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Joined 3 months, 3 weeks ago Interests: sociology, journalism, science-fiction, but not exclusively.

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2023 Reading Goal

55% complete! SocProf has read 11 of 20 books.

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Off the Edge (AudiobookFormat, 2022, Hachette Audio) 4 stars

Since 2015, there has been a spectacular boom in a centuries-old delusion: that the earth …

This is not a joke

4 stars

It's easy to make fun of flat earthers but this book shows that they sit at the intersection of a lot of other conspiracy theories, and share a lot in common with cults. Weill goes through the history of the movement, in the 19th Century (it's not old, the Greeks had already figured out that the Earth was a globe). But, surprise surprise, it is really with Youtube and Facebook that the contemporary movement took off (see what I did there?) thanks to their recommending algorithm. And yes, flat earthers gravitate in the same orbit (natch!) as antisemites (if there's a conspiracy, there have to be conspirators), neo-Nazis, Q, and vaccine troofers. So it's not a movement of harmless eccentrics who can just be ignored. They join the crowds of radicalized by social media. It's not cute. It's dangerous.

When the Moon Turns to Blood (2022, Grand Central Publishing) 4 stars

When the fringes become the center

5 stars

The book takes as its starting point the arrests of Lori Vallow ("doomsday mom" as the media and social media started calling her) and her accomplice Chad Daybell, and follows the thread of Apocalypse-obsessed fringe LDS groups. Both are currently awaiting trial and facing the death penalty for a bunch of murders that include two of Lori's children, her ex-husband, and Chad's wife. What makes this book especially interesting is that it's not just a true crime reporting but it incorporates the context of what makes these weird "the end is nigh" offshoots of LDS actually not so much bizarre deviations but logical extensions. In other words, the fringe is not so much the fringe as slightly off-center. In addition, these cultish LDS groups overlap quite a bit with other similarly cultish groups: anti-government / anti-tax sovereign citizen-types, Q (of course), and white nationalists. As the author notes, "At the …

Pegasus (Hardcover, 2023, Henry Holt and Co.) 5 stars

NSO’s Pegasus system has not been limited to catching bad guys. It’s also been used …

Creepy Cybersurveillance

5 stars

The journalists who wrote this book did for cybersurveillance, what the Panama Papers investigation did for wealthy tax cheats. In both cases, a consortium of journalists got a treasure trove of data from an anonymous source and went to work with fellow reporters around the world. In the case of Pegasus, we are talking about the software sold by Israeli company NSO to governments. Pegasus, once it infects someone's phone, can basically access all the data, media, contacts. It can also turn on the phone mic and camera and record private conversations. NSO advertised it as designed to thwart terrorist and criminal organizations, but of course, Pegasus was used to by questionable governments (Morocco, Mexico, Azerbaijan, India, among others) to spy on journalists, political opponents, human right activists... and Jamal Khashoggi (and his wife, fiancee, and son), but also heads of state (such as Macron and almost his entire cabinet). …