Weekend Reading: May 26, 2017

Screening Room: ‘The Brainwashing of My Dad’


It’s the kind of thing too many people are familiar with. Once middle-of-the-road parents suddenly, after immersing themselves in Fox News and talk radio, turn into angry ditto-heads, sending email forwards filled with birther conspiracy theories and ALL CAPS freakout. That’s what happened to filmmaker Jen Senko, who chronicled the experience in a new documentary.

The Brainwashing of My Dad opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Presenting itself as a Chomsky-esque takedown of a well-oiled propaganda machine, Jen Senko’s The Brainwashing of My Dad defines itself as “a story about a media phenomenon that changed a father and divided a nation.” The phenomenon Senko’s referring to is the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton identified back in 1998, after years of unhinged assaults on her and Bill by a well-funded network of conservative magazines, columnists, TV personalities and talk-radio hosts. It’s a conspiracy that Senko knows quite well, having watched her father turn from a “nonpolitical Kennedy Democrat,” the kind who would give a homeless black man money while calling him “Sir,” into the sort of splenetic crank who rants about “feminazis” and how the liberals are destroying America…

Here’s the trailer:

Department of Weekend Reading: November 22, 2014


Department of Weekend Reading: November 7, 2014


New in Books: ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’

capital-cover1The most curious blockbuster book of 2014 has easily been Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty’s a French economist who wrote a nearly 700-page book about the Western world’s history (and probable near-future) of economic inequality.

My review is at PopMatters:

[Piketty] thinks it’s actually a good thing that economists aren’t treated with as much respect in France as they are in the United States. This refreshing humility doesn’t keep the book from over-relying on a few points and concluding in too narrow a fashion. But Piketty’s conviction that economists normally don’t get it—in part, he suggests, because many of them are much better off financially than the average citizen—goes a long way towards attracting a readership that would normally recoil as violently from brick-like economics texts as Fox News viewers would from kale. Even with Piketty’s occasional stumbles, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is easily the book of the year. With agreeably clear prose and an aversion to orthodoxy, it grapples with mountains of data and wrestles them into a more manageably daunting form…

You can see an interview with Piketty here: