Bunk

Bunk

The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-facts, and Fake News

Book - 2017
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"Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon--the legacy of P.T. Barnum's 'humbug' culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump's 'fake news'. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. He chronicles how Barnum came to fame by displaying figures like Joice Heth, a black woman whom he pretended was the 161-year-old nursemaid to George Washington, and 'What Is It?', an African American man Barnum professed was a newly discovered missing link in evolution. Bunk then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and journalistic fakers invent backstories and falsehoods to sell us lies about themselves and about the world in our own time, from pretend Native Americans like Nasdijj to the deadly imposture of Clark Rockefeller, from the made-up memoirs of James Frey to the identity theft of Rachel Dolezal. This brilliant and timely work asks what it means to live in a post-factual world of 'truthiness' where everything is up for interpretation and everyone is subject to a pervasive cynicism that damages our ideas of reality, fact, and art."--Dust jacket flap.
Publisher: Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781555977917
155597791X
Branch Call Number: 001.95 YOU
Characteristics: 560 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

Only posted from more recently reported tall tales or worse (AND PLEASE DON'T READ THE QUOTES IF YOU FEAR SPOILERS:)

You could say that 2016 gave us an election without a winner (or a popular winner didn’t win).
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With the hoax more broadly, this is all the more troubling because what the hoax says about us isn’t true – just as what plagiarism says about itself is untrue – or rather, is only true of out gullibility and misplaced trust.
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Trump at his rallies issued decided falsehoods, then used the words “believe me” or “unbelievable” as if that made what he said true; the fact that he could say either “bigly” or “big league” in ways we could argue over means that, as he said in a debate of his opponent, These are just words. This is the utter underlying—and lying—statement of our Age of Euphemism.
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Redlining, gerrymander, urban, inner city. Members only.
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Alt-right. Alternative facts. White lies.
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Funk, hokum, blue devils, the trap, the blues.

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

The hoax involving the Holocaust, especially once it’s revealed, often becomes kitsch at best, schlock at worst. Survivor Ruth Klüger calls Holocaust fakes, once revealed, kitsch: “A passage is shocking perhaps precisely because of its naive directness when read as the expression of endured suffering; but when it is revealed as a lie, as a presentation of invented suffering, it deteriorates to kitsch. It is indeed a hallmark of kitsch that it is plausible, all too plausible, and that one rejects it only if one recognizes its pseudoplausibility.”
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We often think of memory as purely personal, but memory is cultural too.
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The late neuroscientist Oliver Sacks has written brilliantly of the vagaries of memory, noting that “frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. Such subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory, and ...”

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

It isn’t that the contemporary hoax provides “a different kind of truth” but that it offers far less. A whole lie would almost be welcome, but hoaxes won’t extend us the courtesy of respecting the truth enough to betray it. Instead, we have become surrounded by the halfway, mealymouthed, politicking habit of bullshit.
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“One who is concerned to report or to conceal the facts assumes that there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable. His interest in telling the truth or in lying presupposes that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right, and that it is at least occasionally possible to tell the difference.”
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“Hack Heaven.” “Ratted Out.” “A Fine Mess.” “Writing on the Wall.” “Probable Claus.” “Spring Breakdown.” “State of Nature.” “The Young and the Feckless.” “After the Fall.” The titles alone of pieces published by faux journalist Stephen Glass provide an unwitting, ironic indictment of their author.

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

Apart from money, and fame, the fabulist’s true motive is a strange combination of getting away with it and getting caught, hinting all along.
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Like Clifford Irving before them, both Glass and notorious New York Times fabulist Jayson Blair would fabricate not just stories but sources, exploiting the fact-checking feedback loop in which facts and quotes that cannot be independently or easily verified are provided by reporters themselves.
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“His stories were interesting only because they were purportedly true,” Jonathan Chait writes. “The characters in his stories”—that is, his journalism—“as in his novel, lack any depth or believability.”
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Complete Uncollected Short Stories of the late J. D. Salinger, a book that doesn’t exist—at least not yet—except in the pirated versions that circulate now and then, gathering all that he published in the New Yorker but would never let be reprinted during his lifetime.

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

The New Republic may have had no racial difficulties simply because for decades it had been all-white.
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Joe McGinniss, perhaps best known more recently for moving next door to Sarah Palin in order to write a book about her. In Malcolm’s narrative he moved in closer, into the defense team for otherwise upstanding military man Jeffrey MacDonald, who stood accused of murdering his pregnant wife and their two daughters. Gaining unparalleled access, McGinniss betrayed him, according to MacDonald (and Malcolm would seem to agree), the journalist not only coming to believe MacDonald was guilty and not saying so but writing that the accused was a psychopath and that the Manson-style murders were his doing alone.
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The difference between speech and a quote—between an experiment and a hoax; between a journalist and a murderer; between a cop lying to get a real confession and coercing a fake one—may make all the difference in the world.

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

When friend is merely a verb, not a person; when apocalypses too are computer based and costly, like Y2K, then turn out to be mostly paranoia, or worse, marketing; when you can fall in love not with television or through television but on television through a series of dates you couldn’t really afford in a rented mansion that seems specifically designed for reality TV, is a set really, a soft-core porn palace, and then wonder why it doesn’t work when the cameras are off; when your first instinct at the sign of national tragedy is to tell your phone, not tell someone using that phone: then you have become as fictional as the world that you’ve created.
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Glass created fake letterheads, memos, faxes, and phone numbers; he presented fake handwritten notes, fake typed notes from imaginary events written with intentional misspellings, fake diagrams of who sat where at meetings...”

