The Death of Truth

The Death of Truth

Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

Book - 2018
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"From the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic comes an impassioned critique of America's retreat from reason. We live in a time when the very idea of objective truth is mocked and discounted by the occupants of the White House. Discredited conspiracy theories and ideologies have resurfaced, proven science is once more up for debate, and Russian propaganda floods our screens. The wisdom of the crowd has usurped research and expertise, and we are each left clinging to the beliefs that best confirm our biases. How did truth become an endangered species in contemporary America? This decline began decades ago, and in The Death of Truth, former New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani takes a penetrating look at the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm. In social media and literature, television, academia, and politics, Kakutani identifies the trendś originating on both the right and the left́ that have combined to elevate subjectivity over factuality, science, and common values. And she returns us to the words of the great critics of authoritarianism, writers like George Orwell and Hannah Arendt, whose work is newly and eerily relevant. With remarkable erudition and insight, Kakutani offers a provocative diagnosis of our current condition and points toward a new path for our truth-challenged times." -- Description provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Tim Duggan Books, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780525574828
Branch Call Number: 306.2 Ka
Characteristics: 208 pages ; 20 cm


From the critics

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Jun 07, 2019

A droll person, this Michiko Katurani, steadfastly clinging to her quaint affection for traditional beliefs such as the existence of only one reality, one frozen set of supposedly inviolable laws and principles that have been enacted to govern human behavior forever. She completely fails to grasp the new reality of the twenty-first century, where we now have the ability to define our own reality to suit our needs and aspirations. She doesn’t understand that mankind has been set free from those hidebound restrictions. Virtual reality has liberated us totally. If a given set of “facts” become inconvenient, we simply replace them; the options available, right there on the internet, are limitless. “Truth” may be defined to fit whatever set of decisions we choose to make, whatever outcomes suit our purpose.
That ancient King Canute in Thackeray’s little rhyme was a piker; he forgot to repeal the vexatious “laws” that had been enacted to govern the tides. Surely the regulation of the behavior of inanimate and mindless things such as trees, insects, bodies of water and so on must be child’s play compared with what our advanced society has been able to accomplish — splitting the atom; controlling traffic across the skies and even in New York City; creating instant celebrities without a burdensome need for talent; persuading half-starved populations to buy weapons instead of food.
Mr. Trump has not been accorded the deep respect he deserves. By proclaiming truth in his own fashion, he has discovered the key to absolute freedom, the ability to make decisions without limitations, according to his wishes of the moment. And through his generosity in sharing this miraculous freedom with all of us, he has set us free to follow his lead, without fear of inconvenient consequences; because like facts and laws and principles, consequences shall also be as we choose them to be.
We have reached nirvana. Ms. Katurani’s sad little book has missed the point entirely, even though she has researched her topic very thoroughly, as demonstrated by a 23 page list of notes and references. What is most surprising is that none of those authorities quoted seem to have understood the new reality. I wonder how that could happen …..?

Apr 28, 2019

Subtitled "Notes on falsehoods in the age of trump", so you can imagine what this amounts to...kind of a guidebook on how this transpired--including a zillion high-brow literary references on postmodernism and propaganda.
It's well written, but not a "fun" read, as it drags up how this era (and the current president and his allies) has assaulted truth and facts. It doesn't offer much in the way of answers, other than asking people to stay vigilant, insist on truth and facts (not easy with so many people trying to "spin" the facts), and resist the fatigue which goes along with the constant barrage of lies.
It's only 175 pages and then 35 pages of notes and sourcing.

Jan 30, 2019

Never cared for Trump, certainly never voted for him, but shouting fake news is nothing particularly new, although the PuppetMedia has allowed Trump to co-opt that term, without mentioning we've been bombarded with fake news since Pulitzer ruled the roost!
The author's premise that this is somehow new, that truth once appeared in the media, is highly simpleton in nature! [And I have enjoyed the author's articles in the WaPo before giving up on all American newspapers.]
When Dan Rather, being one of a select few many years ago was allowed to view the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, he knowingly lied to the public about it, claiming JFK's head snapped forward from a rear shot - - we know today that was a falsehood.
When Seymour Hersh concocts an entire fictitious chapter [Executive Action] in his book, The Dark Side of Camelot [much of which is supposition and opinion, not fact], we are witnessing yet another of endless examples of fake news and fake history.
When various columnists, featured in WaPo, the NYT, Harper's, et cetera, fail to mention that their unnamed or anonymous sources are their relatives at the CIA - - when real news goes patently unreported again and again and again, one can only arrive at one conclusion.
I did not want Brett Kavanaugh sitting on SCOTUS, but I also despise false allegations, and false attributions, and when three women came forward, and two are fully discredited, with one facing criminal charges and the other may possibly in the future, and when the so-called credible witness is anything but, when closely examining her testimony before a congressional committee [she claimed she was socializing with some beach friends - - no mention of her life-long best buddy was an attorney and retired FBI agent; the variance in what she claimed to have said to her psychotherapist, and what her psychotherapist recalls her actually stating, et cetera], we are once again left with the feeling the entire escapade was nothing but yet another Hill and Knowlton production?! [For those who still don't understand: Obama was born, regardless of where, with dual citizenship - - both the USA and Kenya had the same law: at least one parent is a citizen grants that country's nationality to the offspring, regardless of birth locale.]

