Reviews:

Below are books and movies that I have reviewed, or am currently reviewing. I will attempt to keep the list relevant to Butchered Nations' mission, but as I list items that I haven't finished yet some of these will just be of interest until I can suggest otherwise. I will rate each on whether I consider the book or video:

  1. to be good in general
  2. to be relevant to Butchered Nation’s mission

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeIdiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. By Charles Pierce, Doubleday, New York, 2009. ISBN: 987-0-7679-2614-0. 293pp. Hardcover, $26.

Idiot America

I hardly know where to begin my review of this book. I chose the book for two reasons: first, that its title spoke to my feelings about the mechanics of modern American politics; second, that its subtitle posed a question I dearly hoped the author would specifically address—and answer. My overall impression reflects my original assumption as to what I thought this book would provide: an assembly of stories illustrating a state of reality I am already painfully aware; and not much of an exploration of what to do about the situation.

I am a political refugee. Not in the way that a Cuban escaping Castro is a political refugee or a targeted Iranian intellectual fleeing fundamentalist theocracy is a political refugee. I am a refugee within my own country seeking asylum amongst other intellectual and rational partisan departees. One aspect of Idiot America I found a bit disappointing is the degree in which it feels very partisan. While I often feel the same way as the author about the horrors which are the fringe radical right, it seems to me examples of the Idiot American Left aren't missing from this book due to lack of historical and contemporary evidence, but for other reasons. Sure, the author makes his point and one is free to extrapolate, but the end result is a coin engineered to land heads-up.

What I found of most value in this book—and I am glad the author included in much detail throughout the book—is the illumination of the inner workings of the media machine. This alone makes Idiot America worth the time of the Butchered Nation reader. The following excerpt illustrates a portion of media mania I hope Butchered Nation readers will take to heart: a list of rules for the American pundit that Professor Andrew Cline of Washington University assembled upon conducting a study of talk radio and op-ed television shows:

  1. Never be dull
  2. Embrace willfully ignorant simplicity
  3. The American public is stupid; treat them that way
  4. Always ignore the facts and the public record when it is convenient to do so
Professor Cline goes on to say:

"Television is an emotional medium. It doesn't do reason well. This is entertainment, not analysis or reasoned discourse. Never employ a tightly reasoned argument where a flaming sound bite will do. The argument of the academic is sort of dull, but a good pissing match is fun to watch. To admit anything more complicated is to invite the suggestion that you may be wrong, and that can never be. Nuance is almost a pejorative term—as if nuance means we're trying to obfuscate."

Media literacy being an important component of Butchered Nation's mission, Idiot America comes as a recommended read. Especially chilling—and illuminating—is the account of Terri Schiavo.

BN Recommended

Overall Rating: 6/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 6/10

 

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThe Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. By Michael Pollan, Penguin, 2007. 464pp. ISBN 0-143-03858-3. Paperback, $16.00

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This book is one that has been on my reading list for quite some time ever since I viewed the documentary film, The World According to Monsanto and read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The issue of food production is one that is of national—even international—concern.

My first introduction to Michael Pollan was through a speech presented at Ted Talks on the symbiotic relationship between grasses and animals on the farm. Michael Pollan is a consummate speaker and a wealth of information regarding botany, food and nutrition. Butchered Nation readers who saw the film, Food, Inc., will recognize Mr. Pollan as one of the key persons of the documentary.

This is the perfect book for anyone just starting out on the informational quest of understanding our relationship to food and the importance of nutrition and the sources of our nutrition. While the book reserves itself almost completely to the nutritional and sustainable aspects of agriculture it lays the foundation of understanding the issues and corruptions that consume our national—nay, our worldwide—food supply.

Easy to read and never grotesque, Michael Pollan takes the reader bravely through three separate food chains: the industrial, the sustainable and the chain of self-provisioned hunter/gatherer. Unlike other authors who simply write about the topic of food production, Mr. Pollan diligently subjects himself (as well as his friends and family) to the foods he follows from production to dinner plate, by cooking (except in the industrial example) and eating these foods.

