2018 Book List

Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to the books we’ll get to read in 2019! Here’s my annual recap of books read this last year (I split the post into two sections: the books I read on my own, and the books I read aloud to the kids).

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Orwell was a socialist in the 1930’s who grew disillusioned with communism after he saw its effects when implemented. He wrote Animal Farm as a sort of dark satire of Russia’s embrace of collectivism: animals on a farm decide they don’t need Farmer Jones anymore and they run him off, determined to survive together as a socialist collective. When Napoleon the pig sets himself as the leader of the collective, things begin to take a sinister turn.

The copy I borrowed from the library also included related readings (short stories, poems, and essays): “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; “The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union,” by Michael Kort; “The Birds,” by Daphne du Maurier, etc. (I admit that for a book with readings related to socialism/collectivism I did not see the connection between this theme and “The Birds.”)

And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. One of the best books I’ve read. Bridges traces the goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty of God through the pages of Scripture, applying the comfort found in these truths to circumstances in the life of the believer—from sickness and adversity to everyday decision-making. Very heartening and encouraging. Highly recommend!

God’s infinite wisdom then is displayed in bringing good out of evil, beauty out of ashes. It is displayed in turning all the forces of evil that rage against His children into good for them. But the good that He brings about is often different from the good we envision.

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari. This book was gifted to me from a family member. Hari is a food activist who has diligently researched foods and food additives, and successfully petitioned many different food companies and restaurants to change the unhealthy ingredients in their foods. She breaks down the labeling on foods, explaining each questionable ingredient, what it is, where it comes from, and the potential health risks associated with it, and outlines a plan for changing one’s diet to avoid all the junk and poisons in the typical American diet. She also discusses a number of different popular diets (Atkins, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, etc.), highlighting the pros and cons of each and concluding that the best diet is one which includes all of the food groups (if possible), in proper balance and from clean, quality sources. Very informative.

My own chronic health problems led me to make the connection to food, a link that made sense once I started researching the effects of certain chemicals on the body. I learned how to detoxify my very poisoned body, and when I did, all my health problems started to vanish. I lost thirty pounds. My so-called incurable eczema totally healed, and my skin glowed. My asthma and allergies became ancient history. My stomach issues vanished. My anxiety was gone; I no longer had to take any drugs, prescription or over-the-counter.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. Standing as (possibly) the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, Beowulf recounts the story of a brave Scandinavian warrior who battles monsters and a dragon. Little is known about the background of this story, or even who wrote it or why. The interweaving of Christian and pagan influences adds further curious layers to this mysterious drama.

In off the moors, down through the mist bands

God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.

The bane of the race of men roamed forth,

hunting for prey in the high hall.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Years ago I had read Babywise before my first child was born. While implementing the ideas found in that book did seem to help both my first two kids sleep through the night (5+ hours) at an early age (at six to eight weeks or so), I wondered if a somewhat more moderate and less extreme approach than rigid schedules and lengthy, stressful, cry-it-out sessions was out there (besides being told to just live without sleep for the next couple of years!). I found Pantley’s book at a library sale and bought it for a few cents before Rachelle was born. While I don’t think any one method has all the answers (I pick and choose what I find helpful in books) I did plan to use her store of tips and techniques to help Rachelle learn to sleep through the night…as peacefully as possible for both of us.

But as it turns out, this baby started (mostly) sleeping through the night on her own very quickly. I hardly had the chance to try any of Pantley’s sleep solutions. So I can’t tell you whether or not they work.

And that’s okay with me, lol.

[This book] will explain the exact steps you can take to gently help your baby sleep through the night. So, prop your eyelids open, grab a cup of coffee, and let me explain how you can help your baby sleep—so that you can get some sleep, too.

