I could easily have answered simply, “Read Blogging Enron because it is both incredibly informative and entertaining.” That is a good and true answer, but it is really not the question my friend was asking. She loves books, and she was intrigued by what she had heard about Blogging Enron — she was already assuming it was a great read. However, she is incredibly busy with work and home activities, so what she was really asking was, “Why should I read Blogging Enron instead of another book — what is important enough about it to put it above my other choices?”
Aha! That is a question I like because it is often the same one I ask myself, especially when choosing a nonfiction book. Well, the answer for Blogging Enron was not difficult for me. Essentially what I told my friend is this: Blogging Enron is a true story that is both timeless and timely — it is important because it deals with topics about which everyone in America should be aware.
Blogging Enron is timeless in that, at its heart, it is a “David and Goliath” story. This is the element that rings through the book’s subtitle, “How High-Tech Pioneers Battled the U.S. Government.” The overarching tale of Blogging Enron is that of three people at a tiny dot-com start-up who find themselves in the cross-hairs of the U.S. Justice Department because Enron took a shine to their business. Their personal struggles against the unlimited resources of the U.S. Government is a riveting and frightening story.
Blogging Enron is timely because we live in an era in which over-reach by the federal government seems to have become so normal that it is no longer unexpected. The list of federal government entities involved in shocking over-reach and misconduct seems endless — the NSA, the IRS, the FBI, the State Department, the White House, the Justice Department, etc. The recent announcement by the Federal Communications Commission that it wants to pry and spy on news organizations was so casually delivered by government officials that you wonder if they now accept this misconduct as entirely reasonable and routine behavior.
It reminds me a bit of the phrase, “the banality of evil,” coined by Hannah Arendt to describe the actions of the mindless minions who begin to accept the rightness of any misconduct that sustains their cabal, in much the same way that a python strangles and swallows mice.
It is difficult to read Blogging Enron without wondering how in the world federal prosecutors could be so casually amoral and abusive. It is not simply that the prosecutors in the Enron cases acted in covertly unethical ways — some of them have even written and spoken publicly about their actions as if they believe they have the right to use “questionable tactics” because … well … that is just what federal employees get to do. It really is a situation to make your skin crawl!
So read Blogging Enron: The Enron Broadband Story. It is informative, entertaining, and important!
[Leo Thompson is a frequent contributor to Cara Ellison’s Enron Online: The Enron Blog and will also be contributing to this blog from time to time.]