Jan 22, 2019

November Bookclub Book

Dec 29, 2018

The premise of the book is sound though a little more introspection on the main stream media and how it's bias helped launch the far right radio shows would have made for a more effective and balanced book. As an aside , something brought up by this author and perpetuated in the press that is incorrect is that Maxine Le Pen's political movement in France is not right wing but clearly economically left wing by any measure of objective evaluation. Unfortunate that the exploration of Post Modernism and the destruction of accepted norms wasn't more thoughtfully explored from both sides of the political spectrum. It seems the author is trapped in her own thought silo. Worth reading if just for the theme of how much Post Modernism has affected our society.

Nov 16, 2018

I was surprised by this book. Physically, it is a small book and not very long, but when you start reading it has very good points. Kakutani talks about the transitions in the history where language has been used to conquer power, and its reflection nowadays with the use of internet. She touches on the Russian strategy of winning using fragmentalization and make connections with the famous 1984 and Brave New World. Recommend.

Nov 01, 2018

Excellent, cogent, and essential reading. Highly recommend.

Oct 21, 2018

Authoress hates Trump and Republicans, blames them for ruining the world.
--- Says Republicans swung the election with lies. Any dissent from Liberal dogma is false, so GOP positions have to be lies. Republicans are evil racists and narcissists, while Dems are pure and sinless. Dem scandals are just fake news; Hillary should not be blamed for upholding Bill's assaults on bimbos. Fox News spews lies; Liberal Media show unbiased truth. Evil Republican "Tea Party paranoids" spread hate and conspiracy theories, while Russians are manipulating everything. Putin had no right to expose Hillary's theft of the nomination from Bernie. Conservatives are Bolsheviks, and Christians are bigots. Republicans threaten our democracy by promoting populism; the masses should elect elitist Liberals who place transgender restrooms ahead of jobs for steelworkers.
--- Says Trump is another Hitler. Trump told 2140 lies his first year in office. He wickedly questioned Obama's US birth. [For 16 years Obama said he was born in Kenya; it helped sell books; when he decided to run for president, he changed the story.] Trump has a racist agenda: restore jobs, maintain borders, reduce taxes and regulations. He treacherously seeks harmony with Russia, betraying America's Cold War traditions. He dares to disbelieve our valiant spymasters who invented Saddam's WMD. He callously rejects violent, anarchic protesters, and refuses to cooperate with Dems who are trying to overthrow him.
--- In reality, Hillary lost because people were fed up with her lying. Many remembered the old Clinton scandals. Hillary supported Bush's fraudulent war on Iraq, which Trump opposed. She took tens of millions in payoffs for trade approvals; the Clintons got $2,975,000 from Russians; she approved a huge uranium sale to them. She tried to hide her State Dept corruption by using a private server and deleting emails. Bill sought to derail the resulting FBI investigation. Hillary let copies of official emails go on the laptop of child-endangering sex-offender Anthony Weiner, then blamed the FBI for revealing it. She lied that she had been under fire, and lied about Benghazi. Her thugs expelled Bernie delegates from the Convention hall and replaced them with paid seat-fillers. Bill pretended he had always been awe-struck by Hillary's allure. She bought fake anti-Trump info from Russians (Steele Dossier), and Obama used it to spy on Trump's campaign. Hillary hid serious health problems, but still collapsed repeatedly and suffered mental confusion. She sometimes went berserk, screaming and throwing things. No one trusted her; her voters merely wanted a Liberal woman president. She lost her own group, White women, by ten points.
--- The biggest lie of 2016 was the rigged polls that gave Trump no chance. They were designed to demoralize his supporters and discourage them from voting. (Projecting 130 million votes from a sample of 1500 involves many subjective choices.) The L.A.TIMES/USC poll generally had Trump ahead throughout.

Sep 28, 2018

One wonders how many commenters thus far (9/28/2018) have actually read the book and how many have simply targeted it for annihilation because of its theme. I think you can judge by the amount and quality of analysis of the material provided by each commenter. One sentence? I think not. Political rant? Yeah, no. Ironically, those raving condemnations have provided proof of at least parts of the thesis presented by the author.

Full disclosure: I haven't read this book yet, but I have read Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy (by Jonah Goldberg, a conservative political writer). I have requested The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump; looking forward to comparing viewpoints.

Sep 22, 2018

A simpler 2005 book, "On Bxxlshxt" (camouflaged by me for tender minds) by linguist Harry G. Frankfurt, discussed truth, lies and bs. Written prior to the Trump presidency, it still is highly informative today as Trump often uses bs to distract the public from thinking about some real ill that he has committed. This new book, "The Death of Truth," explores gaslighting, silos, tribes, etc., concepts related to authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Nazi Germany, etc. , but now sadly related to the Trump regime. I always thought that the obvious lies of Russia were a joke, but now the joke is on us.

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