisher describes is going to keep on being mass produced, while the companies that pump it out continue to make money. There is “little incentive for the social media giants to confront the human cost to their empires – a cost borne by everyone else, like a town downstream from a factory pumping toxic sludge into its communal well.” “After all, it’s only the users who suffer.”

None of this leads to a healthy polity, or planet. But we’ve been speaking of our economy’s addiction to oil for a lot longer than we have of our addiction to our phones and social media, with even less progress to be shown in breaking the habit. Indeed, our dependency has, if anything, been worsening: tracking a downhill slide from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter.

It’s hard to imagine the next stop being any improvement. That’s not the way addiction works. The best we can hope for is some realization on the part of the pushers that they may in fact be killing their client. Though I’m not sure even that would lead them to change their behaviour. They’re as hooked on profit as we are on their junk. “The business model is what got us into trouble,” one computer scientist opines. Which, in turn, sounds awfully close to what was said about the subprime mortgage crisis: “The incentives were wrong.” One hopes the tech crash won’t be as bad, but I don’t see any grounds for optimism.

The Chaos Machine isn’t unique in its point of view. In fact, there were moments when I thought Fisher slipped into some social-justice language that seemed a little too pat. Is it true that social media was designed by engineers to re-create humanity in their own image, the “rigid archetype” being “ruthless, logical, misanthropic, white, male geeks”? If women or BIPOC had been in charge from the beginning would things be any different? I thought what was happening was being driven by a wedding of the logic of cancer-stage capitalism with our deepest evolutionary instincts. Do we need to beat up on white men for everything?

The simple solution to all of this “comes down to some version of turning it off,” a bit of advice that echoes the environmentalist message to “leave it in the ground,” and which is almost as likely to be followed. Still, I guess we can hope. Though more fruitful ground, I think, would be taking the blinkers away from people like Jacob, who, when we meet him again near the end of the book, is still a believer.

despite his concerns, he still had faith in the company that had promised the world so much; surely this was nothing more than a low-level failure to fulfill Zuckerberg’s grand vision. Even as I sat in his home, poring over documents whose publication he knew would embarrass Facebook, he saw himself as its ally. By revealing the bureaucratic failures he feared were holding the company back, he would help it to achieve the technological revolution in which he’d placed his hopes.

Facebook an “ally” and Zuckerberg’s “grand vision” only undone by “bureaucratic failures.” I began this review by saying I found few things as depressing as this sort of thinking. I’ll end by saying that if anything is going to change, it has to begin here.

Review first published online May 24, 2023.


How the South Won the Civil War

By Heather Cox Richardson

Books on history directed at a general audience tend to run to two extremes: either doorstops that go over the same old ground in ever greater detail or brief introductions that look to cover a subject quickly, picking out only a couple of salient points with little depth of analysis.

Despite agreeing with much of what Heather Cox Richardson says in How the South Won the Civil War, I came away thinking it ended up being the worst of both these worlds.

The basic idea, and it is very basic, has it that American political history has been a constant conflict of democracy and equality (good) vs. oligarchy/hierarchy and liberty (bad). At first blush you may think placing liberty on the dark side a slip, but it’s really a function of what Richardson sees, in blurry terms, as the American paradox, one “that sits at the heart of our nation.” The paradox has it that “equality for white men depended on inequality for people of color and women.” It’s equality as a zero sum game: there’s only so much of it to go around. This leads to a corollary of the paradox: that equality for everyone leads to the end of liberty (that is, for white men).

This is history painted in broad strokes, and in a rush. How the South Won the Civil War covers the entire political history of the U.S., from colonial days to the Trump years, dealing with matters foreign and domestic, in just 200 pages. Breaking it down, the historical-geographical narrative is that oligarchy reached its perfect form in the Old South, was defeated by the forces of equality in the Civil War, but then mounted a comeback through western expansion, the myth of the cowboy, and the rise of “movement conservatism.” As a pull quote: “The resurrection of antebellum southern ideology through the rise of the western individualist rewrote American history.” At the end of this process, which is where we are today, oligarchy is very much back in the saddle, though with “women voters and voters of color” leading a pushback.

There is support for a lot of what Richardson has to say, especially with regard to the New Deal as the progressive version of the lost cause, the swing from the post-WW2 Great Compression to the post-Reagan Great Divergence, and the success of the Republican “Southern strategy.” But beyond the generalities her argument has a lot of problems.

In the first place, as Ronald Syme wrote in The Roman Revolution, “In all ages, whatever the name and form of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the façade.” That is, whether you want to call Rome a republic or an empire, it was always ruled, not by “the people” or a dictator, but by a governing class. Richardson, however, is not much interested in class. As with so many contemporary academic commentators she prefers to see everything in categories of identity like race and gender. The heroes of her story are thus those women voters and voters of color while white men are the whipping boys. Movement conservatism, for example, was driven in its early years by “young white men whose easy future was no longer ensured,” clinging “to the idea they were special.” A lot of hate went into the writing of that sentence.

By eschewing class for identity politics Richardson does a lot of work for the Right, who want to fight using this language. She also has to ignore facts like Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump in 2016 among white women voters, and Trump’s surge in popularity among women and Hispanic voters in 2020. What is driving this? I don’t think using the lens of race and gender is very helpful, or very hopeful, here. (For what it’s worth, I’ll point here to where I’ve previously placed my own favourite whipping boys, the Boomers, in the stocks. Though not the sole guilty party — no single demographic is — I think they have the most to answer for, and help make sense of the nearly identical authoritarian shift in Britain at the same time.)

