The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

by Michiko Kakutani

Hardcover, 2018


Tim Duggan Books (2018), Edition: 1st Edition, 208 pages


Essays. Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NEW YORK TIMES Editors' Choice 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 trendsâ??originating on both the right and the leftâ??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… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The Death of Truth, Michiko Kakutani, author; Tavia Gilbert, narrator
This is nothing but a hit piece, a hatchet piece meant to trash the current President because this liberal author despises him. She suffers from the lies of omission. Her hate is obvious, her derangement apparent and her anger
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palpable. Shame on this author who is pretending that she is presenting facts, when she is cherry picking the sources she needs to support her opinions. She does not present both sides of any issue, but simply trashes the right as if the left was not guilty of all the sins of which she is accusing the right.
In fact, this book is a perfect example of what is wrong with politics today. It is duplicitous as it presents negative information about Trump, as if he alone is evil, while she ignores the sins of the left and worships Obama. She ignores his reprehensible behavior.
Obama lied (you can keep your doctor) Obama made foolish statements (there are 57 states), Hillary lied (Benghazi is about a video, she was shot at while flying over Europe), Blumenthal lied and said he served in Vietnam, NOT, Obama told Medvedev, on an open mike, that he would be more flexible when he was re-elected (how did he know he would be reelected, was he colluding with Russia?), Hillary had a reset button which failed, Obama drew a red line in Syria that suddenly disappeared conveniently, Obama’s talking heads lied to support his agenda, i.e. Susan Rice, his Attorney General Eric Holder was held in Contempt of Congress, his IRS targeted the right and not the left with non-profit issues, Obama interfered in Israel’s election donating to Netanyahu’s opposition, he funded terrorist groups, he definitely divided the country with identity politics, with Trayvon Martin and the Harvard Professor, and he denigrated the police officers, never giving them the benefit of the doubt. He fraternized with the Reverend Wright who was anti-American and anti-Semitic, he fraternized with known accused terrorists, he fraternized with Louis Farrakhan, a hateful anti-Semite, he bought his home for a lower than market price from someone with a less than stellar reputation, he never managed many people and had no experience other than community organizing which might be called rabble rousing. The author trashed Trump’s morals while ignoring accusations of rape against Clinton, while ignoring his part in corrupting and ruining the life of an intern, Monica Lewinsky, disregarding his getting half million dollar fees while his wife was Secretary of State as if it was innocent and not an effort to buy influence as with the Uranium 1 deal, disregarding her personal server and attempts to destroy evidence, smashing and bleaching information on her phones and computers, divulging classified information and pretending ignorance. Obama secretly had a fortune of money flown into Iran, making the deal in defiance of Congress because he had a phone and a pen. He disregarded the Legislative branch of government, overstepping his power. He defied the press, often calling out the newscasters that disagreed with him and locking out Fox News from certain press moments. The author is pretending that the press is noble when it is a proven fact that it is far more negative than with Obama’s administration, with the negative coverage topping 90%. The author is pretending that Obama did not dislike the negative press. The author never objected to the myriad mistakes and overreaches of his administration, but suddenly has found G-d when it comes to Trump.
This book is sheer hypocrisy. It is disingenuous. Of course, if you are suffering from the same Trump Derangement Syndrome that she is, and if you sing lalalala when anyone tries to give you an opinion that you disagree with, then you will like this book because it will reinforce your bias completely. The author is guilty of the same shameful behavior of those on the left who abandoned Senator Lieberman when he had an opposing opinion and the ostracizing of Alan Dershowitz, the legal scholar who defended Trump with legal opinions about impeachment. She criticizes those who have turned against McCain for his obvious betrayals to the party while ignoring the disdainful behavior of her comrades. To the Democrats, those who disagree are anathema and subject to exile.
Judging from this presentation, the author does not understand what the definition of truth really is for this is a convoluted presentation simply designed to put her own political preference forward, rather than to present an honest appraisal of the problems with truth today. Her prose is hateful. Her narrator is guilty of inserting herself and her own emotion into the presentation, negating any attempt to make this book seem honest and fair. Both are unable to accept the results of the election.
Yes, the author is an intellect who worked for the New York Times, the same New York Times which has published so many false reports, including one about McCain’s supposed affair when he was running for President, an affair which never took place. She read many books, and she quotes from the many authors and important human beings she admires, so we know she is bright, hurrah. That does not make her opinions factual or what she says true. As a matter of fact, this brief book is a composite of hateful opinions spewed in a hateful rhetoric and narrated in a disgraceful tone of voice. Every sentence is insulting. Further, the narrator betrays her profession by over emoting and inserting herself into the narrative rather than portraying it intellectually, without infecting it with her personal opinion.
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LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
In this age of Trump, Russia and social media issues, this is a book that should be read by every citizen and student in the United States. Truth has never been more important as facts are consistently bashed by this administration in order to benefit themselves and their friends at the cost of the
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rest of us. I can't stress how important this subject matter is today and this book examines this issue in a timely and insightful manner. Please read!!!
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LibraryThing member rivkat
Depressing short recap of the current situation; other than connecting the current spate of bad faith liars to the rise of postmodernism (mostly via Paul de Man, who turned out to be a Nazi) there’s not much here you won’t get in any other depressing article about the reign of Trump.
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Any clear-eyed analysis of the current state of discourse in politics is likely to be frightening. So many actors are at work undermining the very bases of rational debate that it surely does seem as though truth itself is at risk. Where does one turn for insight (or comfort) at such times other
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than towards the mirrors lining one’s own information silo? It doesn’t seem like a useful strategy. Michiko Kakutani relies instead on that old journalistic trick of citing what people actually say and do. And that ought to be enough in the present case to damn them all (but it won’t).

