What an Academic Book Review Does

Despite having a reputation for being an easy introduction to scholarly writing, book reviews in academic journals are a fairly-specialized genre. Their reputation for being easy comes from the fact that they're generally pretty short, so it's easy to juggle the relatively smaller number of demands than you'd have in an article or book chapter. … Continue reading What an Academic Book Review Does

What a 21-Year-Old Comedy Can Tell Us About Anti-Racism Protests

In times of high emotion or intense passion, it can be helpful to try and understand current events by triangulating them with less provocative parallels. Such is the case for people trying to make sense of the protests and riots growing across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. In the 1999 cult … Continue reading What a 21-Year-Old Comedy Can Tell Us About Anti-Racism Protests

The Rioters Are Not the Problem — We Are

Without the police brutalizing and murdering George Floyd, Minneapolis would not be on fire. But if we listen to the protestors chanting “No Justice, No Peace” and carrying signs that said “Stop Killing Black People,” Floyd’s murder was not the match that lit the flame. The failure to bring Floyd’s murderer to justice was. The … Continue reading The Rioters Are Not the Problem — We Are

Nazi Science: Coronavirus Edition

I decided to try posting this one on Medium. I posted the first few paragraphs below, and the full post can be accessed here: https://medium.com/@ryan.skinnell/nazi-science-coronavirus-edition-bac4c2a0ed15?sk=eb9579d771e4125548f77d2a84f7ddab Noted flim-flam artists and doctors of low repute—including Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil—have recently been trotted out by right-wing media outlets to bemoan Coronavirus social distancing directives as “worse than … Continue reading Nazi Science: Coronavirus Edition

Why Do People Keep Trusting Trump in a Global Pandemic?

In the past few weeks, even before nearly the entire country went on lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, Donald Trump has been addressing the country in daily press conferences. With all due respect—all due respect—they’re bananas. He contradicts his experts, denies the observable realities we’re all experiencing, and jovially pats himself on the … Continue reading Why Do People Keep Trusting Trump in a Global Pandemic?

Reflections on Super Tuesday: Yearning for Unity

In 1939, just months before WWII broke out with Germany’s invasion of Poland, rhetorician Kenneth Burke wrote a very detailed book review of Mein Kampf. It was Burke’s attempt to understand how Hitler had “swung a great people into his wake.” At the time, Germany was one of the most literate, highly-educated countries in Europe, … Continue reading Reflections on Super Tuesday: Yearning for Unity

“Debates Don’t Matter,” and Other Silly Notions

A little over 7 years ago, I wrote a blog post about the importance of debates in Presidential politics. Obama was running for re-election against Romney, and they were debating each other about a month before the election. At the time, I wrote: "As I surfed Fizzborg, the Twitter, and other haunts of the political … Continue reading “Debates Don’t Matter,” and Other Silly Notions

I Will Tell You Everything I Know in 1,000 Words or Fewer

As I prepare to give a talk at an upcoming conference, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, I'm stuck by a complication in the task that lies ahead me. The talk I'm giving is about public intellectualism and the push among academics to do more public-facing, publicly-consumable work. It's about making what academics know … Continue reading I Will Tell You Everything I Know in 1,000 Words or Fewer

Demagoguery and the Dangers of “Extreme Democracy”

I recently published an academic article, “Using Democracy Against Itself: Demagogic Rhetoric as an Attack on Democratic Institutions,” where I wrote about “extreme democracy” as a form of demagoguery (The abstract is here. If you want to read the whole thing, let me know). Specifically, I argued that a consistent—perhaps defining—characteristic of demagoguery is that … Continue reading Demagoguery and the Dangers of “Extreme Democracy”

Anti-Compromise Rhetoric, Rabid Factionalism, and the Threat to Democracy

Project Veritas (or PV, for short) released a new “gotcha”-style video exposé this week in which a Bernie Sanders field organizer, Kyle Jurak, makes a series of troubling, violent claims about what will happen if Bernie isn’t the Democratic nominee and eventual President of the United States. Much as I hate to say it, I … Continue reading Anti-Compromise Rhetoric, Rabid Factionalism, and the Threat to Democracy