Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Influencing Machine

The Influencing MachineThe Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not much of a radio listener, so the fact that Brooke Gladstone is a well regarded NPR managing editor did not bring this book to my radar. I happened to listen to her highly entertaining talk with our local radio host, Rick Kleffel, and resolved to read it at first opportunity. Brooke claims that she wanted to write a comic book about something even before she found her topic, and with the help of illustrator Josh Neufeld, who has previously done another comic or graphic novel about New Orleans, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, which I would also like to read.

I don't know about you, but I love what's been happening with the graphic novel/comic book format in recent years. I know that visually, I don't probably take in all the detail, as the longtime fans of the form would, but I do really like this medium for the way it handles material, giving you a visual and verbal way to take in all the information.

There's a lot of content to this engaging and deceptively easy to read book, but I'll paint what I take to be Gladstone's theme in broad strokes. She wants people to know, as they face the accelerated pace of new media in a new technology, that people have been through such mind-bending, anxiety producing exciting times before. Long, long before. She wants us to know that media bias is nothing new, and that objectivity is at all times problematic. She wants us to know that lies do seep into the news media and not always on the side of your enemies, either. That governments give the current media freedom with one hand and take it away with the other--because it's in their nature to do so.

There's a lot of history, a lot of interviews with our contemporaries who also happen to be commentators, and a lot of fun pictures of Brooke Gladstone sneaking around in a lot of scenes that you might have remembered just a wee bit differently. Never mind--that lapse is accounted for in this book too.

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