Ed. Note: I don’t normally do book reviews. Now that I have more time on my hands to read, I’ve been reading a lot. Now seems like as good a time as any to explore some of the bigger questions facing us.
How did we get here? Where did the American experiment go so horribly awry to bring a proto-authoritarian kleptocracy into the White House? These are the just some of the questions author Sarah Kendzior seeks to answer in her new book, “Hiding in Plain Sight”.
In her sophomore effort, Kendzior details the long fall from democracy that’s happening right before our eyes in the United States. The cast of characters in that long fall includes some of the biggest names of the “me” generation. Icons of commerce, politics, and ultimately, self-interest.
This world, created in a methodical slide from “opportunity for most” in the 1950′ and 60’s, to a monetary meritocracy. Wealth and and flexible ethics are the only qualifiers for greatness in this new American kleptocracy.
Kendzior takes us through the decades of her life, starting with the 1980’s. A Gen Xer, she describes a world I’m all too familiar with. One where the “Work hard” opportunity we were sold in our youth has been replaced by robber barons, false promises, and messaging designed to keep us all in a heightened state of alert.
“Most of my friends have life stories that are simply a series of reactions to disasters”, Kendzior writes.
This “New World Order” is ordered by the elites, who ultimately gained their status through a “culture of purchased merit”, and use that status to excuse each other’s bad behavior. And none of this is more present than in the 45th President of the United States.
Where that leaves “ordinary people”, which is effectively defined by elites as the “unworthy majority”, is ultimately of little concern. “Ordinary people” only matter when you need them for something. And if you’ve effectively made life hard enough for them, they are pliable and easily manipulated.
Those aren’t Kendzior’s words, but rather, the takeaway from much of the book.
This decade by decade recounting of all the dirty dealings that enabled the current President:
- his friendship with red scare/mob lawyer Roy Cohn,
- his use of strong-arm tactics to manipulate the media and those who would expose him,
- his working relationships with money laundering Russian mobsters,
- his work to establish and maintain a generational kleptocracy through Jared and Ivanka,
- his rapid-fire use of lies and exaggerations to keep anyone who might try to hold him accountable, chasing an ever-changing, alternative fact-oided, plausible deny-ability that greases the wheels of the burgeoning kleptocracy.
All this might seem like a fever dream, if there wasn’t so much evidence to back it up.
While this narrative may seem wild, even overblown to those who have the luxury of seeing the world that way, I found myself comforted that I wasn’t alone in seeing the constant and systemic failures playing out, right in front of our faces.
“Hiding in Plain Sight” is a must read for people looking for more background and understanding of how we got where we are, and all the players involved. At just over 200 pages, its a pretty quick read. I devoured it in less than 24 hours.
This is Kendzior’s second book. Her first, “The View from Flyover Country” was a New York Times bestseller, and a really great read as well. I reccommend both. You can also follow her on twitter @sarahkendzior, and listen to her podcast, with Andrea Chalupa, @gaslitnation.