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Books & Brews September 13, 2022 - Gangsters of Capitalism

WMRA’s September 2022 Books & Brews featured author Jonathan M. Katz discussing his book, Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. The conversation explored the seeds of American imperialism and how events from over 100 years ago remain a vital force today shaping politics and culture across the globe.

WMRA's Books & Brews is made possible thanks to our series sponsor, Gaines Group Architects. The Gaines Group has offices in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg.


About Gangsters of Capitalism
Smedley Butler was the most celebrated warfighter of his time. Bestselling books were written about him. Hollywood adored him. Wherever the flag went, the "Fighting Quaker” went―in nearly every major overseas conflict from 1898 until the eve of World War II. From his days as a teenage recruit at the newly seized Guantánamo Bay, he blazed a path for empire: helping annex the Philippines and the land for the Panama Canal, leading troops in China (twice), and invading and occupying Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, and more. Yet in retirement, Butler turned into a warrior against war and big business. He said "war is a racket" and declared: “I was a racketeer for capitalism."

Jonathan Myerson Katz traveled the world recreating Butler’s journeys and pored over the personal letters of the Marine, his comrades, and his family on Philadelphia’s Main Line. In doing so, Katz reveals how memories of U.S. imperialism remain a vital force shaping politics and culture across the globe.

Tracing a path from the first wave of U.S. overseas expansionism to the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the crises of democracy today, Gangsters of Capitalism tells an urgent story about a formative era most Americans have never learned about, but that the rest of the world cannot forget.


About Jonathan M. Katz
Jonathan Myerson Katz is a journalist and author. His first book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, was a PEN Literary Award finalist and won the Overseas Press Club of America’s Cornelius Ryan Award for the year’s best book on international affairs. He is also a recipient of the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism.

Mr. Katz was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti from 2007 to 2011. The only full-time U.S. news reporter there during the quake, he later broke the story that United Nations soldiers likely caused a post-quake cholera epidemic that killed thousands. Katz has reported from more than a dozen countries and territories. In 2011, he was awarded the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism. Katz was a 2019 National Fellow at New America. A regular contributor to the New York Times and other publications, he regularly appears on TV and radio and formerly directed the Media & Journalism Initiative at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.

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