The Death of Truth
A stirring and incisive manifesto on America's slide away from truth and reason. Over the last three decades, Michiko Kakutani has been thinking and writing about the demise of objective truth in popular culture, academia, and contemporary politics. In The Death of Truth, she connects the dots to reveal the slow march of untruth up to our present moment, when Red State and Blue State America have little common ground, proven science is once more up for debate, and all opinions are held to be equally valid. (And, more often than not, rudely declared online.) The wisdom of the crowd has diminished the power of research and expertise, and we are each left clinging to the "facts" that best confirm our biases.With wit, erudition, and remarkable insight, Kakutani offers a provocative diagnosis of our current condition and presents a path forward for our truth-challenged times.

The Death of Truth Details

TitleThe Death of Truth
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 17th, 2018
PublisherTim Duggan Books
ISBN-139780525574828
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, History, Social Issues

The Death of Truth Review

  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    As the former chief book critic of The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michiko Kakutani has apparently spent the past three decades noting and commenting on the decline of “objective truth” in American literature and public life – and while she approves of this postmodern paradigm as it relates to art, she has been horrified to watch as disestablishmentarianism has migrated from a necessary Leftist pushback against the military-industrial complex to an alt-right, “drain the swa As the former chief book critic of The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michiko Kakutani has apparently spent the past three decades noting and commenting on the decline of “objective truth” in American literature and public life – and while she approves of this postmodern paradigm as it relates to art, she has been horrified to watch as disestablishmentarianism has migrated from a necessary Leftist pushback against the military-industrial complex to an alt-right, “drain the swamp” anti-intellectualism which has found its apex in the current alternate facts, fake news, lies tweeting president. Quoting from sources as diverse as Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, and Donald Trump's own Think Big, Kakutani's The Death of Truth is scholarly, logical, and angry. Here's the thing: For a book that decries polarisation and bipartisanship and the algorithms that ensure we only read news stories online that align with what we already believe, there's nothing neutral about Kakutani's treatise; she is preaching to her choir and dismissing everyone else as “alt-right trolls” and “dittoheads”; nothing here would be persuasive to anyone who believes that mainstream media has a liberal bias, and especially since she spent her career at The New York Times (which isn't to say that I fundamentally disagree with what she writes here). This is a quick read, divided into nine essays, and I've decided to let Kakutani do most of the talking here in excerpts I selected as demonstrative of either her points or her tone. (Two notes: I am a Canadian and have read this book only as an interested bystander. And since I read an ARC, it is probably particularly egregious that I have quoted such big chunks; these passages may not be in their final forms, but they do reflect the book I read.)The Decline and Fall of Reason:Trump, who launched his political career by shamelessly promoting birtherism and who has spoken approvingly of the conspiracy theorist and shock jock Alex Jones, presided over an administration that became, in its first year, the very embodiment of anti-Enlightenment principles, repudiating the values of rationalism, tolerance, and empiricism in both its policies and its modus operandi – a reflection of the commander in chief's erratic, impulsive decision-making style based not on knowledge but on instinct, whim, and preconceived (and often delusional) notions of how the world operates.The New Culture Wars:Since the 1960s, there has been a snowballing loss of faith in institutions and official narratives. Some of this skepticism has been a necessary corrective – a rational response to the calamities of Vietnam and Iraq, to Watergate and the financial crisis of 2008, and to the cultural biases that had long infected everything from the teaching of history in elementary schools to the injustices of the justice system. But the liberating democratization of information made possible by the internet not only spurred breathtaking innovation and entrepreneurship; it also led to a cascade of misinformation and relativism, as evidenced by today's fake news epidemic. “Moi” and the Rise of Subjectivity:Writers as disparate as Louise Erdrich, David Mitchell, Don DeLillo, Julian Barnes, Chuck Palahniuk, Gillian Flynn, and Lauren Groff would play with devices (like multiples points of view, unreliable narrators, and intertwining story lines) pioneered decades ago by Faulkner, Woolf, Ford Madox Ford, and Nabokov to try to capture the new Rashomon-like reality in which subjectivity