I mentioned the broad strokes that a history covering so much material in so few pages has to paint in. As we’re swept along readers may find themselves wanting to dig their heels in. Yes, the mythology of the West has at its center the rugged individual who, because he’s an individual, is basically locked in a battle-to-the-death with the world. And because of its historical grounding it certainly comes with a lot of sexist and racist baggage. As a genre, the Western carries a political message. But is it really anti-government? Outlaws aren’t always heroes.  John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) has to be set against My Darling Clementine (1946). And while Star Wars (1977) may be “the classic western story mythologized into space,” its politics are a lot more complicated than just a rainbow coalition fighting a giant, evil bureaucracy with the power of the Force. The Rebel Alliance includes hereditary monarchies. The Force has both a good and a dark side. Where does such a discussion really take us?

I wouldn’t say the South won the Civil War so much as American history shows us different oligarchic factions jockeying for power using the language of equality and liberty in self-serving ways. To be sure, the mythmaking on the Right involves bigger and more dangerous lies, as I think the history surveyed here makes clear. But perhaps the main takeaway I had, and it’s one I found particularly disappointing and not at all Richardson’s fault, was that this sort of analysis doesn’t help that much when considering the present situation not only in America but Western democracies in general. What we’re seeing is a different kind of system breakdown, driven by new forces (environmental, demographic, technological) we still have little understanding of. Meanwhile, liberty and equality don’t mean what they used to, and fraternity disappeared from the face of the earth nearly a century ago. We need a new language of revolution.

Review first published online April 21, 2023.

The Immoral Majority, Jesus and John Wayne, The Power Worshippers, and Unholy

By Ben Howe

By Kristin Kobes Du Mez

By Katherine Stewart

By Sarah Posner

There were many things that were incongruous about Donald Trump being elected president of the United States in 2016. For starters: how did such a figure become a champion of the political Right? He had been a Democrat in the past, and was considered to be a liberal (in the American sense) on many cultural issues, like abortion. He was opposed to neocon foreign policy, one of the few areas where he seemed to have any interest in policy at all, and seemed indifferent to neoliberal economics beyond anything that would be to his immediate personal benefit. A notorious scofflaw, by the time of the January 6 insurrection and his second impeachment he’d made a mockery of standing for law and order. As far as “family values” went, that was only a punchline to a joke in very bad taste.

But perhaps the greatest incongruity of all was the rock-ribbed support for him among evangelical Christians, some 80% of whom voted for Trump in 2016 and again in 2020. The religious Right rallied behind a figure who was, “of course,” as Katherine Stewart drily notes, “the man who by all accounts has the least claim of any public figure in recent memory to those virtues that are commonly identified as ‘Christian’”. As Ben Howe puts it, this was a “story of the evangelical movement embracing someone who was not in it or of it, who was not like it and did not like it, and who represented culturally and morally all that it opposed.” So how was this justified, and why did it happen?

Howe, himself an evangelical of the Never Trump variety, breaks the first question down into what he sees as the three rationalizations evangelicals employed to justify their support for what he dubs “the new good news.” First there was “vessel theology”: the idea that it was not for Christian voters to judge the means God had decided to use to achieve his (God’s) ends. The second rationalization was compartmentalization: Trump wasn’t being elected to be a good shepherd to the soul of the nation, but to kick ass, both foreign and domestic. In other words, there is no spiritual dimension to political decisions but a complete separation of church and state. Finally, if these have failed to move you, there is the lesser-of-two-evils rationalization. Sure Trump was a moral degenerate, but what about Hillary or any of the Democrats? Aren’t they the ones holding Satanic black masses where babies are sacrificed to alien pedophile rings?

The second question, of why evangelicals so enthusiastically went for Trump is, like many “why?” questions, harder to answer. Motivation is always tricky ground to enter into, especially when analysing what appears to be perverse behaviour. That said, in supporting Trump, Howe charges that evangelicals have done irreparable damage to their brand, which means you do have to ask why they did it.

Howe settles on “a simple answer: selfishness.” Unpacking this, what I think his analysis illustrates more broadly is the way evangelicals became hooked on the drug of rage that Trump embodied so absolutely. Trump was the evangelist of a pervasive culture of resentment and “the new era of anger.” Indeed he was resentment and anger incarnate, and for a group that saw itself as sick of losing his was a gospel of endless winning, whatever that might mean. Instead of standing as a rejection of evangelical values he was the demon that the movement summoned forth. The two then became joined at the hip, feeding off each other in a perverse symbiosis. As Sarah Posner reports, “The [religious right] movement desperately needed a savior; Trump was eager to oblige because of his bottomless need for a worshipful retinue. Trump and the religious right, then, are each essential to the other’s success.” And not just success – which can be defined for Trump as staying out of jail and, more ambitiously, for the Christian right as “flipping the script on civil rights, casting conservative Christians as the real victims of prejudice and discrimination, undermining the separation of church and state, and implementing a totalizing legal structure of ‘biblical’ law” – but, finally, essential to their mutual survival.

I began by talking about Trump as an incongruous figure, but this is only one way of looking at him. For other observers he stands more as the terminal point in a long regression. In Jesus and John Wayne Kristin Lobes Du Mez makes the case:

How could the “family values” conservatives support a man who flouted every value they insisted they held dear? How could the self-professed “Moral Majority” embrace a candidate who reveled in vulgarity? How could evangelicals who’d turned “WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do?”) into a national phenomenon justify their support for a man who seemed the very antithesis of the savior they claimed to emulate?