In Quest of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story by Jim Ryun with Mike Phillips. Rummaging through an old antiques store in Wichita one day, I came across an autographed copy of this book and purchased it for my husband who, as a runner himself, had always been a fan of Jim Ryun’s (a Kansan himself). This autobiography is an up-close and personal look at this world record-setting champion’s life, from his exciting achievements on the track to the way God used the disappointments and frustrations of his running career to ultimately bring Ryun to Christ. 

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Since running had been my one and only god, in order to give me something far better and more enduring, [Christ] had to take my substitute god away. Thus I grew to a point of genuine thankfulness for what happened that day on the Munich track in 1972. For out of the dust of defeat blossomed the new life that came to flourish in my heart.

Physician Assistant’s Guide to Research and Medical Literature by J. Dennis Blessing. Written to PA’s, this book discusses study methods, study designs, threats to validity, limitations, presentation, analysis and interpretation, ethics considerations, etc. Even as a lay-person I found the information helpful, since I research and read a good bit of medical literature. I made many pages of notes from the book.

The only way health care can advance is by research and application of the results. Even if we are not actively involved in research, we must possess a basic understanding of the process and what it means.

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This is the children’s Newberry Award-winning fantasy story about a chivalrous little mouse named Despereaux. I read it in one sitting in the car while traveling to see family for Christmas (previewing it for Brianna). Loved it (and so did Bri). 20190103_132236

Picture a kingdom where soup is outlawed. Where mice may never speak to men, and rats may never embrace light. Where kings suffer from broken hearts and servant girls dream of being princesses. A kingdom where perfidy stands out in stark contrast to empathy and honor, as revenge to forgiveness, darkness to light, and despair to hope.

This is The Tale of Despereaux.

Have I mentioned that beneath the castle there was a dungeon? In the dungeon, there were rats. Large rats. Mean rats.

Despereaux was destined to meet those rats.

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

True Grit by Charles Portis.

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen everyday. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and one hundred and fifty dollars in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Thus begins the story of Mattie Ross, the plucky young girl from Arkansas who teams up with a couple of lawmen with rough-as-40-grit-sandpaper personalities and equally gritty courage to track down her father’s murderer and bring him to justice. (Some language.) 

READ-ALOUDS WITH THE KIDS:

Godliness is Great Gain by unknown authors. This is a collection of stories from the 19th century. Most are fictional stories of faithfulness and obedience in the lives of ordinary people and the rewards that come with righteousness. (This book and The Little Medicine Carrier are part of a series of books for children from the 19th century—a set I read as a child. I’ve since found this collection—and more in the series—at Grace and Truth Books. Dennis Gunderson has also written a study guide to accompany this series).

When used properly, expectations are good and valuable. When they cause a person to throw away dependability, faithfulness and humility, they are ill-used…Only those who “set their affections on things above,” can be truly happy. True happiness can only be found through true repentance, and forgiveness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Little Medicine Carrier. A little boy named “George” is hired by a doctor to deliver medicine for him. Though he faces many temptations, George learns to be faithful, honest, and kind. When he befriends a young girl who is very ill, he witnesses her faith in Jesus as she nears death.

“Miss Beatrice must be very good not to mind dying.”

“No, George. The dear, young lady knows that she is a sinner. She has learned to trust her Savior who died so she could live. She knows she can do nothing for herself and that Jesus has done everything for her. As a result of this, she holds on to Him with so much joy and peace.”

Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons by Vance Nelson. This is a stunningly gorgeous book about dinosaurs from a young earth, creationist perspective. In this unique work, Nelson explores findings and artifacts from all over the world that give evidence for the co-existence of man and dragons/dinosaurs. The information is organized by country, the findings from the United States, Mexico, Peru, England, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Mali, Ethiopia, and China explored. I’m including this here as a book the kids listened to, but in this case I didn’t read it to them—Daddy did. 🙂

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If dinosaurs lived alongside people, then surely somewhere on planet earth the evidence of such an extraordinary coexistence would be found…The evidence presented in this book has become the answer to that question.

Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs by Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch. If you were to guess that we really enjoy dinosaur/dragon books, you’d be right. 😉 I picked this fun book up at a homeschool conference. Every page contains new delights to discover: pockets to open, minibooks to flip through, papers to pull out. With much the same theme as Dire Dragons, the book focuses on ancient stories, tales, and writings that support the evidence that man and dragon (dinosaur) once lived together.

Since the mid-1930s, speculation has run rampant over a sea monster purported to live in Loch Ness, known simply as Nessie. Debate has raged while numerous expeditions have sought to solve this modern mystery. But it may not be as modern as some think. There are written reports of a mysterious creature in the loch, able to kill swimmers, back to the 6th century.

I Heard Good News Today by Cornelia Lehn. This book was included in the Adventures in Obedience course (which I had previously mentioned in this post). It recounts 92 stories of virtue and missionary endeavor, the stories being sorted by country/continent. A few of these missionaries were quite familiar (Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, etc.); most were new to us.

Far away in a village in the rugged mountains of Taiwan there lived a little girl called Gau Fu-Mei. One night Fu-Mei had a strange dream. It was so clear and so real that when she woke up she knew exactly what she had dreamed. In her dream she was told that there was a God who loved her.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the third book in the series that we’ve read and it tells the story of the Ingalls’ brief time in Kansas, when they homesteaded near Independence. After we finished this book we got to actually go see the homestead where Laura had lived. The original house did not survive, so a replica was constructed on site. But the old well that Pa and his friend dug is there, and other old buildings (like a post office and school, etc.) have been moved to or constructed on the site. Since we visited during Prairie Days the kids got to do hands-on activities, listen to a history lesson in the one-room school-house, participate in a costume contest, and meet Wendi Lee (who played “Baby Grace” on the Little House on the Prairie TV series), and several descendants of people (or relatives of people) who were mentioned in Laura’s books, including a Mr. Wilder.

Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers’ rasping quivered up from the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

The Tuttle Twins Series by Connor Boyack. This series has grown since the time I purchased it, but we’ve read six of these books for kids on Austrian economics, free market principles, and classical liberalism. It’s a great series! I wrote about these books in a post on homeschooling books/materials last year.

“True laws protect people and their property from plunder,” Fred explained. “When true laws exist and are respected, people work hard to improve their lives and they work peacefully with others. Everyone prospers together and is happier.”

“…But when the law lets people plunder, it turns everyone against each other,” Fred said.

Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. This short, generously illustrated biography of Columbus by a Newbery Honor-winning author gave us a glimpse into the life and achievements (as well as the failures) of this famous man. In tongue-in-cheek style both his strengths and his weaknesses were portrayed. (We read this one for school since we were studying Columbus in our history lessons.)

It was lucky that Christopher Columbus was born where he was, or he might never have gone to sea.

Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd. I had always thought of Leonardo as an amazing genius, but I didn’t know the breadth and depth of his curiosity and creativity in so many different areas! This book shared many little known facts about Leonardo and his ideas and inventions. Did you know he liked to create an upbeat atmosphere while he worked, so he would employ musicians, singers, and entertainers to perform while he was painting? Or that he had a predilection for playing practical jokes? In one instance he attached a sheep’s intestine to large bellows, hid from sight, then pumped the bellows, inflating the intestine till it filled the room and flattened people against the walls! Did you know he invented an alarm clock that jerked the sleeper’s feet out of bed at a set time? You will find these and many other interesting stories in this lavishly illustrated book.

Leonardo was said to be tall and handsome, charming and fashionably dressed, and so strong he could impress people with seemingly superhuman feats, like bending iron horseshoes with his bare hands.

Renegade: Martin Luther (The Graphic Biography) by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino. The artwork in this book is gorgeous. It represents a brief look at the highlights of this Reformer’s life—graphic novel style. This book is targeted more towards young adults than children but I read it aloud to the kids. Be forewarned there are a couple of swear/cuss words (which I “edited” out as I read aloud), and as this is a graphic novel some of the illustrations were just that: graphic (a few were a bit on the gory side).