rules and, in the infamous words of former president Bill Clinton, truth “depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”The Vanishing of Reality:Renee DiResta, who studies conspiracy theories on the web, argues that Reddit can be a useful testing ground for bad actors – including foreign governments like Russia – to try out memes or fake stories to see how much traction they get. DiResta warned in the spring of 2016 that the algorithms of social networks – which give people news that's popular and trending, rather than accurate or important – are helping to promote conspiracy theories. This sort of fringe content can both affect how people think and seep into public policy debates on matters like vaccines, zoning laws, and water fluoridation.The Co-opting of Language:Trump's incoherence (his twisted syntax, his reversals, his insincerity, his bad faith, and his inflammatory bombast) is both a mirror of the chaos he creates and thrives on and an essential instrument in his liar's tool kit. His interviews, off-teleprompter speeches, and tweets are a startling jumble of insults, exclamations, boasts, digressions, non sequiturs, qualifications, exhortations, and innuendos – a bully's efforts to intimidate, gaslight, polarize, and scapegoat.Filters, Silos, and Tribes:Because social media sites give us information that tends to confirm our view of the world, people live in increasingly narrow content silos and correspondingly smaller walled gardens of thought. It's a big reason why liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, find it harder and harder to agree on facts and why a shared sense of reality is becoming elusive.Attention Deficit:While public trust in the media declined in the new millennium (part of a growing mistrust of institutions and gatekeepers, as well as a concerted effort by the right wing to discredit the mainstream press), more and more people started getting their news through Facebook, Twitter, and other online sources: by 2017, fully two-thirds of Americans said they got at least some of their news through social media. This reliance on family and friends and Facebook and Twitter for news, however, would feed the ravenous monster of fake news.“The Firehose of Falsehood”:The sheer volume of dezinformatsiya unleashed by the Russian fire-hose system – much like the more improvised but equally voluminous stream of lies, scandals, and shocks emitted by Trump, his GOP enablers, and media apparatchiks – tends to overwhelm and numb people while simultaneously defining deviancy down and normalizing the unacceptable. Outrage gives way to outrage fatigue, which gives way to the sort of cynicism and weariness that empowers those disseminating lies.The Schadenfreude of the Trolls:Trump, of course, is a troll – both by temperament and by habit. His tweets and offhand taunts are the very essence of trolling – the lies, the scorn, the invective, the trash talk, and the rabid non sequiturs of an angry, aggrieved, isolated, and deeply self-absorbed adolescent who lives in a self-constructed bubble and gets the attention he craves from bashing his enemies and trailing clouds of outrage and dismay in his path. Even as president, he continues to troll individuals and institutions, tweeting and retweeting insults, fake news, and treacherous innuendo.Despite making comparisons between Trump's misinformation techniques and those of Hitler and Lenin, Kakutani ends on a hopeful note; pointing out those citizens who are pushing back against threats of despotism and urging her readers to join in: “It's essential that citizens defy the cynicism and resignation that autocrats and power-hungry politicians depend upon to subvert resistance.” American citizens must also protect the institutions that their founding fathers put in place to uphold democracy: the checks and balances of a tripartite political system, education, and a free and independent press. This is an angry book, and while Kakutani laments the modern echo chamber of thought, I can't see this making much of an impact with those outside her own silo. Four stars is a rounding up.
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  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    I broke my rule about not reading books with Trump in the title for the ARC of this very solid extended essay by Michiko Kakutani. I particularly liked the way she incorporated her extensive reading in fiction and non-fiction to provide examples and commentary on today's politics and how we got here. Also, good footnotes provide a guide to further reading. My big reservation is that the only people who are likely to read this book are very unlikely to learn anything new. This can be read in one I broke my rule about not reading books with Trump in the title for the ARC of this very solid extended essay by Michiko Kakutani. I particularly liked the way she incorporated her extensive reading in fiction and non-fiction to provide examples and commentary on today's politics and how we got here. Also, good footnotes provide a guide to further reading. My big reservation is that the only people who are likely to read this book are very unlikely to learn anything new. This can be read in one sitting unless it depresses you too much.