Pundits scrambled to explain. Evangelicals were holding their noses, choosing the lesser of two evils – and Hillary Clinton was the greatest evil. Evangelicals were thinking in purely transactional terms, as Trump himself is often said to do, voting for Trump because he promised to deliver Supreme Court appointments that would protect the unborn and secure their own “religious liberty.” Or maybe the polls were misleading. By confusing “evangelicals-in-name-only” with good, church-attending, Bible-believing Christians, sloppy pollsters were giving evangelicalism a bad rap.

But evangelical support for Trump was no aberration, nor was it merely a pragmatic choice. It was, rather, the culmination of evangelicals’ embrace of militant masculinity, an ideology that enshrines patriarchal authority and condones the callous display of power, at home and abroad. By the time Trump arrived proclaiming himself their savior, conservative white evangelicals had already traded a faith that privileges humility and elevates “the least of these” for one that derides gentleness as the province of wusses. Rather than turning the other cheek, they’d resolved to defend their faith and their nation, secure in the knowledge that the ends justify the means. Having replaced the Jesus of the Gospels with a vengeful warrior Christ, it’s no wonder many came to think of Trump in the same way. In 2016, many observers were stunned at evangelicals’ apparent betrayal of their own values. In reality, evangelicals did not cast their vote despite their beliefs, but because of them.

In other words, family values had not been rejected so much as redefined in a reactionary way, being all about patriarchal family structures headed by a heroically masculine father figure lording over a sweetly submissive domestic helpmeet. “Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity.”

This point is one that’s often been addressed by political commentators trying to judge how much the rise of Trump marked a break with conservative orthodoxy and the Republican establishment and how much it showed continuity with an established historical arc. Was Trump’s election an aberration, or the dark harvest of seeds sown long ago? Looking back over a century at the fashioning of a masculine, militaristic Christian hero in American pop culture, Du Mez argues for continuity. Evangelicals didn’t just support Trump; in a very real sense they made him. Or to return to the image I used earlier, he was the demon they summoned and then embraced.

Part of the difficulty when discussing these matters lies in defining what it is conservatives and evangelicals believe. What are their core principles and values? Keeping in mind that political and religious creeds evolve, sometimes quite rapidly, I would say that conservatism today is basically neoliberal in its ideology, meaning that it’s opposed to government having any function at all aside from protecting private property. So basically just opposition to taxes and government regulation. Squaring that with a Christian message isn’t easy, but is nevertheless essential as that has become the political freight the religious Right has to carry.

Evangelicalism, however, is a more slippery term. Part of what makes it slippery is that it has become detached from any theological content. “In truth,” Posner writes, “what it means to be an evangelical has always depended on the world beyond the faith.” As critics, even within the evangelical movement, have complained, many people now consider themselves evangelical only because “they watch Fox News, consider themselves religious, and vote Republican.” Indeed, “among evangelicals, high levels of theological illiteracy mean that many ‘evangelicals’ hold views traditionally defined as heresy, calling into question the centrality of theology to evangelicalism generally.”

I talked about how political and religious labels like conservative and evangelical have begun to lose their meaning, but if we take a step back we can say that even categories like politics and religion have been tossed into the hopper. The lines between church and state have obviously blurred any clear or meaningful demarcation. To paraphrase T. S. Eliot, politics is our new religion, and so is our religion. But there can be no mistaking which is the junior partner in this alliance of church and state. Politics, specifically Republican politics, hasn’t just infected American religion but taken it over. And, like Trump’s refashioning of the Republican party, the takeover has been hostile. Religious extremism has gone mainstream with an extreme political agenda that Katherine Stewart in The Power Worshippers sees as antithetical to the entire American political tradition.

The agenda being set isn’t about values but power. As always, one has to ignore the rhetoric, the words, and see what’s actually being done. Or, taking another route, we should follow the money. “The religious right is not a single organization,” Stewart writes, “and yet it is surprisingly well organized in a certain sense. It may be perceived as a grassroots movement, not answering in a formal way to a command-and-control hierarchy. But it is the big-picture strategists who are, to a largely underappreciated degree, acting as its architects and engineers.” What this means in effect is that “the Bible of Christian nationalism answers to the requirements of the individuals who fund the movement and grant it power at the highest levels of government.” Schematically, the movement serves “the emotional needs of its adherents, the organizational needs of its clerical leaders, and the political needs and ambitions of its funders.”

For a specific example of how this works, Stewart looks at how Russia is used as a model (a shining city on a hill, if you like) for American Christian nationalists. Now the way the American Right has drawn closer to Russia is a point I’ve made before. After the fall of the Soviet Union, American “conservatives” saw Russia no longer as an evil empire but an exemplar, a textbook case of oligarchic takeover, single-party rule, and media control. As part of this process Russia’s ruling elite wrapped themselves in Orthodox vestments, despite Russia actually being one of the east religious nations on earth. This would dovetail perfectly with the use of religion by the American Right. Stewart is worth quoting here at length:

The Christian nationalists’ affection for Mr. Putin and all things Russian goes much deeper than a tactical alliance aimed at saving souls and defeating “homosexuals” and “gender ideology.” At the core of the attraction lies a shared political vision. America’s Christian nationalists have not overlooked Putin’s authoritarian style of government; they have embraced it as an ideal. During the 2016 presidential campaign Mike Pence hailed Mr. Putin as “a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.” The Christian nationalist hasn’t shied away from the fusion of church and state that characterizes Putin’s regime. On the contrary, it appears they want to emulate it. They love Russia, it seems, because they hate America and its form of secular, constitutional democracy.

