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ON DISINFORMATION

HOW TO FIGHT FOR TRUTH AND PROTECT DEMOCRACY

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

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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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WHAT WENT WRONG WITH CAPITALISM

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

A book-length assertion that capitalism’s woes can be traced to government interventionism.

Sharma, an investments manager, financial journalist, and author of The 10 Rules of Successful Nations, The Rise and Fall of Nations, and other books, opens with the case of his native India. The author argues that it should be in a better position in the global marketplace, possessing an entrepreneurial culture and endless human capital. The culprit was “India’s lingering attachment to a state that overpromises and under-delivers,” one that privileged social welfare over infrastructure development. Much the same is true in the U.S., where today “President Joe Biden is promising to fix the crises of capitalism by enlarging a government that never shrank.” Refreshingly, Sharma places just as much blame on Ronald Reagan for the swollen state that introduced distortions into the market. Moreover, “flaws that economists blame on ‘market failures,’ including wealth inequality and inordinate corporate power, often flow more from government excesses.” One distortion is the government’s bloated debt, as it continues to fund itself by borrowing in order to pay for “the perennial deficit.” As any household budget manager would tell you, debt is ultimately unsustainable. Wealth concentration is another outcome of government tinkering that has, whether by design or not, concentrated wealth into the hands of a very small number of people, “a critical symptom of capitalism gone wrong, both inefficient and grossly unfair.” Perhaps surprisingly, Sharma notes that in quasi-socialist economies such as the Scandinavian nations, such interventions are fewer and shallower, while autocratic command economies are doomed to fail. “[T]oday every large developed country is a full-fledged democracy,” he writes, and the more freedom the better—but that freedom, he argues, is undermined by the U.S. government, which has accrued “the widest budget deficit in the developed world.”

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9781668008263

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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