Understanding what to do and how to do it is an important aspect of Butchered Nation's mission. But equally important in any well-rounded society is understanding the why it is important. We must admit that thinking about food and where it comes from is often as alien as thinking about the production methods of toilet paper. And yet no other topic is of such fundamental importance as the food we eat and how it is produced. As observed in The Omnivore's Dilemma we care more about the quality of our television programming than we do about the nutritional and health implications of the food we need to stay alive.

The Omnivore's Dilemma is a good start and a must read for all Butchered Nation readers. But if you are new to the subject of industrialized agriculture you will have a few more books to read to get the complete picture. Hopefully The Omnivore's Dilemma will sufficiently tell you why you should care.

BN Must Read

Overall Rating: 10/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10

 

Food, Inc.Food, Inc. Director Robert Kenner, 2009. Magnolia Home Entertainment. Rated PG, 91 minutes. ASIN B0027BOL4G. DVD, $26.98.

Food, Inc.

The star talent of any book or film about industrialized monoculture is undoubtedly corn. I sat in the darkness of the movie theater munching my bag of buttery (or at least I think it was butter) popcorn; as I watched the film I was grateful that the story of my comestible selection was merely eye opening and staggering. My friend sitting next to me, on the other hand, was eating a nice, big, juicy hot dog. I'm almost certain that going through his head during the film were thoughts of mounting panic: "Oh my GOD!! WTF did I just EAT?!!" Luckily for him he finished the thing before the end of the coming attractions, otherwise I may have had to help him out of the theater and missed half the film.

Is Food, Inc. a good film? Absolutely. It comes highly recommended. I realize that I have a stronger stomach than most, but I must urge every reader to learn where their food comes from. In this case ignorance is not bliss and it certainly isn't healthy for you!

The topic of industrialized food is a very important issue. However the documentary, like all films, needs to succeed in a specific and limited medium and under different criteria. The film is very well put together and is engaging the entire 91 minutes. Where the film falls short, however, is a sense of "What can I do about it?" that one gets from reading the easier-to-digest Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore's Dilemma. But seriously, when it comes to books versus movies when does a movie ever measure up to any book?

One aspect of Food, Inc. that I felt did more justice than either of the aforementioned books is a highlight of the ethically repugnant activities of the company Monsanto. Both books talk about Monsanto, a bit, but only cursory, only grazing the surface of the outrages being committed by this company. The extent of Monsanto's activities are voluminous enough to warrant its own book and documentary, the latter of which exists as The World According to Monsanto.

If you are at all squeamish but are still a dutiful and proactive individual, deciding to fulfill an important bit of eye-opening and potentially life-altering conscientiousness about this topic, perhaps the books and The World According to Monsanto would be better suited for you.

My recommendation, however, is to just suck it up and sit through this important and amazing documentary film. Don't worry, you'll be fine. You'll still be able to eat your burgers and fries. But you will start thinking with more frequency about the question, "What can I do?" In the end, however, you will still need much more than the 91 minutes this documentary can possibly give you on the topic of modern food production. It is a subject matter that is—I hope you'll agree—mandatory for anyone still alive and eating.

BN Highly Recommended

Overall Rating: 9/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 7/10

 


Sweet Crude. Director Sandy Cioffi, 2009. Area23a. Unrated, 94 minutes. Theatrical/Alternative release. www.sweetcrudemovie.com

Sweet Crude

It seems that the major theme running through Butchered Nation is "The Things That Happen While We're Not Looking" which is precisely reverberated in the stunningly beautiful yet tragically heartbreaking documentary film Sweet Crude.

I complain vehemently about the government of the United States quite a bit. I am going to continue to do so for a very long time, but just let me take a moment to say this: I am so glad that I am not a citizen subject to the corruption and greed which is the government of Nigeria.

Sweet Crude is an historical documentary. Unfortunately it is also completely contemporary as the events depicted in the film are happening as you read this. The filmmaker posits a question: What if the world paid attention before it was too late? It is not just a question but a call to action.

