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Hoax: Why Americans are Suckered by White House Lies (Nation Books) Paperback – May 5, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the spate of post-Iraq War books, Von Hoffman's tirade is a smart, elegant standout. A columnist for the New York Observer (and author of several books, including Citizen Cohn), Von Hoffman argues that U.S. citizens have been willingly hoaxed into supporting America's foreign policies, most egregiously the recent invasion of Iraq. Von Hoffman employs the metaphor of a giant dome or biosphere that shields America and causes its people to interpret world events in uniquely American terms ("Nations are often imbued with the belief that they are special, but the American credo is that the US is special-special"). Instead of poll data and statistics, Von Hoffman relies on subtle, nuanced cultural analyses to examine the peculiarity of America's hermetic view of itself. A unique confluence of ideology, religion, culture, economics and history has, he says, settled Americans in a belief that its government does little wrong-and certainly a lot more right than many other governments. Von Hoffman points to an array of factors for this belief, notably an almost secular faith in "manifest destiny" and the morality of democracy, media that act as a collective handmaiden to government action, and a smugness that hatred of the U.S. is simply born of envy of American wealth. While Von Hoffman's metaphors and histrionics are better suited to the polemical necessities of a newspaper column, this book is a worthy contribution to postwar annals. The author's informed, unblinking critique of America may not be palatable to the blindly patriotic, but it will resonate for those who question many of the Bush administration's decisions.
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From Booklist

American gullibility for the images painted by our presidents made us vulnerable to the Bush administration's campaign to invade Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction and to bring down Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that neither were related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to acclaimed columnist von Hoffman. Furthermore, the "big lie" and the general duping of America have isolated us from the rest of the world, reinforcing the notion that we live in our own private biosphere. While Europe, Asia, Africa, and the remainder of the American continent question our actions and motives, we act with the strongest of convictions and military might, which make us a danger to ourselves and other nations, according to von Hoffman. The U.S. longs for Pax Americana, or world supervision by the U.S., "under which mankind thrives in amity and free trade." Some readers may find von Hoffman's scathing observations of American foreign policy harsh, others will see them as exactly on target, but all will find them provocative. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (May 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156025582X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560255826
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,954,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By cyberpsycho on July 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
No punches pulled in this excellent little book of essays that deals with who we are as Americans, and how we got that way. Loaded with sardonic wit and acerbic criticism, this book is less concerned with the hoax aspect of life of America than it is about the closed-off nature of the bubble that we are seemingly content to live in. According to von Hoffman, we live in a biosphere against which reason and objectivity tend to bounce off. Although the book is quite naturally critical of the current Bush administration, this particilar president is almost incidental to the overall theme. The chapters on how Americans view Arabs and Muslims are among the most interesting in the book. Reminiscent of Gore Vidal's most recent work concerning the current political climate, von Hoffman's book is an excellent read that is both informative and entertaining.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lappen VINE VOICE on July 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one person's look at life in present-day America. The author feels that America is inside a 3000-mile wide terrarium, cut off from the rest of the world. This would explain that by the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the difference in world view between America and the rest of the world grew to the size of the hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole.
During the Nazi era, the Big Lie was simple and repeated over and over again until it became the equivalent of inescapable sound. For whatever reason, George Bush was not a good liar. He and his advisers made the mistake of elaborating, retracting and adding on to the reasons for attacking Iraq. The rest of the world must have been laughing when the Bush Administration came up with one more reason for invasion. The American people believed them, as they generally do when their government and television tell them something. Another rule to keeping things simple is to not offer any evidence, so there can be no refutation. The supposed warehouses full of evidence turned out to be nothing.
Ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has believed that it is a "city on a hill," a feeling of "we are right and you are wrong." Since Providence has chosen America to work through human history, anyone already occupying the continent could justifiably be removed or killed.
The first lines of the National Anthem contain the roots of flagolatry, or excessive reverence for the national symbol. Democracies are always right, America is a democracy, so America is always right. Since America is the best democracy, it is more right than the others. Inside the terrarium called America, Arabs don't exist and nobody has heard of them. Arabs are considered non-people with a non-claim to nothing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ilaxi S. Patel on December 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Satirical and barbed, a distinguished read by the New York Observer columnist and author of several books. Hoax stands out to be a controversial pick as the Author hits on the Bush Administration for its diversionary tactics for invading Iraq.

He begins his book with a quote from former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser: "The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves." The Author's son is currently in Iraq in the United States Army to whom the book is dedicated. Due to his temper tantrums, the author was fired many times by editors and TV Executives and he even lost the Pulitzer prize. Hoax is the hot stepper in the best selling list of post Iraq War Books. Von Hoffman criticizes the Bush Administration and this may hurt the blind patriotic faith of Americans who believes that its government does little wrong than many others. In the beginning chapter `The Big Lie' Von Hoffman speaks of the super rich and power image of America and reveals how the American people have been gulled into cheering for a gigantic hoax by the Bush administration. "It happened because America has manufactured its own reality. A dome has slipped over the country, turning the nation into a unique biosphere, which causes Americans to see, hear, and interpret every event and each happenstance as no other people do. Poisoned by recycled, un-refreshed air, Americans think differently." The Bush Administration invaded Iraq with the terrorism threat hanging on as the world watched over with make belief feel that Saddam is the present `Hitler' and Osama Bin Laden lured in the oblivion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on March 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
The answer: a population of arrogant leaders willing to manipulate and ignorant masses willing to work hard for their nation's greater glory. This is the essential point of this book as applied to the USA. N. V. Hoffman has a son serving in Iraq, and this might have something to do with his authorship of this book. Regardless of the author's reasons for writing this work; it is still worth reading. The book describes the mentality of Americans, and how it compares with the mentality of others, and shows how history, geography, and just plain luck, can explain the differences between them. The comparison points to Americans as too confident, too ignorant, and too arrogant for the good of ourselves, and the rest of the world. Specifically it makes us susceptible to lies generated by those in charge; those occupying the White House and their favorite friends and lobbies. The author uses the leadup to the Iraq invasion of 2003 to illustrate his point.

The book is a quick read; though quite opinionated in many respects. I agree with many of the author's conclusions and arguments, I just believe the tone could have been more objective.
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