Thoughtful and illuminating.

The author of How To Talk to a Science Denier explores the nature of disinformation in modern American culture.

In a society that “still has a free press,” writes philosopher McIntyre, “disinformation is the new censorship.” For the author, this idea is crucial to understanding why American democracy is in peril. Unlike misinformation, which is accidental, disinformation is deliberate and intended to “foment doubt, division, and distrust—and create an army of deniers.” McIntyre traces the history of modern disinformation to 1950s media campaigns that created “alternative narrative[s]” about smoking that forced the public to question the validity of scientific evidence regarding the dangers of tobacco. Politicians later used the same tactics to deny other scientific facts, including “acid rain, the ozone hole, and—most notoriously—global warming”—until reality itself became a target during the Trump era. Using examples like Trump’s big lie campaign, McIntyre demonstrates how the real corrosiveness in denialism lies in the way it does not simply subvert the truth, but kills it: “The post-truth playbook goes like this: attack the truth tellers, lie about anything and everything, manufacture disinformation, encourage distrust and polarization, create confusion and cynicism, then claim that the truth is available only from the leader himself.” McIntyre suggests that one of the ways such individuals find success is by calculated use of mainstream news and social media outlets that refuse to take a stand in the name of objectivity. “Rather than promote truth,” he writes, “they are engineered for profit.” In order to fight back, we must not only revise existing laws to force media into greater mindfulness of the information they disseminate, but also engage in face-to-face debates that respectfully challenge the disinformed perspectives of believers. This brief but impactful book offers trenchant commentary on the current war on truth and workable solutions to protect democracy in an increasingly chaotic world.

Thoughtful and illuminating.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2023

ISBN: 9780262546300

Page Count: 184

Publisher: MIT Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

Essays on current political topics by a high-profile actor and activist.

Milano explains in an introduction that she began writing this uneven collection while dealing with a severe case of Covid-19 and suffering from "persistent brain fog.” In the first essay, "On Being Unapologetically Fucked Up,” the author begins by fuming over a February 2019 incident in which she compared MAGA caps worn by high school kids to KKK hoods. She then runs through a grab bag of flash-point news items (police shootings, border crimes, sexual predators in government), deploying the F-bomb with abandon and concluding, "What I know is that fucked up is as fundamental a state of the world as night and day. But I know there is better. I know that ‘less fucked up’ is a state we can live in.” The second essay, "Believe Women," discusses Milano’s seminal role in the MeToo movement; unfortunately, it is similarly conversational in tone and predictable in content. One of the few truly personal essays, "David," about the author's marriage, refutes the old saw about love meaning never having to say you're sorry, replacing it with "Love means you can suggest a national sex strike and your husband doesn't run away screaming." Milano assumes, perhaps rightly, that her audience is composed of followers and fans; perhaps these readers will know what she is talking about in the seemingly allegorical "By Any Other Name," about her bad experience with a certain rosebush. "Holy shit, giving birth sucked," begins one essay. "Words are weird, right?" begins the next. "Welp, this is going to piss some of you off. Hang in there," opens a screed about cancel culture—though she’s entirely correct that “it’s childish, divisive, conceited, and Trumpian to its core.” By the end, however, Milano's intelligence, compassion, integrity, and endurance somewhat compensate for her lack of literary polish.

The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021