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ADSCAM

HOW ONLINE ADVERTISING GAVE BIRTH TO ONE OF HISTORY’S GREATEST FRAUDS AND BECAME A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

A fascinating account of an advertising practice little understood.

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Hoffman, an ad agency veteran, details the political and legal dangers posed by tracking-based advertising.

The author observes that the online advertising business is now colossal—approximately $350 billion is spent on it annually, though few businesses understand the “arcane nature of the online advertising ecosystem.” As a result, it is nearly impossible to precisely estimate its benefits or to effectively regulate it, and it is terrifyingly vulnerable to criminals and terrorists looking to exploit it. Hoffman is especially concerned with tracking-based advertising, which employs intrusive surveillance to collect personal data about internet users to either sell or share it. The ramifications of this now ubiquitous corporate spying are unsettling and, according to the author, even pose a threat to democracy itself. The principal political risks are twofold: First, they contribute to the nation’s partisan polarization by promoting misinformation and encouraging rhetorical incivility, as these tactics attract attention—the author asserts that nothing produces clicks on social media like “false, sensational, slanderous, and scurrilous” posts. They also pose a threat to national security insofar as the personal data mined is left completely unprotected, providing a wealth of opportunities not just to criminals, but also state-sponsored hackers. These points of vulnerability are rigorously documented by the author in this concise synopsis of the issue. Hoffman writes that tracking-based advertising isn’t even very effective, a fact well known within the industry but concealed because it is nevertheless very profitable. He concludes that the tracking-based adtech industry is “organized crime at a global scale that has been normalized by involving virtually every major corporation, every pretty-sounding trade organization, and the entire advertising, marketing, and online media industry.” Hoffman’s writing is spirited and can slide into unrestrained hyperbole—it is simply not the case that the “time when intelligent people of good will could disagree in a civilized manner” has completely vanished. However, his account of the way in which advertising data collection works is as meticulous as it is accessible, and his presentation of its dangers is illuminating. For readers in search of a brief study of the issue, this is an eye-opening book.

A fascinating account of an advertising practice little understood.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 9780999230749

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Type A Group

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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