We all know that Oil Company gets what Oil Company wants. This should come as no surprise to anyone age fourteen or older. And we all know that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations on the planet; we've all seen or been warned about the numerous Nigerian scams that plague the Internet. But the situation that is happening in the Niger Delta cannot be tidily wrapped up in a blanket of blame and fingered solely on the Nigerian government: oil companies are also at fault, our media conglomerates are complaisant, the US government is not an innocent bystander.

The situation: Nigeria holds approximately 10% of the world's total oil reserves which account for 22% of the United State's total oil imports (and climbing). The viscous oil revenue generated from Niger Delta wells is supposed to "trickle down" to improvement projects and land management of the Niger Delta. However, due to extensive corruption in the Nigerian government the Niger Delta receives zero benefit from oil extraction and suffers 100% of the ecological damage. What was once a fertile farmland and abundant fishing ground is now the site of the most polluted place on Earth. Every year the Niger Delta experiences the cumulative equivalent of an Exxon-Valdez-sized oil spill.

I live in Los Angeles. There are hundreds—if not thousands—of oil wells scattered throughout this region. If the companies running these wells spilled a single barrel of oil we'd chalk it up to an unfortunate accident. If these companies spilled only a single barrel of oil a month, every month for an entire year there would be a prompt investigation into the competencies of the people running the operation and a massive social and political outcry. And in this hypothetical which I think is entirely realistic, we would be talking about a total of twelve spilled barrels of oil. Compare this to the catastrophy which is the Niger Delta where more than 250,000 barrels of oil—10.8 million US gallons—are spilled on the land and in the waterways every year.

The people who live in the Niger Delta, who have lived in the Niger Delta for generations upon generations, the tribal ancestral home of millions are being starved and poisoned out of their homes. There are no environmental laws to protect them. Oil companies love this as polluting is cheaper than not polluting. Nigerian government officials love this as polluting is more profitable than not polluting.

What started decades ago as peaceful protest has been met repeatedly with broken promises and outward violence towards the people of the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, as would be expected in any kind of uprising of the exploited underclass, non-violent protesting is quickly transforming into violent revolutionary actions. Understandably the people of the Niger Delta simply don't want to leave their ancestral homelands. This isn't so unreasonable a position: take Israel for example—an entire country created (including a diaspora) on the basis of sacred ancestral lands.

If only the world could pay attention. However people—Americans especially—have been psychologically inbred with mass media to the point we no longer have attention spans long enough to care about anything that can't be summed up in a single primal image like War or Destruction or Blood or Death. The complexities at hand in the Niger Delta don't offer any neat-and-tidy sensationalistic bumpers for the news or amazingly knee-jerk stories that our 24-7 news machine can endlessly loop for weeks on end: cheap entertainment—er I mean news—to keep eyes glued to televisions. And yet these primal images do exist in the Niger Delta if one is willing to allow for context, but we don't know about them because the Nigerian government, the oil companies, the U.S. and World media, and the "National Security Issues of the United States" demand that this be hushed up at all costs.

What ultimately winds up on the news is a concocted story to demonize the victims of the situation by labeling them as "terrorists" as ABC World News did. What's worse is that no other "journalistic" news organization called ABC out on their trumped up story or even attempted to verify ABC's claims. People are being psychologically manipulated by the media—friends of big oil—with a smokescreen that basically says "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He's a bad guy and you don't have to care about him or what will happen to him. He deserves it because he's violent."

What is ludicrous is that no other people in this world who take up arms to defend and keep land which is rightfully theirs to begin with would be labeled by any real journalist as a "terrorist," especially given the fact that they were already on their land to begin with! However politely the Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) encourages people to abandon their ancestral lands by kidnapping, beating, torturing village spokespeople, by harassing and extorting community members and the very subtle burning-the-entire-village-to-the-ground, these people aren't terrorists—they're patriots defending their land from injustice as much as Bostonians weren't terrorists when they threw their tea party, nor when our revered founders resisted and revolted against brutal and exploitative English rule.