Kakutani writes in a straightforward fashion, providing an overview of what she believes led us to this sorry state. The death of truth —note that hyperbole is the now the norm — has been a long time coming, though its primary injuries were incurred in the 20th century, and then exponentially exacerbated through the “information” tools provided in the Internet-era. The usual suspects are trotted out — Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Putin, the GOP, and, of course, the hero/dupe Trump. But Kakutani has another bugbear that she wants to stomp on as well - post-modernism. Here, she specifically has in mind the French literary theories of Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Jean Baudrillard. Wait, really? Yes. Repeatedly she swings her focus back on those nasty close-readers with their fuzzy logic and waving hands. And this is where she somewhat undermines her otherwise solid case. However, I imagine there is a much longer and larger story to tell here and I’m just getting the backwash. In any case, this does not overly compromise the otherwise usefulness of this book.

One disappointment is the relative absence in the book of a way forward, or indeed of any hope. If the analysis of nihilism can only breed despair, the entire undertaking might be called into question. However, I think we have not reached the point of utter debasement of language. Even a “post-truth” society is parasitic upon Kakutani’s favoured conception of “objective truth”. (And the same glimmer of hope is available in the face of post-modernist critiques of literature; as evidenced by the fact that people keep writing novels.)

Recommended for those who feel they’ve been observing on the periphery and would like some insight into what has been happening. For those inside their respective silos, there is no point reading this book. You already know that you either love it or hate it.
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LibraryThing member writemoves
The author was preaching to the choir as I read this book. There wasn't anything new for me in this book. I am acutely aware of all the lies and misinformation that Trump and his administration have spawned. I am aware of the dangers of Trump to our country and to the world. Trumpism has spread to
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other authoritarian regimes.

If you have not read the news, watched CNN or MSNBC or been off the grid related to social media for the past three years, this book may be a revelation.

Well written, just not news to me...
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LibraryThing member thorold
Does exactly what it says on the cover. A short, clear, hard-hitting summary of the violence that Trump and his supporters do to truth, facts, and objective debate, and the dangers that that brings for liberal democracy around the world. There won't be much that is new here for anyone who reads a
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newspaper from time to time, but Kakutani does join up a few dots here and there to help us understand what's going on, particularly the surprising ways that both the far-right nationalists in the US and their self-invited guests from Moscow are using propaganda techniques that owe as much to Lenin as they do to Goebbels. Kakutani warns us that we can save democracy only by resisting the nihilism and resignation the propagandists are trying to push us into, and suggests that engaging in collective action instead of clicking on endless depressing news stories is the best way to retain a sense of what democracy actually means.
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LibraryThing member arosoff
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
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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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LibraryThing member Thomas.Cannon
This book had some intriguing explanations on the rise of anger and Trump ion America. An indepth description of how Russian trolls have influenced America. This with the help of Facebook. After all, social media keeps track of what we click on. Then it gives us more of the same to engage us (to
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sell advertising). The more emotionally charged, the longer we spend on those sights.

Though it focuses on Trump, everyone should keep an open mind about how our country has been divided and how the Russian trolls work to keep us that way.
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LibraryThing member steve02476
Perfectly well written, and I agreed with most of what she said, but I didn’t really need to read a book about how awful our president and his buddies are. I didn’t see any special insight about the problems we are having, although I did appreciate her tearing into postmodernism as being
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weirdly influential with the Trumpists.
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LibraryThing member TMLbuds34
Certainly not the best book on the subject of Trump's presidential corruption, but a general history featuring a myriad of sources compiled together to form what is basically a long article. My biggest issue with this book was the way in which the author decided to write it, using these sources
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almost stapled together to form a book, when in reality it's a series of quotes and examples without much of an original narrative. It almost reads like a Wikipedia article, and that tends to detract from the book as it feels like the author doesn't have that much to say about it herself. Better books about the history of Trump's corruption exist, but for what it is, essentially an article in book form, it serves best as a collection of quotes and sources rather than a book itself. Informative and to the point.
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