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  • Kyle
    January 1, 1970
    Simply put, this is essential reading if you want to understand, at least in part, the political chaos caused by technology, and perpetuated by those who harness its power for authoritarian purposes.
  • Kent Winward
    January 1, 1970
    There is a certain amount of hubris in Kakutani's take that the world and politics revolves around literary trends and theories. As much as I want to buy in whole hog, the hubris is the downfall of the book. Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but it seems much more likely (and realistic) to me that literary trends are usually in response to changes in the political and social world, not the instigators of the change. Trump seems more a product of reality television than post-modern, relativistic There is a certain amount of hubris in Kakutani's take that the world and politics revolves around literary trends and theories. As much as I want to buy in whole hog, the hubris is the downfall of the book. Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but it seems much more likely (and realistic) to me that literary trends are usually in response to changes in the political and social world, not the instigators of the change. Trump seems more a product of reality television than post-modern, relativistic thought as evidenced by our literature. So much more is going on that Kakutani can see through the literary-lens glasses.
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  • Jennifer Malinowski
    January 1, 1970
    The Death of Truth by Kakutani is a fairly short read, coming in ~200 pages. But it is densely written and full of quotes and insights from a large number of sources. To get the most from it, I recommend reading only a chapter at a time and really mulling over the premise of each before moving on. (Do as I say, not as I did.) That said, Kakutani is merely one of the newest authors in a long line in the past several decades to call out the attack on intellectualism, truth, and government. My firs The Death of Truth by Kakutani is a fairly short read, coming in ~200 pages. But it is densely written and full of quotes and insights from a large number of sources. To get the most from it, I recommend reading only a chapter at a time and really mulling over the premise of each before moving on. (Do as I say, not as I did.) That said, Kakutani is merely one of the newest authors in a long line in the past several decades to call out the attack on intellectualism, truth, and government. My first exposures to these concepts (other than my own insights) came from Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason and Al Gore's The Assault on Reason--both of which are referenced in The Death of Truth. I think that these (and others) set the bar too high, because while I wanted to like the Death of Truth, I was not overly impressed. Kakutani updates the premise with myriad examples focused on the Trump campaign and administration. Though the examples used certainly bring the points across, I found little analysis of the underlying reasons for the current situation beyond what has already been hashed out by Jacoby, Gore, and the countless others mentioned in the book. tl;dr: if you've not previously read any substantive book on the topic, this is a great intro (and I *highly* suggest using the book to curate a reading list). But if you've been paying attention for the last 20+ years and this is not your first rodeo, as it were, skip this in favor of a weightier tome with more analysis and insight. Disclaimer: I received an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway.
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  • JP
    January 1, 1970
    This book scares the hell out of me. The current state of the world and Nationalist leaders scares the hell out me. This book does nothing to help put those fears to rest. This book fuels these fears further. This is the point of this book. I hope it works for you how it has worked for me. There was a one star detraction in the review from a perfect score as there is no breathing room. This book is unrelenting with facts and continues to hammer at the reader from the first page to the last. Ther This book scares the hell out of me. The current state of the world and Nationalist leaders scares the hell out me. This book does nothing to help put those fears to rest. This book fuels these fears further. This is the point of this book. I hope it works for you how it has worked for me. There was a one star detraction in the review from a perfect score as there is no breathing room. This book is unrelenting with facts and continues to hammer at the reader from the first page to the last. There is a bright epilogue to close this book out. Thankfully.