When Russians undertook a direct attack on American democracy in 2016 with the clear aims of electing Donald Trump as president and undermining Americans’ trust in their system of government, Christian nationalist leaders did more than join Trump in the spurious cries of “No collusion.” They joined him in denying that there ever was as an attack. They cheered him on as he obstructed efforts to investigate the attack. And then they joined hi attacking Democrats, the FBI, the “fake media,” the “deep state,” and everyone else who suggested that investigating and countering an attack on American was a good idea.

It seems sadly fitting that so many of the self-anointed patriots of America’s Christian nationalist movement should have found themselves working with foreign powers intent on undermining our national security, our social fabric, the integrity of our elections, and the future of American democracy. This is a movement that never accepted the promise of America. It never believed that a republic could be founded on a universal ideal of equality, not on a particular creed, or that it might seek out reasoned answers to humanity’s challenges rather than enforce old dogmas. It never subscribed to the nation’s original motto, E Pluribus Unum, that out of many, we could become one. From the beginning, its aim was to redeem the nation by crushing the pluralistic heart of our country. The day when it will have the power to do so is fast approaching.

The cynicism is jaw-dropping. America must be destroyed in order to be “saved.” The foot soldiers of the authoritarian movement will be Christians marching onward to a New Jerusalem, or Moscow, untainted by democracy and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Trump was only a golden calf for the funders of the movement to present to the people, a false god who would liberate his followers from the rigorous yoke and doctrinal messiness of values and moral law and allow them to freely hate whoever they wanted. Religion, as Posner writes, “is just a cover for the endgame,” which is not the Second Coming or Rapture but the worldwide dismantling of democratic institutions, human rights, and humanitarianism (in their eyes, the latter word being now “not an accolade but an epithet”).

That all of this makes a mockery of Christian teaching, indeed inverts it entirely by turning love to hate, is, in the final analysis, beside the point. Trump has never had any interest in religion of any type, presumably seeing it as being for suckers. His followers have, thus far, only proven him right.

Review first published online March 22, 2023.

The Dawn Watch

By Maya Jasanoff

The title of Maya Jasanoff’s book has to be unpacked. The significance of the dawn watch has to do, I think, with her theory about how time is experienced differently on board a ship, which in turn relates to Joseph Conrad’s shuffling of narrative time. It probably also has some connection to Conrad’s career both as a seaman and a writer, standing both at the end of something (the realist novel, the age of sail) and what was coming (modernism and steam). As for the global world, that’s certainly part of the texture of the book’s ground, but while Jasanoff expertly blends history, geography, literature, and biography, “globalization” isn’t a real theme. Conrad was interested in the sinews of trade, at least on the level of moral allegory, and painted on a broad canvas, but he didn’t have a very deep or original take on the sort of thing we talk about when we talk about globalization today.

That out of the way, this is a bracing read that covers a lot of ground with clarity and insight. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that Conrad led such an interesting life, at least before settling down to the life of a conservative literary gentleman and the writing of dreary melodramas. It also allows Jasanoff various entry points to discuss the history of economic colonialism during this period. Particularly impressive is the way she interweaves the story of Panamanian independence with the plot of Nostromo.

What depressed me, however, is the fact that Jasanoff is a historian and not an English professor. Of course the disciplines merge in a lot of ways, and in her Acknowledgments she mentions how a book on Conrad and his times is “a quintessential History and Literature topic,” but the fact that it’s academics from other fields who are doing so much of this work instead of literary scholars is something that has been bothering me for going on twenty years. Why is it that a book like this can only be written now by someone other than a literary critic? I’m sure it has something to do with the way English programs have drifted away from textual criticism and the study of sources in order to focus more on theory and political posturing, but it’s truly remarkable how completely the field has been abandoned. I think the academy just doesn’t value this kind of work anymore. Try and find a book like this today, directed at a general audience, written by an English professor. Yes, I know there are some, but very few, and even fewer that address contemporary writing. Truly this is a discipline that has lost its way.

Review first published online February 22, 2023.

Personality and Power

By Ian Kershaw

The role of the individual in history is a timeless debating topic precisely because it can never be definitively answered. The flag-bearers for the two opposing sides are usually taken as Thomas Carlyle for the “great man” theory of history and Leo Tolstoy for the importance of fate and larger historical forces. But while “the question has lain close to the centre of historical enquiry ever since the study of history became a professional discipline in the nineteenth century,” Ian Kershaw says that it has mainly been addressed as “a theoretical issue . . . seldom confronted directly and empirically.”

You might think that this is what Kershaw is going to do then in Personality and Power, but it’s a task he’s both well-equipped and temperamentally unsuited for. Kershaw is a dry and painstaking historian, with a prose so geared toward qualification and half-statement that it’s hard to think of him confronting any question directly. In the sentence I just quoted from earlier, for example, I left out how the question of the “individual’s impact on historical change” has only “indirectly . . . lain close to the centre of historical enquiry.” Why “indirectly” when the statement that it only lays “close to the centre” is already vague enough?

This may seem like academic hair-splitting, but Kershaw is always engaged in this kind of rhetoric of half-statement, taking two steps forward and then sometimes two or more steps back. Was Mussolini involved in the assassination of the Socialist leader Matteotti? “Almost certainly he was at least indirectly implicated.” I don’t think you can be less conclusive in only eight words.

So if you’re looking for a direct and empirical answer to the question Personality and Power poses you may be disappointed by some flabby answers. “Without [Lenin] the twentieth century would have been different, if in ways we can only dimly imagine.” Well, sure. Hitler’s “colossal impact on European history during his era was second to none.” OK.

