A new playbook for Democratic messaging with a bite and a sting.

BATTLING THE BIG LIE

HOW FOX, FACEBOOK, AND THE MAGA MEDIA ARE DESTROYING AMERICA

The co-host of Pod Save America examines the sweeping disinformation practices of Republicans and their media allies.

“If Democrats and the media do not fight back against the right-wing media machine bent on division and destruction, democracy has no chance of surviving,” writes Pfeiffer, who served as a senior adviser to Barack Obama during his second term. Hard words, but hardly alarmist given the evidence the author assembles. Though many believe this disinformation machine is a recent development, Pfeiffer recounts a smear campaign from 2004 mounted against South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, in which the GOP falsely claimed that Daschle had promised to return the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation if Sioux leaders delivered the votes necessary for him to win the election. Daschle narrowly lost, forcing Pfeiffer to rethink the conventional rules—e.g., don’t feed the beast by dignifying lies with a response. The author argues convincingly that the biggest beast is Fox and Friends, which “has all the accoutrements of a typical news program while being a right-wing clown show.” Fox News, he writes, is a wholly partisan wing of the Republican Party. “And here’s the most disturbing thing: there is a market for ‘crazier than Fox.’ These networks were able to siphon off some of Fox’s audience, and now they are in a race to the bottom,” writes the author. Pfeiffer is a master of cutting derogation: “Arkansas senator Tom Cotton makes Jared Kushner look like a magnetic personality”; “[Jerome] Corsi is a well-known nutcase and a shitty writer, but when your campaign is trying to elect a Black man with the middle name ‘Hussein,’ no threat can be ignored.” He proposes a recalibrated journalism to counter the Republican machine, with plank points such as “Build Immunity to the Big Lie” and “Build Trust,” but whose overarching, sensible argument is to abandon the pretense of balance in favor of “a progressive propaganda operation that can go toe-to-toe with the Right.”

A new playbook for Democratic messaging with a bite and a sting.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-0797-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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