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What Orwell Didn't Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics Paperback – November 6, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1586485603 ISBN-10: 1586485601 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485601
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485603
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three years before he published 1984, Orwell wrote Politics and the English Language, an attack on the use of political speech "in defense of the indefensible." That essay (reprinted in full) serves as the point of departure for these 20 articles on modern methods of American propaganda, which editor and freelance journalist Szántó calls "subtle, insidious, sugarcoated, focus-grouped, and market-tested." Contributors are consistently thought-provoking, but happily diverse in background and concern: Farnaz Fassihi, senior Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, takes on war reporting; USC journalism professor Martin Kaplan explains why he refers to television news as "the Infotainment Freak Show"; and cognitive scientist George Lakoff discusses the psychological principles manipulated to goose the efficacy of political messages. An epilogue from moneyed progressive George Soros (whose Open Society Institute co-sponsored the publication) expresses hope that this book will "inoculate the public against false arguments"; timed to coincide with the 2008 presidential election, Szántó's collection should indeed resonate with Americans increasingly put out by the obfuscating tactics of many political campaigns (and careers).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is published to coincide with a one-day conference on "Orwell and the American society" to be held at the New York Public Library November 7, 2007 sponsored by the Open Society Institute and the graduate schools of journalism at UC Berkeley, Columbia, and the Annenberg School at USC. This year is chosen because it is near the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's famous essay, "Politics and the English Language" (1946).

But what this book is really about is the perversion of truth by the Bush administration and the concomitant failure of the American mass media to do anything about it or to even comprehend what is going on. Editor Andras Szanto writes in his "Editor's Note," "the deans of five prominent journalism schools...were worried about what was happening to political language, which seemed to be divorcing itself from reality at an alarming rate." (p. ix) This book with essays by 18 heavyweight political thinkers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, journalists and others is an attempt to address that worry.

Aside from the many Ministry of Truth sort of lies cynically concocted by the Bush administration, there is the striking and very scary fact that Bush is acting out the Orwellian nightmare in that he has put the United States on what appears to be a permanent "war" footing just as was the case with Oceania in Orwell's novel, 1984, and for pretty much the same reasons. As several of the contributors have noted, George W. Bush has invented an endless and fraudulent "war on terror" as a means to keep the populace in fear and to control both the Congress and the media in order to enhance his own power as chief executive.

But there is much more.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn A Hickman on January 8, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A book of galvanic essays written by noted journalists, authors, reporters, professors, and psychologists - What Orwell Didn't Know is truly a "must read" - especially before voting in the 2008 election. Prompted by the dismal state of "political discourse," today, five revered schools of journalism joined forces to create this anthology. Its 20 essays provide a vital resource to help readers and reporters alike to "disenthrall public debate from bias, hyperbole, bombast and lies."

Along the way, it enlightens readers about everything from brain research and the psychology of emotion to the devastating impact of the "Orwellian" Postal Reogranization Act of 1970 on small, independent opinion journals and magazines; the tragic and ironic consequences of the administration's "subservience of truth to power" in Iraq and in the US; the "carnivalesque media economy," the threat of corporate power, and our own willingness to look the other way when the Emporer has no clothes.

While I found a few of the 20 essays in the book somewhat less engaging, most were powerful, alarming, challenging and enlightening. And though Americans are more savvy today about the ways in which language can be manipulated and distorted for political ends, we can still be taken in....and we do ourselves, and our democaracy, a dangerous disservice if we do not question rigorously the medium, the message, the messenger the motives behind all we hear and read. "What Orwell Didn't Know" offers chilling evidence of our need for vigilance and action...I can't recommend it highly enough.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on February 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"What Orwell Didn't Know" is an eye-opening compendium of pieces about the insidious use of propaganda in our time. Editor Andras Szanto presents outstanding works by eighteen intellectuals who compare Orwell's classic 1946 paper on propaganda, 'Politics and the English Language' (reprinted in its entirety) with the propaganda industry of today. Convincingly demonstrating how the science of propaganda has in fact metastisized into a very real threat to the Enlightenment ideal of progress, the authors implore us to sharpen our critical thinking skills as we seek to immunize ourselves to manipulation and struggle to keep our democracy alive.

Part One: Language and Politics includes six essays about how deceptive language serves political ends. Orwell believed that clarity in writing was essential to reasoned discourse and understood that fear is the gateway to despotism. The authors connect these concepts to the Bush administration's well-documented misrepresentations that have led the U.S. into its perpetual war on terror. Among many insights, we learn how the deceptive use of language has allowed the corporate-controlled state to deepen its control over the public consciousness and impose a far right-wing political agenda.

Part Two: Symbols and Battlegrounds contains six articles that explore how culturally-charged symbols are routinely exploited for political advantage. The authors discuss how post-Orwellian discoveries in cognitive sciences have demonstrated that reason is not just rational but emotional, complicating the task of disputation against the skilled propagandist.
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