As for the role of the individual vs. historical forces, “Given a unique context that offered the necessary structural conditions, Stalin provides a self-evident case of the importance of the individual in history.” So which is it? The unique context and structural conditions, or the individual? Nothing seems self-evident about this. As for Mussolini, little of his route to power was under his “personal control.” There was “nothing inevitable” about his takeover, because without “the prevailing social, economic, and political preconditions his dictatorship would not have been possible.” I can’t get my head around this. If he was swept to power by the prevailing winds, with little under his control, doesn’t that make his takeover seem more, not less inevitable? Or here Kershaw is on De Gaulle and decolonization: “His achievement should not be exaggerated. The global pressure for decolonization was so strong that it would have happened anyway, whatever the character of the French government. Still, without de Gaulle’s leadership it could well have been a far more thorny path.” Could have. I suppose.

That said, I did find the discussion in Personality and Power to be mostly on point, insightful, and of real value in addressing the central question. The broad conclusions that Kershaw draws probably won’t surprise anyone, basically being elaborations on Marx’s dictum that individuals make history under existing circumstances, but he places them in a context that provides an appropriate historical scaffolding.

That scaffolding also encourages the reader to draw some of their own conclusions, or at least entertain further speculations. I found myself thinking back to an idea Bob Woodward put forward in his book Shadow about how post-Watergate American presidents were consumed by the “myth of the big-time president” and the need to prove themselves through leading the state through some dramatic crisis. And by dramatic crisis what they meant was a global war. One gets the same sense in this book of a number of oversize, big-time national leaders in the first half of the twentieth century followed by a bunch of bureaucrats of lesser stature. It’s a process that even got going before the Second World War though, as Kershaw notes in his introduction to Francisco Franco: “It is, of course, obvious that Franco’s wider impact scarcely compares with that of Hitler and Mussolini, or Lenin and Stalin. He presents a case study in the role and impact of the individual in history at the lower end of the scale.” Because Spain was too weak to get involved in the war (on Franco’s preferred side, anyway) and so sat on the sidelines of history.

Another point that I wondered about was the inverse relation between the immediate, dramatic impact made by revolutionary leaders and how lasting that impact was. The more radical, individually-directed historical changes tended to be the ones that didn’t last. History has a way of ironing out the bumps of oversized personalities. This doesn’t mean that such leaders didn’t “make” history, only that their window for making it was necessarily limited to their own lifetimes. Of course figures like Lenin and Hitler caused incalculable damage, but it’s hard to think of their legacies as anything other than something that had to be, with difficulty, overcome. Meanwhile, a genuine strongman like Josip Broz Tito could only influence his own part of Europe, with a legacy that disappeared on his death because Yugoslavia, like Spain, couldn’t make or break Europe on its own.

Kershaw insists this is not a series of pocket bios but I suspect that’s what most people will be reading it for. The larger question he sets out with, however, is broadly entertained. I thought the importance of luck – a determinative force in history that can’t really be analyzed but which can be of enormous importance – might have been addressed a little more. Also, in the back half of the book there were some figures I wasn’t sure belonged, like Helmut Kohl. And I was puzzled as to why Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was not only left out but not so much as mentioned anywhere. I realize the question of whether or to what extent Turkey should be considered part of Europe can be complicated, but I still thought his story very much belonged here.

Great men (and one woman, Margaret Thatcher), or broader historical forces? Obviously history is the product of both. A book like this lets us consider the question a little deeper though, and do some of the historical math.

Review first published online February 8, 2023.

The Storm Is Upon Us

By Mike Rothschild

There’s a school of thought, and it’s one I’m inclined to ally with, that has it that the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States in 2016 was the result of a publicity stunt or exercise in branding that slipped the guardrails of democracy. If so, it may share something with the phenomenon of QAnon. While there are a few prime suspects, it’s still not known for sure who got the QAnon ball rolling, but more to the point it’s not clear what their aim was. Perhaps, in an attention economy, it was just a way of catching eyeballs and getting clicks. But whatever its initial purpose, even before the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, it was clear that things had gotten well out of hand.

In both cases – Trump and QAnon – the tinder had been prepared in advance and was only now, to borrow the analogy of Evan Osnos in Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury, being lit. The question then becomes just why so many people adopted such a crazy belief system, one that had at its heart the idea that “deep state” elites were running a pedophile sex ring and that Donald Trump was the only one capable of having the guilty parties apprehended (and summarily executed). Rothschild has an answer for that, and I think it makes sense:

This is ultimately what brings people to Q, and what keeps them there. The promise of bad people being punished is one element of it, but the feeling of being part of something important and powerful is vastly underestimated. Q believers see themselves as soldiers fighting for the ultimate cause – and are surrounded by people who validate them, rather than insult them. Yes, Q makes mistakes and gets things wrong, and posts on a message board full of the worst people saying the worst things. But that can be explained away, or written off as just another attack by the enemy. What’s real, what’s tangible to Q believers is how it makes them feel. What questions it answers. What holes it fills that other aspects of life don’t. For some, it’s as compartmentalized as that – good feelings shared with a community about something awesome that will happen to people they hate.

In other words, QAnon is a sort of religion. Rothschild spends a fair bit of time discussing its cult-like attributes, with experts weighing in. The biggest argument against such a classification is QAnon’s lack of a clear leadership structure or org chart, but on the most basic level I think we can still talk of a Church of Q. It’s a belief system giving its adherents a meaning and purpose to their lives, a sense of community strengthened by an us vs. them mentality, the faith that justice will finally be served on the wicked, and an outlet for their frustration, anger, and hate. Of course, it all seems silly from the outside, but so does much of what goes viral on the Internet. “Bored and isolated,” Rothschild writes of Q followers, “they went looking for explanations, enemies, and entertainment. And conspiracy theories provided all three.”

The Q movement, like Trumpism, was also aided by plugging into a “rich tapestry of conspiracy theories, ancient hatreds, currency scams, moral panics, and social media rumors,” as well as anti-liberal “populist” attitudes that were becoming deeper and more prevalent at the time. Chief among these latter being a hatred of the government and the media, a hatred that would metastasize with the pandemic lockdown. But with the election of Biden in 2020 and the eventual end of the pandemic, were the phantoms of QAnon laid to rest, or only temporarily banished? Has the storm passed? The fact that the Republican Party had effectively become “the party of Q” during the Trump years and even after doesn’t bode well for the future.

Rothschild’s book does a good job covering a complicated phenomenon “touching numerous different areas of culture, politics, sociology, and technology.” Along the way he alerted me to some points that I’d missed. In particular, I was interested in how QAnon was deliberately marketed to target demographics like Boomers (“as much as seven times more likely to share fake-news stories” on Facebook) and women. I knew nothing at all of the phenomenon of “Pastel QAnon,” which had to do with promoting QAnon by way of female bloggers and influencers who were into wellness and yoga stuff. This is a part of the Internet that’s outside of my own media silo. But given the prominence of women in the movement – the congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, and January 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt – I shouldn’t have been surprised. Q was not a movement exclusive to angry white men, but one made up of an entire class of anxiety- and grievance-filled Americans. A group that hasn’t gone, and won’t easily go, away.

Review first published online December 1, 2022.

Mussolini’s Daughter

By Caroline Moorehead

Writing the biography of very famous people can’t be easy. For some perennially popular subjects the field is now so crowded as to put off any but the most determined or revisionist of historians. And while familiarity hasn’t stopped new biographies of Napoleon, Lincoln, and Hitler appearing every year, with scraps of previously undiscovered material getting turned up every now and then that lead to new perspectives, I think there’s a law of diminishing returns in operation.

One way of getting around this problem is to shift focus to someone close to the main figure in the story who isn’t as well known. One example being Rosemary Sullivan’s biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin’s Daughter. And now Caroline Moorehead’s account of Edda Mussolini, who was Benito Mussolini’s favourite child.

Edda’s name doesn’t appear in the title or subtitle of Moorehead’s book, perhaps signaling her secondary role in the world-historical events that follow. A famous figure in her day, I think Edda’s largely been forgotten in the years since the end of the Second World War and the collapse of Italy’s Fascist regime. Edda lived to be 84, dying in 1995, but Moorehead’s book skims over her final 50 years in a mere handful of pages. For biographical purposes, Edda life ended with her father hanging by his heels from the roof of a gas station in Milan. “I write, I dream, I drink, I smoke,” is how she described her postwar existence to one friend. “And yet,” she would add, “I continue to live, not vegetate.” Which is setting a low bar.

Edda herself remains a bit mystifying. Moorehead confesses at the outset that “what follows is as close to the truth as I have been able to get.” But does this mean there were hidden depths to Edda’s character, or that there was actually less to her than met the eye? I’m drawn toward the latter position. She and her husband Galeazzo Ciano – for a time Italy’s foreign secretary – became the Fascist poster couple, which may have been incongruous in some ways (particularly given their louche lifestyles) but in so far as they were usually presented to the public as images without much in the way of substance, they fit the bill. Edda wasn’t particularly attractive, but she was tall and thin, while Ciano was a peacock. “Edda and Ciano were everything Mussolini had dreamt of as his model Fascist family: young, healthy, fashionable, forceful and fertile.” But did they even get along?

In terms of personality, Edda was a wild child and very much her daddy’s girl: a hothead “with a taste for dramatic scenes.” She shared many of the same mannerisms (like throwing her head back and sticking her jaw out at someone she was berating) and, even more shocking, the same sexual promiscuity. When asked how she resembled her father she replied “I wouldn’t be able to say the ways in which I do not resemble him. I am a faithful copy.”

For good and ill. She was also her father’s closest confidant and perhaps his only friend, and in this social narrowness she also took after him. I was surprised when I read Moorehead’s account of the sinking of a ship Edda was stationed on (she’d been in her cabin reading P. G. Wodehouse when it was torpedoed). Apparently “her closest friend,” a fellow nurse, died in the attack. The friend’s name didn’t ring any bells and, checking the index, I found out that this was the only mention of her in the entire book.

Who else did Edda like to hang out with? Like a lot of today’s power couples, her marriage to Ciano seems mostly to have been one of mutual convenience. It’s hard to say if she was ever in love with any of her lovers. Apparently she got along well with Magda Goebbels, which doesn’t say much in her favour as Magda seems to have been a very dull woman.

But then wasn’t Edda, despite her glamorous profile (which included an appearance on the cover of Time Magazine in 1939), a bit dull herself? Fiery, to be sure, but still an uneducated peasant girl whose shallowness is evident throughout Moorehead’s account. In Edda’s defence, her position in the Fascist regime was one she didn’t seek and seemed to not particularly enjoy, though the evidence here is ambiguous. Meanwhile, the question of her culpability in the crimes of the Fascist state is one that exercised investigators then and now.

Was she a power behind the throne? Moorehead’s subtitle is taken from a profile of Edda that appeared in an Egyptian magazine, but it has to be given some interpretive shading:

Edda, [the profile] said, “rules her father with an iron fist.” This, certainly, had become the accepted view in many circles, but as with so much else in Edda’s life, it has to be seen in context. Her power was never of a concrete kind, not least because she was a woman, and because she was quickly bored with the minutiae of daily decisions. But her closeness to her father and Ciano’s reliance on her, together with her impatience at equivocation, made her formidable, even when she was least aware of it.

