Book reviews can be cruel; that’s par for the course.
After the Economist ran a review of history professor Ed Baptist’s new book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism," which complained the book treated slaveholders as “villains” and slaves as “victims,” the Twitterverse exploded in Baptist’s defense.
A parody hashtag - #economistbookreviews – drew tweets like “This is not an objective story of the Titanic. Almost all the passengers are victims, almost all icebergs villains” and "Surely, of course, it was in the best interests of the Third Reich to keep their prison labor force cheery & keen.”
“The reaction was like nothing I have experienced in social media,” says Baptist, associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Economist has withdrawn the review, with an apology, which Baptist says no one he’s spoken to can remember ever happening before.
But The Economist has done Baptist a backhanded favor: The controversy pushed his Amazon sales up tenfold in 24 hours and doubled the number of his Twitter followers.
- Linda B. Glaser