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

Eady’s “My Heart”: Susan Smith has invented me because
Nobody else in town will do what
She needs me to do.
I mean: Jump in an idling car
And drive off with two sad and
Frightened kids in the back.
Like a bad lover, she has given me a poisoned heart.
It pounds both our ribs, black, angry, nothing but business.
Since her fear is my blood
And her need part mythical,
Everything she says about me is true.
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Online, we are all ghostwriters and spirit photographers. In that haunted place that is the Web, filled with dead ends, links “not found,” and what a friend fruitfully called “digital litter,” hoaxes are both overexposed and underexplored.
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Truth is stranger than fiction! Sometimes, people lie …

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

Janet Cooke, a young reporter with a star résumé. Her front-page story “Jimmy’s World” about a young heroin addict got widespread attention; that Sunday’s issue shipped almost a million copies, with the news service syndicating the article to over three hundred papers around the world.7 Mayor Marion Barry and others called for a search for the boy; the police offered a $10,000 award; even incoming First Lady Nancy Reagan weighed in, “How terribly sad to read it and to know there are so many others like him out there. I hope with all my heart I can do something to help them. Surely there must be a way.’”8 Jimmy may have inspired Mrs. Reagan’s campaign to urge us to “Just Say No” to drugs—and to appear on the hit show Diff’rent Strokes to say so.
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Blair’s unusual stance as a black reporter at a major paper was matched by the Beltway snipers. Typical serial killer profiles and public speculation had it as a single white male shooter when it turned out to be two people—...

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

The journalistic hoaxer, like the travel liar of the eighteenth century, finds “abroad” what he or she already thinks.
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The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.
And he used these techniques to write falsely about emotionally charged moments in recent history, from the deadly sniper attacks in suburban Washington to the anguish of families grieving for loved ones killed in Iraq…. In the final months the audacity of the deceptions grew by the week, suggesting the work of a troubled young man veering toward professional self-destruction.

j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

“Judith Miller began a run of stories that repeatedly took Bush administration and Iraqi exile claims about [Saddam] Hussein’s WMD capabilities at face value. The problem was, those stories and others like them weren’t breaking news, they were just broken.”
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Daily news changes, evolves; it is truth, on a deadline. Just as important as a hunch is our willingness to admit it was wrong, to change course and say what we found anew.
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What we need is not more immediate news—which we seem to crave, faster and faster—but more reliable information. We need less local color, or ideological coloring, and more depth; fewer people covering the same story than discovering a new one. We should write like no one is looking over our shoulder—except the future.

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j
jimg2000
May 08, 2018

A book about notorious hoaxers, plagiarists, phonies and alternate-facts from 1840’s P.T. Barnum to the fake news in social media and politics today. In between, the author covered many more characters who fooled at least some of us some of the time. Many are from a generation or more ago but many are recent offenders. A partial list are: Frederic Prokosch “Butterfly Books”, Diney Costeloe “The Girl with No Name”, George Psalmanaazaar “… Formosa”, James Hogue, Ravi Desai, Jane Daniel “Misha”, Michael Finkel, James Frey “A Million Little Pieces”, Steven Glass, Clifford Irving “Howard Hughes”, Lance Armstrong, Bernie Madoff, J.T. LeRoy, Greg Mortenson “Three Cups of Tea”, Janet Cooke, Clark Rockefeller, Kaavya Viswanathan “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life”, Jayson Blair … Rachel Dolezal etc. 5 stars for being informative but 3 stars for the meandering when cross referencing people, deeds and sins.

Note: seems like an equal opportunity occupation with whites, blacks, asians, men, women, liberals, alt-righters, ... all in the game.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 06, 2018

"Black bodies, especially male ones, get viewed as weapons-they are not allowed self-defense as society is not quite sure they have a self to defend."
New Yorker poetry editor and poet Kevin Young's book is an ambitious, provocative, wide-ranging (and long) exploration of the idea of hoaxes in American history, politics, pop culture, and literature. It was perhaps perfectly suited for this moment of post-truth, fake news, and alternative facts. There are familiar figures like P.T. Barnum, James Frey, Orson Welles, JT LeRoy, and, of course, Donald Trump. What is maybe his most compelling and controversial idea is that race itself is something of a hoax, often exploited by whites. I disagree with the commentator who finds this too "narrow" of a focus, especially given what a huge part race plays in our history and culture. I read this shortly after Kurt Andersen's "Fantasyland" and they have some similarities, but this is by far the more engaging and intelligent book.

f
fledge
Mar 04, 2018

Unfortunately, the author’s viewpoint is too often narrowly focused along racial lines. The majority of hoaxes and put-up jobs seem to redound upon some poor Native or African American. That’s simply not true, and it makes for tiresome reading, in part. Nevertheless, the author makes sterling comments and analysis of the ways in which the liars, plagiarists, and hoaxsters play upon the credulous crowds. That has never been more true than today, when deconstructionism – everything is open to private interpretation and private truth – has atomized society and made everyone a victim (some more, some less), so that more and more people feel free to steal from and gull their fellow man.

Top-notch prose. There’s some really good writing here. Recommended.

j
johnulee
Jan 12, 2018

Good read, well researched. Should be companion piece to Noam Chomsky's ', Manufacturing Consent' to get a global understanding of the pr industry.

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