Try parsing that out. A Fascist figurehead unaware and uninterested in her own power? It seems odd, but a similar contradiction also informed Edda’s description of her father as both “feeble and authoritarian.” Which he was, at least at the end, when he’d become a sock puppet or, in Edda’s phrasing, a “rag in the hands of the Germans.”

Of course, Edda herself would deny having any influence in matters of state, though after the war there were good reasons for downplaying any role she might have had. On trial, she remarked “It wasn’t as if I was Helen of Troy.” Of some significance, though again it’s hard to interpret, is her absence from Ciano’s diaries, the preservation of which played such a large part in her escape from Italy at the end of the war. Did her husband see her as not being involved? Was he trying to protect her? Was he jealous of her? We can’t say.

Moorehead does point out that Edda was more pro-war than Ciano, which counts against her on many levels. Italy, for example, just wasn’t ready for war. As Mussolini quipped at the time, “With an army like this, one can declare war only on Peru.” But Il Duce was the decider, and he was growing feeble.

If Edda remains a cipher it’s no fault of Moorehead. As well as being highly readable this is a full and honest account that leaves much to the reader to interpret in their own way. I came away from it thinking of Edda as little more than a high-strung, Fascist fashion model who flew (or was carried) too close to the sun. That she survived the wreckage is testimony to a certain resourcefulness and resiliency, but that’s the best I can say.

Review first published online November 11, 2022.

I Just Wrote This Five Minutes Ago . . .

By Carl Watts

The title of this collection of essays, addressing not just contemporary poetry itself but its reception and what used to be known as the scene, comes from an attitude that Carl Watts (and others) picked up on when attending open mic poetry readings. What it refers to is poets showing up claiming that what they were about to read had only been written that morning, or on the drive over to the venue, or just five minutes ago.

Such a careless attitude didn’t do much to win over other poets, with Watts flagging a “consensus that this practice implied arrogance and a lack of respect for other people’s time and attention.” One of the expectations the audience at a poetry reading might reasonably have had is that there had at least been some “work put in in advance.”

It’s that notion of work that’s central to most of what Watts has to say about poetry. One of his keynotes is the famous line from Auden that poetry makes nothing happen. Poetry doesn’t do any work, and if you’re feeling in a bad mood you might even say it’s without utility or value. When you get right down to it, these are all variations on the question of What’s poetry for?

Watts has a complicated answer to this, seeing the time we spend (or, less charitably, waste) reading poetry as having both a personal and social value:

I see contemporary poetry as a form of expenditure that forges links among disparate practices and parties, sustaining a civil society of (mostly) good-faith engagement that resists value defined as monetary, based on an end product, or instrumental in that it is socially beneficial in some directed or predetermined way.

The critic has a role to play in all this. He does work too. A big part of that work just amounts to reading: digging at the rock face of contemporary poetry. And this is where Watts stands out, as his essays are grounded in a sensitive, eclectic, and intelligent reading of various poets and poems, the majority of whom I was unfamiliar with. Among those I did know, I’ve never found much that’s interesting in the poetry of Rupi Kaur – and Watts himself is “not exactly a fan” – but the essay “recuperating” Kaur is the best analysis yet that I’ve read of her oeuvre and makes a case for her poetry’s value in a credible way, especially in terms of its broadening of poetry’s audience.

On the other hand, Kaur’s status as a celebrity and sales juggernaut – that is, a poet whose primary value is commercial – makes her sui generis. Is her popular, participatory message a poetics, I want to ask, or a brand? Watts does well reading her poetry, but I still came away wondering, as I have for a while, how much Kaur is writing social media and how much social media is writing her. This gets to a larger point about how much Watts sees poetry merely as a vehicle (or perhaps cultural lens), and how much he sees it as expressing its own message (that is, doing work).

Good poetry criticism and good poetry seem to go hand-in-hand. Great poets need great critics. Canada has been blessed with a number of the latter over the last twenty years or so, including names like Carmine Starnino, Jason Guriel, and Michael Lista (a line-up Watts refers to as the “slash-and-burn” reviewers). I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that Canadian poetry has had so many highlights during this same period, and I’m only disappointed I haven’t read more of it, knowing there are so many good Canadian poets out there.

Meanwhile, there has been very little quality criticism directed at Canadian fiction. And I suspect there is some connection here to the fact that our fiction, especially the novel, has been in such a depressing rut, with so little recognition either academically or in the media of the best that’s out there. But I digress.

Watts is doing important work (yes, work), though my own preference is for a critical voice closer to what used to be known as literary journalism, back when that was still a thing. I had the sense that Watts was being pulled in two directions, and it was noticeable when he drifted into a more academic style, with the sort of frustrating false precision typical of that kind of writing. Nevertheless, what he’s given us is a well-informed snapshot of poetry today and a vision for how it fits into a larger cultural picture that remains very much in flux. If poetry makes nothing happen, things still happen to it. It’s a story worth our attention.

Review first published online October 24, 2022.

The Lost Battles

By Jonathan Jones

There’s a line of thinking that has it that what made Florence such a cauldron of genius in the Renaissance, indeed what made the Italian Renaissance, was the fury of artistic competition. Competition, and this is a related point that’s rarely remarked on, which was often very public in nature, and judged to the highest standards.

If competition was this important, the contest between the two titans of the day, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were commissioned in 1504 to paint battle frescos in the Great Council Hall of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, might have been the defining event of the age.

