Max Holleran reviews 'Fortress America: How we embraced fear and abandoned democracy' by Elaine Tyler May

Max Holleran reviews 'Fortress America: How we embraced fear and abandoned democracy' by Elaine Tyler May

Fortress America: How we embraced fear and abandoned democracy

by Elaine Tyler May

Basic Books, US$30 hb, 256 pp, 9781478920274

On a Saturday afternoon shortly before Christmas in 1984, Bernhard Goetz was riding the New York City subway. Goetz, who is white, was approached by four black screwdriver-wielding teenagers who asked him for five dollars. Goetz drew a 0.38 pistol from his jacket and shot each of the boys once, then turned to one of them on the floor of the subway and said, ‘You don’t look so bad, here’s another,’ firing again into the boy’s chest. He was convicted only of the most minor charge (possession of a handgun) and served eight months in prison. In a city increasingly gripped by fear, Goetz quickly became a New York folk hero: a real-life civilian Dirty Harry.

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Max Holleran

Max Holleran

Max Holleran is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Melbourne. His work focuses on urban development in Europe and the United States, particularly how cities manage tourism. He has written about architectural aesthetics, post-socialist urban planning, and European Union integration for anthropology, sociology, and history journals. His work on cities and politics has also appeared in Boston Review, Public Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Republic, and Slate.

Published in May 2018, no. 401