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LIES, INCORPORATED

THE WORLD OF POST-TRUTH POLITICS

Powerfully crafted accusations sounding the alarm on an insidious trend in political manipulation.

A damning jeremiad on how modern public policy can be exploited by corporate chicanery.

Journalist and national radio host Rabin-Havt (co-author: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine, 2012, etc.), in conjunction with news watchdog Media Matters for America, digs deep to reveal a consortium of manipulators bent on undermining beneficial organizations and causes with manufactured misinformation. From the initial pages, the author blatantly skewers controversial public relations guru Richard Berman as a smear campaign propagandist. Rabin-Havt proceeds to systematically compile an incriminating dossier of lobbyists, propaganda spinners, unethical authorities, and “unscrupulous think tanks,” collaboratively known as “Lies, Incorporated.” These groups channel misinformation and generate public confusion around the most controversial hot-button issues surfacing during the Barack Obama administration. In a narrative that is far from sour-grapes disparagement, the author provides meticulous research and evidentiary support backing claims of these groups’ corruption dating back to their inception in the early 1950s when a shady syndicate of tobacco industry titans disseminated falsified information about the risks of cigarette smoking. For every crucial issue that surfaces, a corporation’s interests appear directly threatened by its exposure, the author implies, and desperate measures are taken by appointed spin doctors to skew semantics and twist reality for the sake of profit. With succinct clarity, Rabin-Havt demonstrates that statistics on climate change and global warming are continually challenged by the oil industry, just as efforts to promote comprehensive immigration reform, affordable health care, gun control laws, abortion rights, and gay marriage have all been continually contradicted by opposing factions propagating critically damaging misinformation. But the problem seems to have spiraled out of control. This is most obvious in the book’s closing chapter of remedies to “weaponize truth” by “demanding transparency from elected leaders as well as the media.” While galvanizing and optimistic, these solutions require major cultural shifts and, alas, appear to be as complex as the problem itself.

Powerfully crafted accusations sounding the alarm on an insidious trend in political manipulation.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-27959-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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