A well-researched assessment of 21st-century media.



Freelance journalist Brasunas critiques modern media in this nonfiction work.

As an American citizen living in China during Britain’s 1997 transfer of Hong Kong, the author saw firsthand the power of the media in shaping public opinion. He observes that while American media emphasized concerns for the freedoms of the island’s people, the Chinese media’s response was predictably celebratory. It wasn’t until he worked as a journalist for the Huffington Post in the United States, however, that Brasunas developed his understanding of the ways systemic issues of internal censorship and bias influence American media. The author’s experiences covering presidential campaign events with activist Ralph Nader in 2000 and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 failed to align with the national media’s coverage, which either ignored the candidates altogether or dismissed their supporters with derisive monikers like “Bernie Bros.” The author offers readers a detailed history of media manipulation throughout U.S. history, from World War I propaganda to deliberate CIA misinformation campaigns. He goes on to present case studies of contemporary news stories in which, Brasunas asserts, corporate media and mainstream journalists were complicit in burying stories or were derelict in their ethical duty to investigate an issue beyond the official government narrative, from the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the 2019 sexual abuse case involving financier Jeffrey Epstein. A self-described progressive, the author targets what he sees as right-wing media misrepresentation, but he is also willing to highlight failures of left-leaning outlets, such as Facebook’s and Twitter’s coverage (or lack thereof) of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. The book’s convincing critiques of the current state of American media are balanced by later chapters that are more optimistic in tone, offering readers pragmatic advice on how to consume a “Balanced Media Diet” and tips for informational literacy. Brasunas’ disdain for and distrust of media-anointed experts (including Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and exhortations to “think for yourself” may echo some right-wing sentiments, but the book questions both conservative and liberal spins on most issues. Its impressive research is backed by almost 60 pages of endnotes that reference sources across the ideological spectrum.

A well-researched assessment of 21st-century media.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781667874432

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Torchpost

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2023

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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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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

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