It might have been, but neither of the frescos was painted. All we have are designs and reconstructions, most notably Raphael’s of the Battle of Anghiari and Aristotele de Sangallo’s of the Battle of Cascina (a reproduction of the latter strangely missing from this otherwise well-illustrated book). And yet, the imagination can dwell just as much on a painting lost. At least that’s what Jonathan Jones concludes at the end of his captivating account of the great duel:

The lost Battles of Leonardo and Michelangelo are as available to us, as real, as any work of art, for all art requires imagination and thought to truly enjoy it. Almost because the originals are not visible, the process of reconstructing these great works in our minds can gives us a stronger feeling for them than we might have for many a well-preserved painting. Their first audience responded to the concepts and images that were in them, not to details of execution. So can we. There are enough preparatory drawings, copies, written descriptions, and allusions in later works to make these vanished pictures astonishingly real. In the end this is simply the immediacy of the greatest art.

There’s something to this, though I think contemporary viewers responded to details of execution as well. Leonardo’s Last Supper, for example, is only a blur even after restoration, but the concept makes it iconic. And it’s possible Leonardo was aware of this, as he did have trouble finishing things.

Review first published online September 27, 2022.

The Lost Decade

THE LOST DECADE 2010 – 2020
By Polly Toynbee and David Walker

Given the horrors of the last ten years and the “rightward lurch” toward authoritarianism in Western countries, it’s easy to forget the opportunity costs. Nothing, like something, happens anywhere, as Philip Larkin once observed.

So while all the bad somethings marched on – the dismantling of democracy and the rule of law being the chief examples – the nothings piled up too. Nothing done to address the threat of climate change. No attempt to repair crumbling infrastructure. No growth in wages (what led the Bank of England to call this a “lost decade” in the UK). Problems that were already going to be difficult to deal with were on the way to becoming irremediable given the level of social and economic breakdown.

This political survey of the second decade of the twenty-first century in Britain manages to cover most of the bad things that happened as well as the good things that didn’t. Strictly in terms of politics these years were marked by a Tory ascendancy, and an increasingly radical one at that. The hard-right turn of the Tories is likened to what happened with the Russian Revolution from 1905 to 1917, and the French Revolution going from the Girondins to the Jacobins. It’s hard to feel good about such historical comparisons.

But why did this happen? As is the case with any dramatic social transformation we have to look at both long-term and more proximate causes, and a quest to find any single explanation will likely come up short. For Brexit as for the election of Trump we can point fingers everywhere. Bad times (“austerity” in Britain) often lead to bad politics.

“Brexit is polymorphous; it’s simultaneously about England and the UK, about the UK and Europe; about attitudes, instincts, sensibilities, places, races, self-image, reputation; about institutions, not just parliament. It’s a long list.” Given all this, it’s little surprise that Brexit itself was a mess of contradictions: little England nationalism allied with free-trade libertarianism. Though one supposes that the nationalism was for the plebs while libertarianism, as always, was something only to be enjoyed by those at the top.

Still, if I had to single out just a couple of causes for Britain’s malaise (not so different from our own in North America), I’d settle on the following.

In the first place: voter passivity. In their interviews, Toynbee and Walker express some surprise at voters who had little knowledge or even curiosity about what was happening. Given a chance to initiate fair voting reforms in 2011, voters stayed home: only two out of five showed up, and 68% of those plumped for the status quo. This apathy – product of a general sense of personal well-being (politically, not always a good thing) – allowed the energized base of the right to set the course. Yes, the best lack all conviction and the worst really are full of passionate intensity.

The second point that I think is worth flagging is the generational divide. I’m reluctant to bash the Boomers more than I have already, but if the shoe fits then they should wear it. Whatever one thinks of how things have turned out, this is very much the world the Boomers made, and one they continue to dominate politically and economically. In the Brexit vote “victory was swung by Tory voters . . . who were relatively prosperous. And older. Age tipped the outcome everywhere: retired people in strongly pro-remain London backed leave in similar proportions to the retired of Yorkshire, the north-west and Wales.” Next up, the 2017 election “was the first where age was a stronger predictor of voting intention than social class.”

There’s more to this than the relatively recent (Boomer-driven) development that has seen seniors become an economic elite, or at least better-off, on average, than any other age demographic. Older people are also the most resistant to change. As has often been remarked, we usually get more conservative as we get older, and harken back to imagined good ol’ days when Britain or America were great. Privilege then becomes a double-edged sword.

Older people were some of the most satisfied according to the well-being scores – yet also the most dissatisfied, if their voting patterns said anything about their emotional state. In the UK, life satisfaction now reached its peak between the ages of seventy and seventy-four. The “old” felt life was most worthwhile, as indeed it certainly was for most of them, economically. Odd, though, that the group most regretting lost Britishness were, on these measures, personally today’s happiest.

Why did the most spoiled generation in the history of civilization (remember that this is a Western phenomenon) turn out like this? In large part, I think, precisely because they were so spoiled. Neoliberalism wasn’t a reaction against the counterculture of the 1960s but its natural fruition. Having been given the world, what could the Boomers want but more? Alas, “To age is to crumble” (Toynbee and Walker are talking about infrastructure here). The response to that inevitable fate has been bitterness and rage. The mess that’s left will be for someone else to clean up.

Review first published online July 18, 2022. The Boomers never gave up. A November 2022 YouGov poll of British voters found that 56% of people thought the decision to leave the EU was wrong and only 32% still thought it was right. The only age group to register a majority still in favour of Brexit (and this was six years later, after its failure was abundantly clear) was the over-65s.  57% of that cohort supported Brexit, with the other age brackets breaking down as 37% of 50-64s, 21% of 21-49s, and 11% of 18-24s.