The biggest tragedy of the Niger Delta situation is that the solutions are already known, are available and entirely feasible. Protecting the environment from wanton destruction is not unreasonable in any part of the world. It isn't like we're still trying to figure out how to pump oil out of the ground without spilling it every day. It isn't like we don't know what else to do with natural gas except to burn it directly into the atmosphere, causing horrific acid rain. And it isn't like providing basic amenities like reliable power and clean, drinkable water is too much to ask. The people of the Niger Delta just want their land restored, to be able to fish again and to be able to live off their land as their ancestors once did with ease. And what's wrong with a library and a school or two? They are more than willing to share their land with the Oil Company. All they ask is for respect of their land.

What is so terrifying about that?

BN Must See

Overall Rating: 9/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10

 

The Corporation. Directed by Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar, 2004. Zeitgeist Films. Unrated, 145 minutes. DVD. $29.99.

The Corporation

Before anyone tries to pigeonhole me as anti-business and one of the loony "Star Trek as Social/Economical Model" fantasizers, let me begin this review by stating that I am in fact a Capitalist and I believe firmly in the free market. Small business comprises 51% of the U.S. GDP, which is actually down over past years due to buyouts, consolidations and small businesses being displaced (or destroyed) by mega-franchises. But still small business accounts for more than half. I think that is very impressive and respectable.

Where I diverge from many in the business sector is the Corporate Mantra of "Profit At Any Cost." I disagree that a company's "right" to make a profit is any more or less valid than the individual's right to make a living. In the "eye of the law" the corporation is an individual with all the rights as a person—it is in the eyes of the law a person. Therefore, the corporation's right to make a profit at the expense of its employees (people)—and the general public (still more people)—is one that does not exist in my mind. And yet vast amounts of energy and money are used to persuade people that the big-business economic machine is vitally important and must be granted special exceptions; and the exceptions granted corporations are staggering.

For instance, given that corporations are legally defined people, corporations are capable of committing crimes—including felonies. (Note the use of the phrase "deferred prosecution agreement".) However, corporations are not held to the same legal standards as individuals, not in the least. Take your average three-strike individual having committed felonies such as shoplifting, felony petty theft or as in Arkansas for a lawyer to open a can of soda while on duty or as in Michigan to hold a yard sale without a business license, that individual could be subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. By mandatory, I mean no exceptions. The corporation, on the other hand, gets the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, often paying a fine in lieu of serving any time, or of even being charged with a felony at all.

Consider the following cost to society for the following crimes:

  • Burglary and robbery: $3.8 billion dollars per year
  • Health care fraud: $100 billion dollars per year
  • Savings and loan fraud: $300 billion dollars per year
  • Securities fraud: $15 billion dollars per year
Consider companies like ASARCO whose copper mines in Montana and my hometown of Tacoma, Washington, pollute and poison the land they once occupied (and the people who live there), then filing bankruptcy before cleanup forcing the hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars cleanup costs (beyond settlement money) onto taxpayers. What a cost-cutting, share-value-soaring bargain!

Consider the close connections of the people who run corporations worldwide and the astonishingly minuscule number of people who own a majority share of these companies and the subsequent distribution of worldwide wealth. Then consider the example corporate behavior of "persons" like Monsanto and what they are doing to actual citizens of this world.

No, I am not anti business. But I am anti corporate favoritism and special interest.

BN Highly Recommended

Overall Rating: 7/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 7/10

 

The World According to Monsanto. Director Marie-Monique Robin. ASIN B0028N3TW8. DVD, $16.95.

The World According to Monsanto

This documentary film, while narratively awkward, is an important exposé on the unethical practices of a monopoly in the making, as well as an illustration of many problems that face the American people and people of the world.

Imagine you are a farmer. You have planted a crop of corn and soy on a field purchased and tilled by your ancestors for generations. You look out over a sea of sunning plants basking in the breeze. The plants have grown from seeds that you saved from last-year's crops, which in turn have been saved from the year before, tracing the genetic origins back to the original crops planted at the foundation of your family farm.

You sit in the sun and admire your farm, thinking warmly of your grandfather who lovingly shared with you the natural process that is happening before you and your part in tending to that nature as a farmer. You watch the bees toiling in the breeze working their way amongst your flowering plants collecting its reward of nectar while carrying the fertile pollen which will turn your plants into harvestable crops. You smile at this act of nature and are grateful for such a life.

All of the sudden, out of your crops emerges a strange man. You've never seen him before. He has emerged from your field carrying clippings of your plants. "Can I help you?" you inquire. The man says nothing but hustles to his car parked on the side of the road and speeds off.

A week or so later you are paid a visit by a lawyer representing the Monsanto Corporation. You are being sued for violating the intellectual property patents of Monsanto. As it turns out, despite your diligence in collecting, saving and re-using your own seed for generations, those unknowing unthinking bees have carried genetically-modified pollen from your neighbor's farm into yours and contaminated your field, fertilizing your crops.

You decide to fight back. You did nothing wrong. You mortgage your farm and fight. $400,000.00 later you get your day in court. Monsanto wins because one of their old attorneys—now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—has modified patent law removing the original prohibition that living things cannot be patented. You lose your farm.

Imagine now that you are not a farmer. You own a machine which separates seeds from plants so that farmers can collect and save seeds from their own farm they intend to replant for next-year's crops. You are followed for weeks on end by thugish looking guys until one day a Monsanto attorney shows up on your doorstep with the local Sheriff (a friend of yours, embarrassed and apologetic, but he is required to be there at Monsanto's bequest) to let you know that you are being sued by Monsanto for aiding and abetting patent infringement of their intellectual property by helping farmers collect and store seeds from their crops.

You decide to fight back. You did nothing wrong. You mortgage your home and business and fight. $35,000.00 later you settle with Monsanto—not because you admit any wrongdoing, not because you are tired of fighting, not because you are exhausted from the personal intrusions and tactics used by Monsanto's attorneys in making your life a living hell. Not because Monsanto has used their lawsuit to force your testimony against all your friends, neighbors and clients like a Puritan Patent Witch Hunt. You settle with Monsanto because your small business has gone broke and your only hope of a secure retirement dictates that you cannot compete with the bottomless pockets from which Monsanto can continue to pay its attorneys ad nausium, your day in court—in the hands of justice—prolonged and postponed into unreachable obscurity.

If you think this is fiction, that there is no way a company in this modern world could conduct itself in this manner then you are sadly mistaken. The examples above are very real. And the myriad of scenarios spiral even beyond the two mentioned above. Monsanto is systematically targeting every farm and farm company, eradicating them like weeds doused with Round-Up, forcing an entire industry into business with.... You guessed it: Monsanto.

The issues, ethics and morality surrounding Monsanto are a cornerstone to the issues that face the entire industrialized agriculture industry—our worldwide food supply—as well as the issues of what it means to live under the power, influences, special interests and manipulations of corporations. It is central to the issues of out-of-control intellectual property laws being bludgeoned against their original purpose of expanding and strengthening the public domain. In the end the imperfection of the legal system is exploited to bludgeon the powerless by the hands of the wealthy.

This world is a plantation. The people its slaves. Government—and corporate interest—our mass'as.

BN Must See

Overall Rating: 6/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10

 

The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and WasteThe Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste. By Tom Hodgkinson, Harper Perennial, 2007. ISBN 978-0-0608-2322-1. 352pp. Paperback, $13.95.

The Freedom Manifesto

There is nothing more wonderful, in my opinion, than something that challenges the very foundations of your own closely held beliefs and forces you to think about what you believe and why you believe it. Even more wonderful still is when examining your beliefs you consider perspectives you had not before and thus change your beliefs.

I have been fortunate enough to have been challenged many times before, frequently by people I consider to be close, dear friends. Perhaps the process of being challenged by friends has opened me up to personal change and prepared me to continue questioning my own assumptions through the writings and speeches of strangers.

Tom Hodgkinson's The Freedom Manifesto is just such a book. Tom eloquently tackles a slew of common, every day beliefs and assumptions and causes one to think about the invisible shackles we often enslave ourselves with.

Hopefully you will have an open mind which needs less cajoling into motion than mine initially did. Hopefully you are willing to challenge your own thinking, are willing to defend what you believe or are willing to throw out your indefensible, weak beliefs for better, stronger ideas. If you aren't sure what you believe, or better yet if you are certain of what you believe, read The Freedom Manifesto. It will either affirm your beliefs or change them. Either way, you will be a stronger and more adaptive individual than the untested, unsure person who existed before.

BN Must Read!

Overall Rating: 8/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10

 

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human SocietiesGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. By Jared Diamond, W. W. Norton, New York, 1999. ISBN 0-393-31755-2. 496pp. Paperback, $18.95

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Jared Diamond’s masterful book answers the basic question, "Why did some people develop technology and complex societies while others did not?" Anyone with reasonable intelligence can understand that all human beings have the same basic potential, so why isn’t every country as developed and advanced as the other?

In answering these questions, Mr. Diamond takes the reader on a 200,000 year journey—the bulk of the book focuses on humankind’s last 13,000 years of development. While Mr. Diamond offers many insights worthy of tackling this book—which can be rather academic and dry at times—the reward in perspective to current affairs is invaluable.

Of particular interest to Butchered Nation readers is understanding the evolution of simple societies to complex societies as well as the role of food—agriculture and domestication specifically—within our political power structure.

While the book does not get into specifics of the issues of modern life, in regards to the Butchered Nation mission, the background and perspective offered by this book is invaluable for many of the topics covered and discussed on this site.

Because its purpose is to illustrate how we as humankind got to where we are today—and not being a contemporary commentary—Butchered Nation scores this book 8 out of 10 on the "Must Read" factor: it provides useful background information and perspective and is highly recommended. In general, Butchered Nation rates this book 9 out of 10: a fascinating read who’s juicy parts more than help to lubricate the occasional dry academia that surfaces from time-to-time.

BN Must Read!

Overall Rating: 9/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10

 

Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food LifeAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. By Barbara Kingsolver, Harper Perennial, 2008. 400pp. ISBN 0-060-85256-9. Paperback, $15.99

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This book is by far one of the better books I have ever read, of any subject or genre. Barbara Kingsolver's intimate and inviting style turns the disconnected reader just beginning the book quickly into a friend and guest, welcoming them into her own family. It is almost as though she expected you and has set a place at the dinner table, just for you.

The book is mostly autobiographical, telling the story of the author's family move out of the desert and into a farmhouse on the Appalachian hills of Virginia. The story is about an experiment: can the author and her family survive for an entire year eating only the food that they themselves grow, or the food that is grown or produced by local Virginians within sixty miles of their new home.

Anyone new to Butchered Nation may wonder why I'm recommending books about food in the discussion of how the people of this country are manipulated by media and politicians. For those who have read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel you will know that control over food is control over people. For the first 10,000 years after the development of agriculture, politicians have mastered the art of controlling people with their food supply. That skill has thus spilled over into control over every other resource—including our airwaves intended for public discourse and betterment.

In regards to Mrs. Kingsolver's subjected journey one would ask the basic question, "Why?" Why does this year-long test matter and why ever would one subject themselves to it? The author dutifully answers this question, not once or twice but a hundred times for a hundred different reasons—all of which are relevant.

Interwoven throughout the book are insights into the current state of affairs with modern-day American agriculture and meat products. It is easy to be complaisant—even supportive—of our current system when one doesn't have any idea what they're consuming or what they are missing because of it. Furthermore, and what I hope Butchered Nation readers will glean from this book, is the immense impact food has on our country from politics, to oil, chemical and biological engineering, and medicine.

Butchered nation rates this book, overall, 10 out of 10: it is a page-turner! For its importance to having a rounded national perspective Butchered Nation rates this book 9 out of 10 on the "Must Read" scale: anyone who cares about themselves, their families, their community and their country needs to care about the topic of food. Food is the very essence of life!