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  • Gary Moreau
    January 1, 1970
    The truth is this: If you like literature, this is the best book you’ve read this year. If you don’t like Trump, this will be the best book you’ve read since he descended the gilded escalator. And if you don’t like the tone of modern politics, it is the best book you’ve read in a couple of decades. It’s informative, extremely well written, and there is no personal mud slinging. It’s a book about literature and will tell you more about the politics of today (and literature) than any pundit could The truth is this: If you like literature, this is the best book you’ve read this year. If you don’t like Trump, this will be the best book you’ve read since he descended the gilded escalator. And if you don’t like the tone of modern politics, it is the best book you’ve read in a couple of decades. It’s informative, extremely well written, and there is no personal mud slinging. It’s a book about literature and will tell you more about the politics of today (and literature) than any pundit could begin to.The underlying point of the book is that the attack on truth began in the 1960s with the emergence of postmodernism. The author, however, does not just assert that truth, as most contemporary politicians would. She documents it; because, to her, the truth is still the truth, and it’s still important. And as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” (I actually had lunch at a private table for four with him one time but he, sadly, did not use that quote. He did, however, talk about the outrageously high cost and lack of access to health insurance. Circa 1990!)I am now a retired/involuntary gig economy resident of Michigan, so I understand how Trump got elected. (His opponent was actually denied, but that’s another story. Not as in cheated, but denied nonetheless.) What has amazed me ever since, however, is how stable his support appears to be. Orwell, whose 1984 I reread recently for context, could not have imagined, in his most creative moment, the current disregard for truth and honesty. There is, nonetheless, a logical explanation, and this book provides it. It won’t make you feel any better, but it will make you feel a little less like you are wandering in the wilderness.And, as you would expect from such a renowned literary critic, the writing is superb. It definitely made me yearn for those Sunday mornings several decades ago when I would rush out to buy The New York Times, a couple of croissants, and my wife and I would spend the morning in bed reading. (I lived in New York at the time—sans children, obviously.)As one who truly enjoys the literary in literature and appreciates the value of words, and one who lived in China for a decade and resides in a necessarily bilingual household, my favorite line was, “Precise words, like facts, mean little to Trump, as interpreters, who struggle to translate his grammatical anarchy, can attest.”A truly spectacular book that should be number one. You will cringe at times, laugh at others, but end up with a much better understanding of why life in America feels so surreal at the moment.The book reminded me of the fact that during the entire time I was growing up my parents, both veterans of World War II, now deceased, refused to tell any of their children which candidate they voted for. I have no idea to this day if they were Democrats or Republicans. That, in their minds, was personal, a right to privacy they had both fought for.Later, in the 1960s, I was a teenage boy not looking forward to receiving my draft notice and being shipped off to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. I watched Walter Cronkite religiously to get the latest news. And while it was never good he signed off each night, “And that’s the way it is.” Nobody bothers with that kind of truth any more. And that is a loss we all pay for.
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  • John Muriango
    January 1, 1970
    Worst book ever written! Trump Derangement Syndrome is real!
  • Marc Gerstein
    January 1, 1970
    Halfway through but I feel I want to put some things out there right now (and by the way, although I’m early post publication, I’m reading a purchased — pre-ordered — ebook, not the holder of an ARC copy).I’m not a Trump lover at all (I voted for Hillary), but Chapter 1 is a Trump Derangement Syndrome disaster that leaves me embarrassed; i.e. that my disdain for Trump paints me as one who would associate with that mindless rant. I really, really wish Kakutani would revise the manuscript simply b Halfway through but I feel I want to put some things out there right now (and by the way, although I’m early post publication, I’m reading a purchased — pre-ordered — ebook, not the holder of an ARC copy).I’m not a Trump lover at all (I voted for Hillary), but Chapter 1 is a Trump Derangement Syndrome disaster that leaves me embarrassed; i.e. that my disdain for Trump paints me as one who would associate with that mindless rant. I really, really wish Kakutani would revise the manuscript simply by deleting Chapter 1 and then renumbering the other chapters. Seriously. Chapter 1 is that bad.Once Kakutani stops with the amateurish political diatribe and goes back to her own wheelhouse, as a serious cultural critic (literary in her case), the work picks up steam and starts to deliver on the premise of the title, The Death of Truth. It’s not an easy read, which is not surprising since Kakutani is not an author but a critic and as such delivers points in a crisp condensed manner rather than in the elaborately drawn out way one might expect of a scholarly writer. But if you can hang with it, there’s a lot to think about.The topic itself is a powerful and important one (I don’t usually pre-order but did so here) and I’m impressed with the perspective Kakutani brings to it; not just a chronicling of every major liar out there or essays about how subjectivity is now king. Instead, its a well-argued discussion of how this springs from larger societal developments reflected in other ways, particularly developments in the arts.As another reviewer said, this is a short work that seems readable in one sitting but at the halfway point, I decided that this would be better appreciated by slowing down and, as another reviewer suggested, taking time to think in between chapter readings. My rating is based on my half read and, of course, is subject to change when I finish. I took away a point because of the sophomoric Trump obsession that cheapens what otherwise looks to be a valuable and insightful dissertation. (This Trump derangement syndrome is real and is making it too easy for his critics to get lazy and think they accomplish something if they just find creative ways to say Trump sucks. Kakutani fell for it in Chapter 1, which is why I wish she’d delete it, and perhaps kill the sub-title.)