By the way, the most excellent documentary (docu-drama actually) I’ve seen on his life was done by PBS: Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World. Borrowed it from the library, watched it with the kids for school and loved it. Highly recommend! (Watch the trailer for it here; also note that this is the 2017 documentary, not the older PBS documentary.)

“So, Martinus! Do you retract your writings? Yes or no.”

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scipture or clear reason, I am bound by the biblical texts I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and I will not recant anything. I cannot act contrary to my conscience. So help me God! Amen!”

A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of a Green Darner Dragonfly by Laurence Pringle. Lovely paintings by Bob Marstall illustrate this story of the life cycle of a dragonfly named “Anax.” In style and content it reminds me a bit of Holling Clancy Holling books; it was an enjoyable living book read.

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Wait…wait…wait…Now! Anax unleashed his deadly lower lip. It shot out and seized the damselfly nymph with sharp grasping claws. Then the lip swiftly folded partway, bringing the nymph into Anax’s waiting jaws.

Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson. This work of historical fiction revolves around the life of John Wycliffe and his “Lollards.” Wycliffe wanted every man and woman to be able to read the Bible in his or her own language. He challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, and was an inspiration to Luther and others of the Reformation who followed in his steps a century later. (The book is a little mature reading for the age of my kids, delving into theological disscusions and being more targeted for young teens, but I read it to them anyway since we had studied Wycliffe in history this school year.)

John said softly, “Why do we fear death, Giles? You in your heart and I in mine believe the same thing.”

Giles glanced up. “What is that?”

“Come. You have read St. Paul. The saving of the soul comes from God, not the Church. Indeed, He foreknew His people before they were born, Giles. It is a matter between man and God. The Church has no say in it.”

What have you read this last year? What was your favorite read of 2018?

The World of Astroturf: Media Manipulation and Disinformation

Greeted with a round of applause, five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and reporter Sharyl Attkisson steps into the spotlight on the stage at the University of Nevada.  Screenshot_20180105-132658

Today she’s come to give a TEDx talk on a controversial but timely subject: astroturf and media manipulation.

This author of the New York Times bestselling book The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote, comes with a strong warning and admonition to the audience to carefully consider and question everything they see and hear, and even the sources they consider trustworthy.

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She begins with a simple example: suppose you were to read a glowing report about a new drug. Wanting to do a little investigation before you jump on the bandwagon, you do a Google search which turns up a non-profit organization endorsing the product. You check WebMD, Twitter and Facebook, and do some reading on Wikipedia. Everything looks good. You may have come across an article or study linking this new drug to cancer, however you choose to dismiss it because all the “trustworthy” sources scoff at the concerns.

She then asks,

But what if all isn’t as it seems? What if the reality that you found is false—a carefully-constructed narrative by unseen special interests designed to manipulate your opinion?

Here she begins to explain what’s going on.

What is astroturf? It’s a perversion of grassroots, as in fake grassroots. Astroturf is when political, corporate, or other special interests disguise themselves and publish blogs, start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads and letters to the editor, or simply post comments online to try to fool you into thinking an independent or grassroots movement is speaking.

The whole point of astroturf is to try to give the impression there’s widespread support for or against an agenda when there’s not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel you’re an out-lier, when you’re not…

…Astroturfers seek to controversialize those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations that publish stories they don’t like, whistleblowers who tell the truth, politicians who dare to ask the tough questions, and journalists who have the audacity to report on all of it.

Sometimes astroturfers simply shove—intentionally—so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix, that you’re left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it, including the truth.

She goes on to expose Wikipedia—which she describes as “astroturf’s dream come true”—for the sham information site it is: controlling information, reversing edits, deleting truthful data.

