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You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide To Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes & Cultural Myths
By Russ Kick (Editor)
Razorfish Subnetwork
400 pgs., $19.95

Everything you think you know is wrong

By Steven Martinovich
web posted July 30, 2001

You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide To Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes & Cultural MythsReading You Are Being Lied To, born of the web site disinfo.com, is a little like being trapped with an intense version of Fox Mulder. Not only will he tell you everything that you think you know is wrong, you'll even be wrong about why you're wrong. Though it's thick enough to be an encyclopedia, the book is actually a collection of essays, both original and previously published, with writers ranging from Noam Chomsky to Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore.

While it isn't an encyclopedia, there doesn't seem to be much that it doesn't touch upon and few targets that it won't take a shot at. Some, like the essay on the Columbine shooting, are compelling in the questions they raise: How did two teens walk through a busy high school carrying a large propane bomb, carefully laying out nearly 100 pipe bombs all the while heavily armed and no one saw them until they started shooting? Who were their real targets? And perhaps more alarming, was there a third shooter as many students asserted?

Others are bit weaker, such as M.M. Mangasarian's attempt to prove that the Jesus Christ worshiped by Christians was invented after the fact and that many of the things they take for granted are merely stolen or merged into Christianity from other older sources. The fact, if you can take anything that happened two millennia ago as fact, that Paul was "ignorant of the Gospel stories about the birth and miracles of Jesus" and "equally ... just as innocently ignorant of the teachings of Jesus" isn't proof that Jesus Christ was a myth - merely that Paul was ignorant.

The modern famous also get their defenders and licks, with Oliver Stone and his movie JFK singled out for praise by Sam Smith for accomplishing "something truly remarkable that goes far beyond the specific facts of the Kennedy killing. For whatever errors in his recounting of that tale, his underlying story tells a grim truth." Media darling John McCain, who has used his past as a Vietnam POW to further his political career, comes under attack for "his long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam and the missing in action who have still not been accounted for." Not something you heard raised during the Republican primaries.

Jimmy Carter's human rights record, World War II, Martin Luther King, the real story of communism, why the Associated Press changes its stories, the CIA, high school textbooks, the drug war, toad licking, the alleged cover-up of Yitzhak Rabin's murder and corporate media, among other modern conspiracies and distortions, all serve as fodder for the agendas of the writers.

If You Are Being Lied To does have a glaring weakness, it's the writers, with an overwhelming concentration of what Kick refers to as "leftists/progressives." As my e-mail inbox readily proves, conspiracy theorizing is as much a trait of the right as it is the left. One only has to mention the words "Waco" or "TWA 800" to some to trigger a torrent of evidence that the authorities have allegedly buried or ignored to prove that the right is just as capable of seeing what might or might not be there. To his credit, Kick says he did try and engage conservatives whom he respected (pointedly stating Rush Limbaugh was not one) but most chose to avoid the project.

As You Are Being Lied To points out, it only takes one white crow to disprove the notion that all crows are black, a theory born out by the 1997 movie "Conspiracy Theory." If you see conspiracy theories everywhere, sooner or later - like Mel Gibson's character Jerry Fletcher - you're bound to stumble on one that actually exists. Which of those presented in the book are which is up to readers to judge for themselves - though I don't think that should be the point. As Fletcher stated, "A good conspiracy is improvable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line." ESR

Steve Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario and the editor of Enter Stage Right.

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