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  • Chris Gaither
    January 1, 1970
    Like all autocrats, President Trump weaponizes language to gain and consolidate power -- to assert power over the truth itself. "The Death of Truth" tries to make sense of the Trump era by examining the cultural forces that enabled it. I had hoped for some original reporting, but instead it's a slim book of polemic. Michiko Kukutani puts to good use her three decades as chief book critic for the New York Times: She combs through academic and literary works to explain how Trump's murdering of the Like all autocrats, President Trump weaponizes language to gain and consolidate power -- to assert power over the truth itself. "The Death of Truth" tries to make sense of the Trump era by examining the cultural forces that enabled it. I had hoped for some original reporting, but instead it's a slim book of polemic. Michiko Kukutani puts to good use her three decades as chief book critic for the New York Times: She combs through academic and literary works to explain how Trump's murdering of the truth is the natural outcome of the postmodern movement in which all truth is seen as relative, the exported nihilism from Russia's propaganda machine, and a cynical and fractured American citizenry that's wrestling with worries about technology changes and globalization. She dedicates the book to "journalists everywhere working to report the news," but she doesn't adopt their tepid on-one-hand-on-the-other-hand language. Her outrage drips off the pages. She calls Trump's politics "unhinged," says he "lied reflexively and shamelessly" (with examples), and refers to his "mendacity" and "shamelessness" which encourages other politicians to lie as well. Her arguments rely on a wide-ranging canon: Hannah Arendt, Cass Sunstein, Zeynep Tufecki, Neil Postman, David Foster Wallace, Philip Roth, George Orwell, and Thomas Pynchon, to name just a few.This is not a book of hope, but rather of analysis, judgment, and deep concern for American democracy. Her proposed solutions run only a page or so: defy cynicism and resignation like the Parkland students have; protect our governmental institutions, education, and a free press; and work harder to establish commonly agreed-upon facts. She seems more intent on the diagnosis than the prescription. “Without truth, democracy is hobbled," she writes. "The founders recognized this, and those seeking democracy’s survival must recognize it today."
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  • Michael Jantz
    January 1, 1970
    A bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation, but if the choir is "people who read books", well of course the rest won't be able to get this message (not that they would be receptive anyways). But my point (and Kakutani's) is that that non-choir is a group of quasi-literate half-baked Postmodernists devoid of not only reason but also the usual array of qualities one might associate with decent neighborly folks (empathy, for example). The book does a nice job of explaining the current strategies A bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation, but if the choir is "people who read books", well of course the rest won't be able to get this message (not that they would be receptive anyways). But my point (and Kakutani's) is that that non-choir is a group of quasi-literate half-baked Postmodernists devoid of not only reason but also the usual array of qualities one might associate with decent neighborly folks (empathy, for example). The book does a nice job of explaining the current strategies for pacifying and enraging the populace, and as the title suggests, it all revolves around the corruption of truth and empirical fact. A nice overview that makes me want to delve into the endnotes for further reading.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    For my money, the most important book on politics, culture and the phenomenon of "fake news" over the past two years. Brilliantly written and argued.
  • Philip Cohen
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent book. Kakutani takes Trump seriously and considers him literally, in the context of the history of authoritarianism and America's descent, and concludes we have underestimated the risk of a 1984 scenario. Short, very readable, lots of great references to the intellectual history. Highly recommend.
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  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing book, describing how the country arrived at this point of "fake news", lies, etc. Discouraging but informative.
  • Joy Korones
    January 1, 1970
    Finished in four hours. Terrifying: do not read before bed! I wish I could use this in my AP classroom...
  • Steve Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    Timely read in these strange political times. Well researched and annotated. While the book will not help you differentiate between fact and fiction it does provide context and background as to how truth and transparency has seemingly eroded over time. At times the book may be overly academic but overall is highly readable. Should be a must read for all who have an interest in politics but unfortunately those who most need to read this book will be the least likely to do so.
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    “Trump, of course, is a troll - both by temperament and by habit. His tweets and offhand taunts are the very essence of trolling - the lies, the scorn, the invective, the trash talk, and the rabid non-sequiturs of an angry, aggrieved, isolated, and deeply self-absorbed adolescent who lives in a self-constructed bubble and gets the attention he craves from bashing his enemies and trailing clouds of outrage and dismay in his path.”
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  • Geri Degruy
    January 1, 1970
    This book should be essential reading for all Americans, (and actually all people in all countries.) Kakutani explains some of the history and seeds of untruth so we can see how this all began and how it has played out in the past. Her nine brief chapters plus Epilogue systematically investigate some of the major causes of our current state of confusion about what is true, from the distortion of language to social media to "fake news" and beyond.I found this book extremely helpful in its organiz This book should be essential reading for all Americans, (and actually all people in all countries.) Kakutani explains some of the history and seeds of untruth so we can see how this all began and how it has played out in the past. Her nine brief chapters plus Epilogue systematically investigate some of the major causes of our current state of confusion about what is true, from the distortion of language to social media to "fake news" and beyond.I found this book extremely helpful in its organization of the origins and effects of untruth. I have often found myself in a state of confusion about how we got to this terrible place, how as a people we can cling to adamantly held, diametrically opposite beliefs, how Trump can get away with lying on a daily basis. Kakutani clarified some of that for me. She also presents the frightening results when a Trump keeps getting away with lies, without consequences, leading to a totalitarian state. One of the functions of the chaos of untruth is to exhaust the people, to make them cynical and then retreat to their own lives. It is clear we must rise above that in order to retain democracy. We need to stand up for truth.
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  • Christopher Collins
    January 1, 1970
    When I heard Michiko Kakutani would no longer be reviewing books for the Times, I was initially disappointed. While I didn’t necessarily agree with her reviews, I found her reviews helpful for me in terms of raising my awareness of notable books being published. When I hard she would no longer be reviewing books to instead concentrate on politics, I was completely disappointed. In 2018, I feel like I am up to my ears in politics, whether I like it or not, and I actively try to avoid adding any m When I heard Michiko Kakutani would no longer be reviewing books for the Times, I was initially disappointed. While I didn’t necessarily agree with her reviews, I found her reviews helpful for me in terms of raising my awareness of notable books being published. When I hard she would no longer be reviewing books to instead concentrate on politics, I was completely disappointed. In 2018, I feel like I am up to my ears in politics, whether I like it or not, and I actively try to avoid adding any more political content to my diet. In any case, I thought I would read this book, as I heard it would focus on using her insights into literature in relation to current political issues. While Kakutani does that skillfully, there is a lot of news events expressed as “on this date, Trump tweeted this, on that day Bannon said that.” Unfortunately, if you’re relatively familiar with this sequence of events, then this part of the book doesn’t feel insightful. When Kakutani incorporates the ideas of writers like Hannah Arendt or George Orwell, this work is at its best, and motivates me to reread Orwell or try reading Arendt, who I have somehow never read. Maybe it’s the detailed reminder of unsavory and unethical politic figures of the present moment that diminishes this work for me, although that’s, of course, no fault of the author. 3.5/5.