…[T]here was a huge scandal when Wikipedia officials got caught offering a PR service to skew and edit information on behalf of paid publicity-seeking clients, in utter opposition to Wikipedia’s supposed policies. All of this may be why, when a medical study looked at medical conditions described in Wikipedia pages and compared it to actual peer-reviewed published research, Wikipedia contradicted medical research 90% of the time.

(This article explains how Wikipedia has skewed the Intelligent Design discussion on their pages.  The Discovery Institute itself named them “Censor of the Year.”

Attkisson explains that when you come across that non-profit organization (which Google has conveniently placed at the top of the page) promoting that new drug, it may be an organization that’s actually funded by the very pharmaceutical company selling the drug. When you read the Facebook page that gives a glowing description of the drug, it may have been started by a member of a PR group for the very purpose of advertising and promotion while dishonestly pretending to be an “independent” source. And when you consult Wikipedia, you may be reading a rosy review written and paid for by the pharmaceutical company promoting the drug. Your attempts to correct blatant misinformation on these monitored pages may be thwarted, and your edit reversed/deleted within minutes.

Now this doesn’t just apply to drugs, of course. Many political and corporate interests use these exact same techniques (and many others) to skew public opinion, smear their opposition, and dishonestly promote their own agenda. Even government operatives engage in this (see How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations). Attkisson explains that special interests now consider astroturfing even more important than lobbying Congress.

That’s a big deal—especially if you consider that billions of dollars are spent on lobbying every year (for a look at who’s lobbying Congress and how much they’re spending, check OpenSecrets.org).

Awhile back I ran into a perfect case study of astroturf when I came across a recently-created Facebook page promoting Big Ag propaganda. On the surface it looked so sweet and innocent: a non-profit seeking to educate people on food. But readers were blowing their cover in the comments section as they pointed out that this newly-created “organization” was a PR front paid for by a major Big Ag corporation (and incidentally, one reputed for dishonesty, unethical practices, and bullying of whistleblowers).

In the comments section I began to post the links to scientific studies and news articles that contradicted the information they were publishing. I was never rude, and sometimes simply posted the article with little to no commentary.

I soon found myself banned from commenting on the page: they weren’t looking to educate, to discuss, to debate in an unbiased manner; they were controlling the narrative and silencing dissent.

I also noticed that at least one other person commenting with the truth (pointing out that the organization was a paid PR group for Big Ag) disappeared as well. I’ve had to wonder if they also were banned.

That’s a classic hallmark of astroturf.

Major news networks are often complicit in all of this, only reporting stories special interest groups want to hear. Whistleblowers and journalists who tell the truth are often punished rather than commended.

I remember another time crafting a careful response in the comments section to a news piece NPR ran.

They never published the comment. Every time I checked on it it said it was awaiting the moderator’s approval.

Which it never received.

This is the kind of thing that happens to people all the time. If what you have to say might threaten a narrative or agenda you are shut down, shut out, banned…or mercilessly trolled by paid astroturfers pretending to be consumers with “independent” opinions. Many of the major and well-trusted information sources out there are bought, paid for, and controlled by special interests, and are therefore carefully censored.

So how do we recognize astroturfing? Attkisson gives us a few tips:

First, hallmarks of astroturf include use of inflammatory language such as “crank,” “quack,” “nutty,” “lies,” “paranoid,” “pseudo,” and “conspiracy.” Astroturfers often claim to debunk myths that aren’t myths at all. Use of the charged language tests well: people hear something’s a myth—maybe they find it on Snopes—and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it. But what if the whole notion of the myth is itself a myth, and you and Snopes fell for that?

Beware when interests attack an issue by contoversializing or attacking the people, personalities, and organizations surrounding it rather than addressing the facts—that could be astroturf.

And most of all, astroturfers tend to reserve all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrong-doing, rather than the wrong-doers. In other words, instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority.

That’s some good information there. I’ve come across many examples of all of these things, but I’ll briefly give you just a couple.

“Quackbusters” are often paid astroturfers. Oftentimes their own credentials are hyped or outright fake. Conflicts of interest are not revealed.

