Media Mythmakers


Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us

By Benjamin Radford. Prometheus Books: 2003, 324 pages, Illustrations, Notes, Index. Hardback, $24.30. ISBN: 1-59102-072-7

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This book is not just about how the American public is misled by and through the media, though that is an important theme. Media Mythmakers is about far more than politics or the news gathering process. It also challenges the assumptions behind many popular beliefs and questions why we believe what we do. It is at its heart about fairness. When we are deceived and misled, when we are told lies and myths, we are being unfairly treated and disrespected. When we are encouraged to fear things that we need have little fear of, our money, energy, and attention is being unfairly manipulated. There are only so many hours in the day to devote to problems, only so many public and private dollars to spend on fixing social issues. In modern America, especially in these trying economic times, we must learn to think before we spend. We must be sure the solutions we propose are relevant to the problems we face.

As the lines between advertising, news, and entertainment blur, the ideal of an informed citizenry becomes harder and harder to achieve. We, the American public, aren’t sure what to believe, or where to put our money and trust. We know we’re being manipulated, misled, and outright lied to by those who seek our support. Whether it comes from advertisers, activists, or the government, the manipulation is constant and pervasive. Those who are supposed to help us understand the world and the problems we face frequently fail us. Journalists and the news media offer entertainment and sensationalism instead of significant information. Politicians and lawmakers who guide the country are little better; instead of real solutions, we are offered merely the illusion of progress.

This hard-hitting critique of our media culture examines not only the ways in which we are deceived, but the media’s role in propagating these deceptions. Media Mythmakers goes beyond criticism to give concrete examples of the damage caused by manipulation of the news. From missing children to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, from efforts to end slavery in other countries to AIDS education, myths and deception in the media threaten us all. While the public is being misled, real problems go unaddressed and resources are wasted on misguided ideas.

Table of Contents

PART 1: Advertising and the Illusion of Meaning
1. Advertising and the Illusion of Meaning
2. Advertising, News, and Entertainment

PART 2: The Media Perspective
3. The News Bias: Distorting Reality and Feeding Fears
4. Illusions of Participation and Influence
5. Tears in the Camera Eye
6. Tragedy as License to Abandon Responsible Journalism
7. The Changing Face of News

PART 3: Profiting from Fear and Myth
8. Cashing in on Crises and Manufacturing Martyrs
9. Emotional Legislation: Solutions without Problems

PART 4: The Wages of Fear: The Consequence of a Public Blinded By Myths
10. Losing Trust and Resources
11. Threats to Life and Health
12. Threats to Freedom and Justice

Conclusion: Toward Solutions

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Thinking is an innate ability that most people take for granted. But – like writing and public speaking – thinking well is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. Hoaxes, myths, and manias occur when people give in to unreason, emotion, and unfounded belief. Our ability to think and reason needs to be exercised, tested, and sharpened to make us able to evaluate new situations as they arise. In this unique introduction to critical thinking, Robert Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford first lay out the principles of critical thinking and then invite readers to put these principles to the test by examining a number of unusual and challenging case studies. Assembling a wide range of bizarre but actual incidents that span different cultures and time periods, they demonstrate how the tools of critical thinking can help reveal the truth behind strange events and seemingly mysterious behavior. Bartholomew and Radford show that reality is very much a social construction, that cultural assumptions play a large part in our judgments about what is normal and what is deviant, and that the use of critical reasoning is our best means of ensuring an objective perspective.

“…you are certain to be amused and amazed in equal parts…an entertaining and enlightening book.”
– Psychology Today, March/April 2003

“…fast-paced and intriguing…anyone with an interest in the odd or in critical thinking should read.”
– Statesman Journal, June 22, 2003

“For those who trust their own intellect, this book will prove refreshing, interesting reading.”
–, May 2003

2003, Paperback, 229 pages
Prometheus Books; ISBN: 1591020484