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  • Mia
    January 1, 1970
    I have been avoiding any of the books about Trump since the election. Why torture myself? But I made an exception with this slender book. While Michiko Kakutani addresses his participation in the “truth decay,” the thesis of the book is more about the postmodernist dissolution of rational thought and our deconstructed perception of what is real and what is not. Anti-intellectualism, our addiction to hyper-reality and infotainment, our retreat to “insulated knowledge communities,” and the dissolu I have been avoiding any of the books about Trump since the election. Why torture myself? But I made an exception with this slender book. While Michiko Kakutani addresses his participation in the “truth decay,” the thesis of the book is more about the postmodernist dissolution of rational thought and our deconstructed perception of what is real and what is not. Anti-intellectualism, our addiction to hyper-reality and infotainment, our retreat to “insulated knowledge communities,” and the dissolution and reassignment of our language via "deinformatsiya” are all thoughtfully examined. Regardless of your political stance, this book is a bleak admonition against the dangers of the post-truth world that we inhabit.
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  • Christine Shearer
    January 1, 1970
    I was excited about this book so maybe my expectations were too high, but I don't think it offers much new insight. Ultimately it reads like a stream of consciousness referencing a lot of different ideas and work, but in a way that is often more disjointed than illuminating.One particularly frustration was the comparison of "deconstruction" with right-wing propaganda, as if both are equal partners in the war against truth. It is misleading and intellectually dishonest to compare efforts to creat I was excited about this book so maybe my expectations were too high, but I don't think it offers much new insight. Ultimately it reads like a stream of consciousness referencing a lot of different ideas and work, but in a way that is often more disjointed than illuminating.One particularly frustration was the comparison of "deconstruction" with right-wing propaganda, as if both are equal partners in the war against truth. It is misleading and intellectually dishonest to compare efforts to create space for other people's viewpoints and experiences to blatant misinformation campaigns to maintain power. Ironically, it is similar to the "false balance" that the author critiques. Ultimately, if you want to understand falsehood in the age of Trump, better to dust off Hannah Arendt or pick up "On Tyranny".
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  • tysephine
    January 1, 1970
    A very interesting look into truth and how it has been twisted in the 21st century. The connection Kakutani makes between alternative facts/fake news and postmodernism makes me a little uncomfortable as someone who was trained as a historian, but maybe that's the point. In school, we spent a lot of time investigating the concept of Truth, and whether it can exist in a multicultural, diverse world. Everyone has biases, everyone has their own truth, so how can there be one great Truth that should A very interesting look into truth and how it has been twisted in the 21st century. The connection Kakutani makes between alternative facts/fake news and postmodernism makes me a little uncomfortable as someone who was trained as a historian, but maybe that's the point. In school, we spent a lot of time investigating the concept of Truth, and whether it can exist in a multicultural, diverse world. Everyone has biases, everyone has their own truth, so how can there be one great Truth that should be taught? This seems right to me because it's how I was trained to investigate the historical texts put in front of me. But I do see the connections that Kakutani draws. If nothing is Truth, then everything is fair game and nothing is a Lie. Therefore, how can we fight against alternative facts outrageously tossed out by Russian trolls (and troll Presidents) on social media?It's a pickle. And it makes for a fascinating read at 4AM.
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  • Rachel Pollock
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, is this prescient. I found this book strangely comforting. It lays out context and perspective on our current cultural moment, pulling together a broad and deep range of reference sources from history, literature, journalism, and the writings of US government luminaries including former presidents and "Founding Fathers." Kakutani is an intellect to be reckoned with and a writer whose perspective I'm grateful to have in the Disinformation Age.Also, wow, this is a quick read because the whole Wow, is this prescient. I found this book strangely comforting. It lays out context and perspective on our current cultural moment, pulling together a broad and deep range of reference sources from history, literature, journalism, and the writings of US government luminaries including former presidents and "Founding Fathers." Kakutani is an intellect to be reckoned with and a writer whose perspective I'm grateful to have in the Disinformation Age.Also, wow, this is a quick read because the whole last 40% of the book is sources/citations. I love a density of notes.
