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Bunk summary

Kevin Young

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

3.4 (49 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Bunk by Kevin Young exposes the history of hoaxes and frauds in American society. It explores how myths and fictions have shaped America's culture and politics, revealing the roots of our modern-day skepticism and disbelief.

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    The hoax is characteristic of the American narrative.

    We’re all aware that reality TV shows are not representative of real life. Created to hoax – that is, to trick and deceive – this is a phenomenon not only prevalent in American television but characteristic of American culture as a whole.

    In fact, hoaxing dates back to the nineteenth century and has been instrumental in the development of American history.

    The earliest case of what we would refer to today as “fake news” was the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. Richard Adams Locke, the editor of the New York newspaper the Sun, published several articles claiming signs of life on the moon. Within these articles were a number of quotes misleadingly attributed to South African astronomer Sir John Herschel. Locke was aware that Herschel would be difficult to contact, giving the editor great comfort in knowing that his hoax wouldn’t be revealed.

    Understandably, the news was excitedly received by many Americans. The nation was still young at the time, struggling to identify itself due to a lack of tradition and history. The distribution of fake information came to be seen as a trait of the American narrative and a counterpart to the American ideology that you can choose to be whatever you want to be.

    Nowadays, the American hoax has become a cultural phenomenon. Propagated by the internet, hoaxes have spread further across American culture. The extent of this can be seen in the Washington Post’s decision to stop tracking online hoaxes in 2015, as it seemed its audience no longer cared whether the news they were reading was true or not.

    This lack of care for credible sources reached new heights in November 2016, when Donald J. Trump, a man who shares an ambiguous relationship with the truth, was elected President of the United States. During his campaign, Trump portrayed himself as a self-made man, despite being born into one of the most privileged families in America; gave inconsistent messages; exploited social divisions; and was the owner of a fake university. Yet some Americans didn’t seem to mind that this is who would be running the country!

    It marks a dangerous time when hoaxes start to pervade politics, and as such, we should begin to understand its origins and the ways in which hoaxes actually function.

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    What is Bunk about?

    Bunk (2017) takes a look at the history of the American phenomenon of the hoax and identifies its inextricable relationship to racial stereotypes and US history. It also explains how the notion of the hoax has transformed since the early twentieth century and operates within the contemporary landscape.

    Bunk Review

    Bunk (2017) by Kevin Young explores the history and impact of hoaxes, forgeries, and fake news. Here's why this book is worth a read:

    • It uncovers the cultural significance of deception and reveals how hoaxes shape our perception of truth and reality.
    • Through cogent analysis and meticulous research, Young challenges our notions of authenticity and exposes the power dynamics behind misinformation.
    • The book's compelling narratives and thought-provoking insights keep readers engaged, making it a captivating exploration of deception and its consequences.

    Best quote from Bunk

    You could go so far as to say the hoax is racisms native tongue.

    —Kevin Young
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    Who should read Bunk?

    • People interested in learning about the exploitation of race
    • Those curious about where America’s obsession with “fake news” stems from
    • American cultural history enthusiasts

    About the Author

    Kevin Young is the poetry editor for the New Yorker. He has written ten poetry books, including Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995–2015, and nonfiction works such as The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, regarded as a “Notable Book” by the New York Times.

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    Bunk FAQs 

    What is the main message of Bunk?

    Bunk exposes the history and impact of fake news, revealing how it has shaped American culture and society.

    How long does it take to read Bunk?

    The reading time for Bunk varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Bunk a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Bunk is a fascinating read that sheds light on the dangers of misinformation. It's definitely worth checking out!

    Who is the author of Bunk?

    The author of Bunk is Kevin Young.

    What to read after Bunk?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Bunk, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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