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Take Dr. Stephen Barrett for instance, who started Quackwatch, a site dedicated to attacking natural health therapies, treatments, and doctors while promoting all things allopathy, every article being a “strenuous exercise in confirmation bias,” as it’s been aptly put.

But “Doctor” Barrett turns out to be a “quack” himself. He lied in court about his credentials, as he never actually passed examinations to become Board Certified—he failed the medical board exam to become a psychiatrist, and while he claimed to be a “legal expert,” he had no formal training.

Nevertheless, he’s made a pretty penny by “quack-busting” rather than practicing medicine (he let his M.D. license lapse years ago). This, despite the fact that out of over 40 lawsuits he filed against those involved with non-allopathic treatments and products, he never won a single one.

It was reported that,

In a Canadian lawsuit…Barrett admitted to the following:

“The sole purpose of the activities of Barrett & Baratz are to discredit and cause damage and harm to health care practitioners, businesses that make alternative health therapies or products available, and advocates of non-allopathic therapies and health freedom.”

The U.S. Court system ruled that Barrett and Wallace Sampson, M.D. (another “quackwatcher”) were heavily “biased,” and that based on their conflicts of interest, the money they stood to gain if they won the case, and their lack of actual knowledge of the homeopathic products they were attacking, their testimony “should be accorded little, if any, credibility,” after a California court ruled in favor of a homeopathic company they were trying to sue.

So there’s our Dr. Barrett.

You’ll find a whole slew of “professionals” with similar careers, making their money by trying to tear down and discredit special interests’ competition.

And how about Snopes?

While trying to pawn themselves off as unbiased investigators of facts, the husband and wife team who run this website have no journalistic credentials to their credit, and it’s obvious by reading through their articles that they are anything but unbiased. Their work is often very “colored” towards certain unspoken agendas.

While doing some research into a certain political subject one day, I came across one of their articles “debunking” a certain “myth.” (Despite my skepticism of this site and others, I often read from sites and people I disagree with, simply because I truly want to hear all sides of the story before I make up my own mind about things; I don’t confine myself to an echo-chamber of confirmation bias by exclusively reading sites I like/agree with.)

But looking further into the subject, I soon realized that their whole article was a poorly-conceived line to protect certain interests. I later discovered plenty of evidence to “debunk” their “debunking.” In fact, if their conclusion was simply an honest error, they certainly can’t be trusted to tell us what the facts are—they didn’t look far for them. Because it wasn’t hard to find the truth. But they failed to report the facts surrounding the case; it wasn’t so much what they said as what they didn’t say. Had they actually reported the case facts—available by doing a little more thorough research—it would have turned their conclusion on its head.

Beware the mythbusters and quackwatchers—professional propagandists. Just dig around a little to see who’s buttering their bread…

Adding to the confusion is the fact that there certainly are myths and quacks running around out there—and sometimes the “mythbusters” and “quackwatchers” do nail them (even a broken clock is right twice a day).

Finding the truth in this matrix of alternate reality created by the media is no easy task!

* * * * *

Why is any of this relevant or of interest to me as a simple wife and mom?

Because I have to make a variety of decisions for my family on a regular basis, and as a consumer I rely on research to help me make those choices. The problem is trying to differentiate between fact and fiction: information and disinformation is readily available everywhere we turn. This affects all of us.

The term “fake news” was nauseatingly misused, abused, and overused in 2017…but that doesn’t mean it has ceased to exist. In fact it can still be found in the unlikeliest of places.

I think Attkisson is encouraging us to be open-minded skeptics–of both mainstream and alternative news and views, to never feel ashamed for questioning “authority,” and to be aware of our times and of the manipulative tactics of those who pull the strings behind the media curtains, but not paranoid or paralyzed so that we’re unable to make sound decisions.

And yeah, it’s probably okay to check Wikipedia for a definition of “skeptic.” 😉