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  • Alexis
    January 1, 1970
    This isn't a very long book--it's more of an extended essay on truth, the media, and Donald Trump. It's not necessarily new if you're a regular news reader, but Kakutani is a good (if enraged) writer, and her background in literary criticism lets her tie in a lot of examples. There's a clear anti-Trump bias here, but she doesn't let the left off the hook: she argues that the ground was prepared by postmodernist theory. Once bastardized and filtered down, it set the stage for truth being subjecti This isn't a very long book--it's more of an extended essay on truth, the media, and Donald Trump. It's not necessarily new if you're a regular news reader, but Kakutani is a good (if enraged) writer, and her background in literary criticism lets her tie in a lot of examples. There's a clear anti-Trump bias here, but she doesn't let the left off the hook: she argues that the ground was prepared by postmodernist theory. Once bastardized and filtered down, it set the stage for truth being subjective. The left has had its own issues with rejection of facts and science, as well. Mostly, though, it's about the current state of affairs--which has led to a situation where Trump supporters don't care about facts, because they don't believe they are real or that relativism means they don't matter since all politicians lie. It's an interesting short read, but won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with her.
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  • Peter Herrmann
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent documentation of the disaster now unfolding. Although I haven't really learned anything new (other than references to various forerunners and prognosticators - in literature, journalism and elsewhere - of our present crisis that I hadn't yet been aware of). The facts arrayed are terrifying; but not new: those of us aware of where our country is heading have been continuously terrified since the election. If Trump and the GOP succeed in establishing their autocracy, then perhaps in some Excellent documentation of the disaster now unfolding. Although I haven't really learned anything new (other than references to various forerunners and prognosticators - in literature, journalism and elsewhere - of our present crisis that I hadn't yet been aware of). The facts arrayed are terrifying; but not new: those of us aware of where our country is heading have been continuously terrified since the election. If Trump and the GOP succeed in establishing their autocracy, then perhaps in some distant time - after eventual liberation (in 10 years? 100 years?), and assuming the world has not undergone nuclear annihilation - this book will serve as another piece of documentation of the beginning of the Trump/GOP Reich. Or, worst case, no liberation ever and all traces of truth -like this book - get burned or destroyed.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this book of essays on the post-truth world and was pleased to have the words to express how I feel about this current state of society. Kakutani makes a cogent case for the Trump post truth tactics flowing as an outgrowth of deconstruction- phrases like “many sides” and “multiple ways of knowing” as the formative basis for denial of a “truth” in favor of “perception is reality”. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Putin are all there. Read it.4⭐ I finished this book of essays on the post-truth world and was pleased to have the words to express how I feel about this current state of society. Kakutani makes a cogent case for the Trump post truth tactics flowing as an outgrowth of deconstruction- phrases like “many sides” and “multiple ways of knowing” as the formative basis for denial of a “truth” in favor of “perception is reality”. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Putin are all there. Read it.4⭐️
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  • Courtney McCarroll
    January 1, 1970
    "Madison, somewhat more succinctly, put it like this: 'A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.' Without commonly agreed-upon facts—not Republican facts or Democratic facts; not the alternative facts of today's silo-world—there can be no rational debate over policies, no substantive means of evaluating candidates for political office, and no way to hold elected officials accountable to the people. "Madison, somewhat more succinctly, put it like this: 'A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.' Without commonly agreed-upon facts—not Republican facts or Democratic facts; not the alternative facts of today's silo-world—there can be no rational debate over policies, no substantive means of evaluating candidates for political office, and no way to hold elected officials accountable to the people. Without truth, democracy is hobbled. The founders recognized this, and those seeking democracy's survival must recognize it today."
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  • Joe M
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliantly researched and assembled by an author who is undeniably, a legend. Sure, I could knock off a star for being a bit scattershot and slightly overwhelming, but the importance of this book in 2018 can't be understated.
  • mattu
    January 1, 1970
    She’s just rearranging phrases into notions that have already been better-expressed in half a dozen different mediums. Hey, I’m appalled by Trump, too; however much I may be brimming with [nay, drowning in] frustration, that certainly doesn’t merit my publishing a book. [Or a long magazine piece, for that matter, which is essentially what this is.] But then, I’m not Michiko, and I appreciate her having made the effort. Every little bit helps.
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  • Bahram
    January 1, 1970
    This book is really amazing and eminently readable. It shows the chaotic situation we are in, and how we reached this terrifying “fake news” age in the first place. Kakutani provides a great deal of references from fiction and non-fiction to explain the current state of confusion about “truth”. Overall it should be in your must read shelf.
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