BN Must Read

Overall Rating: 10/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 9/10

 

Psychology of Persuasion: How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking. By Kevin Hogan, Pelican Publishing, 1996. 288pp. ISBN 1-565-54146-4, Hardcover, $24.95

Psychology of Persuasion

If only one book on this list is read it should be this one. Psychology of Persuasion not only illustrates how one can use the tactics of persuasion, but most importantly it will teach you how to recognize when persuasive psychology is being used to influence your behavior and decisions.

Being able to intercept the manipulative attempts of others is a crucial survival tool as a citizen of the United States. It is a needed skill for Media Literacy—a big component of Butchered Nation’s mission. As politics and media have been so intimately in bed with one another it becomes rather redundant to say that this book will also help you discern the half-truths and promises of politicians. Media Literacy is Political Literacy.

The ability to rely on objective journalism is rapidly diminishing. Psychology of Persuasion is probably one of your better defenses in the day and age where you have to start doing for yourself the job that journalists used to do for you.

The book is interesting and casual and easy to read. Butchered Nation gives it an overall score of 8 out of 10. As a book that will get you to think differently about the people in power, Butchered Nation gives this book a 10 out of 10 on the "Must Read" scale. Buy a copy today. Buy two and give as a gift to a loved one.

BN Must Read

Overall Rating: 8/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 10/10

 

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. By Barry Glassner, Basic Books, 2000. 312pp. ISBN 978-0-4650-1490-3. Paperback, $15.95.

The Culture of Fear

Here’s the Butchered Nation primer on how the media works—in a nutshell.

  • Broadcasters sell a product. This product isn’t entertainment, it isn’t even anything you are interested in when you tune in. The primary product of broadcasters is YOU! When a broadcaster makes a "sale" the product is x-number of viewers and the buyer shoveling out money for this "product" is advertisers.
  • Someone, somewhere down the line discovered that sensationalism caused more viewers to tune in. More viewers makes a more valuable product for broadcasters to sell.
  • Additionally some marketing analyst discovered that a large "product" in a state of anxiety—especially when unable to identify the source of anxiety—were much more likely to buy something in order to help them feel less anxious. Continuously combining sensationalism with fear was the next value-added product improvement broadcasters were looking for: not only could they sell larger audiences to advertisers, the could sell advertisers larger audiences who were more likely to buy something because they were kept in a mentally stressed state.
  • CHA-CHING
This is why Media Literacy is a crucial skill! Of course the above list is a simplified summary of the business of mass media. What is important to add to the above relationship is that politicians have always been a bit slow on adapting the modern world into their war chests. It took politicians twenty years to realize how valuable television was to the life and career of a politician. And it took them a little longer still to realize that the sensational/fear combo platter could work for political power the way it worked for advertiser’s products.

Large corporate interests who’s budgets allowed for national advertising began demanding sensational, anxiety-inducing content. And when these same interests learned that political agenda could be controlled—with the aid of politicians willing to cry wolf right along with them—vast amounts of policy could be swept under the carpet while the vast majority of people were preoccupied with an avalanche of utterly garbage, meaningless and frivolous legislating.

The real legislating, the real favors and special interest payouts all happen behind this corporate/industrial smokescreen of distracted anxiety. At the point where broadcasters screamed, loudly, "Awe, shucks... It’s only entertainment!" is where the public, en mass, ought to smash in their televisions (or at least turn them off). But given that there is this "national need of utmost importance" to be a "well informed and [laughably] conscientious American" by being a thoughtless consumer of "Only Entertainment" being sold literally as "news" without even as much as a single critical thought on the part of the viewer, it is clear that the media illiteracy rate in this country is by far swallowing a staggering majority of Americans.

So why does Butchered Nation recommend The Culture of Fear? Because it is an exposé on manipulation. It is a taste of what it means to be a politician and a "news-maker" in this country.

BN Must Read

Overall Rating: 7/10
Butchered Nation Rating: 8/10