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The Death of Truth summary

Michiko Kakutani

Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

3.5 (48 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

"The Death of Truth" by Michiko Kakutani is a thought-provoking analysis of how the concept of truth has been eroded in modern society, and the consequences of this for democracy, journalism and personal truths.

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    The Death of Truth
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    There has always been opposition to reason and progress, but it went mainstream in 2017.

    Some of the guiding principles of the founding of the United States of America were drawn from the Enlightenment of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, with its emphasis on reason, liberty, progress and religious tolerance. But throughout the nation’s history, there have been people who opposed these principles.

    In 1839, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech known as the Lyceum Address, which emphasized the importance of reason in keeping tyranny at bay and preserving the rule of law in the United States. But even then, there was a separate ongoing narrative being kept alive by people working to undermine reason and progress. In 1855, this counter-narrative was perhaps best represented in the political arena by the right-wing Know Nothing Party, staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic, and counting 43 members of Congress at the time.

    Those who supported the Know Nothing candidates weren’t much different to those who push back against progress and reason today: they’re part of a working class that feels marginalized and dispossessed of any agency, a fact that they tend to blame on progress made due to globalization and technology.

    Writers have given this opposing movement different names over the years. Philip Roth called it “the indigenous American berserk,” and Richard Hofstadter called it “the paranoid style.” This counter-narrative has always been alive and survives just under the surface of the nation, not unlike a dormant virus waiting to reactivate. It wasn’t until recently, in 2017, that it went mainstream.

    Conspiracy theories and extremist views around religious and racial intolerance, which had largely been kept out of the national spotlight, started being written about by Breitbart bloggers and getting supported with retweets by President Trump that year.

    We can see the actions Trump has taken against reason and progress by his choice of leaders for government institutions. Rick Perry once called for an end to the Department of Energy, and against all reason, he is now running it. Likewise, Scott Pruitt is now the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which he has sued multiple times in the past. These important agencies have been rolling back their efforts and programs concerning renewable energy and the environment.

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    What is The Death of Truth about?

    The Death of Truth (2018) offers an informative look at the current political climate in the United States, and the many developments in the past that have brought us to this divisive time. With over 30 years’ experience as a respected literary critic, Michiko Kakutani uses her expertise in modern literature to show how authors of the past worried about many of the same concerns we’re facing today.

    The Death of Truth Review

    The Death of Truth (2018) delves into the erosion of truth in contemporary society and the consequences it brings. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with insightful analysis, it reveals the dangers of a post-truth era and the impact it has on democracy and civil discourse.
    • By presenting a wide range of historical examples, the book offers valuable context, allowing readers to understand the current state of truth more comprehensively.
    • Its thought-provoking arguments and thoughtfully curated evidence make it a compelling read, challenging readers to critically examine the world around them.

    Who should read The Death of Truth?

    • Supporters of democracy
    • News and political junkies
    • Book lovers concerned about current affairs

    About the Author

    Michiko Kakutani received her bachelor's degree in English from Yale University in 1976, after which she became a reporter for Time magazine and the Washington Post. In 1983, she became a book critic for the New York Times and held that job until her retirement in 2017. Vanity Fair once called her “the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world."

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    The Death of Truth FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Death of Truth?

    The main message of The Death of Truth is an exploration of the erosion of truth in today's society.

    How long does it take to read The Death of Truth?

    The reading time for The Death of Truth varies depending on the reader, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Death of Truth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Death of Truth is worth reading for its thought-provoking insights on the current state of truth and its impact on society.

    Who is the author of The Death of Truth?

    The author of The Death of Truth is Michiko Kakutani.

    What to read after The Death of Truth?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Death of Truth, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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