- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First edition (January 2, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520273990
- ISBN-13: 978-0520273993
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,176,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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1995: The Year the Future Began First Edition
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The big two are, first, the OJ Simpson trial, which presaged our reality-driven entertainment culture, and our desire for news and information right NOW, at the expense of context.
Second, is the Oklahoma City bombing, which Campbell notes began our slipperly slope of fear, and a willingness to be overly-policed. And yet, it's funny that while we all know the national reaction to 9/11, there was little self-reflection into the kinds of people that were growing up right here at home. The national rhetoric has only gotten more and more rancid, as the internet - which was "born" in 1995, has enabled the polarization of opinions, again, at the expense of context.
While the Clinton Impeachment occured in 1998, he met Lewinsky in 1995 - so it fits into Campbell's argument. Again, the impeachment - which was purely a partisan endeavor - set the stage for the current state of politics in 2015. So it all connects to the present day.
That connection to today is important. The book wouldn't work unless there was some understanding as to how and why these supposedly long-ago events actually affect our day-to-day lives. It's not that the Clinton impeachment "affects" us, but it "affected" the political landscape, and we're certainly stuck with it.
Campbell makes a good argument that the Dayton Peace Accords between the warring Balkan parties led in part to the national hubris that resulted in Iraq. Because we thought the US was alone on the world stage, we could do anything.
I'm not sure I'd choose 1995 as the most vital year for the internet - but it easily works as far as the book goes (I'd probably go with 1998, when Drudge reported on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair). Speaking of hubris, it's funny reading the arrogance of those who thought the internet was simply a brief hiccup.
This is a quick read - the book itself is less than 200 pages, followed by close to 80 pages of specific footnotes which provides necessary credibility.
I lived through this time, and it's funny seeing it with fresh eyes. In 1995, I heard about Oklahoma on the radio, watched the OJ verdict on TV, used a workplace internet for the first time, and hoped Scott O'Grady would be rescued in Serbia. Twenty years later, it all still matters. All in all, an interesting and engaging analysis.
While "only" 20 years ago, it's impressive to look back now, through Campbell's research, and see the impact so much of it had on the present day.
Events from the worlds of sports and the news also come quickly to mind when thinking about 1995, but as W. Joseph Campbell states in "1995: The Year the Future Began," many at the time thought that the year was unremarkable. The author, though, makes the case in this volume that five important stories that year made it a watershed of modern history, and that 1995 continues to make its presence felt here in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The first story that Campbell touches on is, of course, the one that affects our lives most profoundly today--1995 was the year the Internet first made its imprint in the American consciousness. The author recalls the onset of Internet mania, including the rise of Netscape, with its monster IPO and subsequent "browser war" with Microsoft. Amazon is also profiled, and some other companies that are household names today are mentioned. Some back then had concerns about online content while others were concerned that free speech would be curtailed in the new medium, and Campbell looks back at some of the fights over those issues.
Secondly, Campbell recounts the horrific Oklahoma City bombing in April of that year, providing a summary of the bombing and its aftermath, including the capture of Timothy McVeigh. The author notes that some of the security concerns we have today can be traced back to that attack, and examines some of the claims of civil libertarians that America was trading too much freedom for security in the aftermath of the event.
The third story in this volume is one that many of us back in the day did our dead-level best to try to ignore--the ubiquitous coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. Campbell provides a brief synopsis of the trial and recalled reactions of different racial groups after the verdict was announced. Its impact on our lives today was increased reliance on and acceptance of DNA evidence, and the author looks at that angle of the story as well.
Fourthly, the Balkans captured our attention late in 1995. Campbell tells the story of the Dayton negotiations between the leaders of the three warring factions in the former Yugoslavia, and asserts that the adjustments that President Clinton made in response to the Balkan crisis had effects on U.S. foreign policy for years after he left office.
The last story Campbell covers is one that people more readily associate with 1998--the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But the author shows how that sordid affair had its roots late in 1995, and would not have happened had the government shutdown not taken place in November of that year. In the years prior to 1995, liberal Republicans were already becoming Democrats and conservative Democrats were already becoming Republicans, but the author claims that the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment of President Clinton accelerated that process, resulting in the polarization that characterizes our politics to the present day.
The book closes with a day-by-day timeline of events, many of which you will remember.
This is a fairly short volume, but I think that Campbell largely makes his case about the importance of 1995, a year that doesn't at first thought seem all that long ago if you're middle-aged or older, but if you close your eyes and sweep through all that has transpired since then really does start to seem like a long, long time ago.
Although the book could've used another pass by its editor (a few favourite words — “perfidy”, for example — were used noticeably too often), it was an excellent weekend read.