Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bunk (Kevin Young)

In Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Phonies, Plagiarists, Post-Facts, and Fake News, author Kevin Young dives headfirst into the rich tradition of American fascination with everything fake. Covering 200 years of history, from Barnum to Trump, Dolezal to The Bearded Lady, forged works to forged “reality”,  Young’s thoughtful, candid research into the history of carnival-barking phonies and fraudsters is a fascinating read.

Not getting into too much detail, Bunk provides a candid timeline of the weaving of race, class, gender, and occasional criminality of several case examples.  Given our current environment in politics, news, and entertainment, Young delivers a reminder that America’s “been here, done that” many times before when it comes to putting show before substance, hype above honesty, and chicanery in front of correctness.

Young’s perspective and African American roots are woven effectively for context at key moments throughout the book and provide additional sources of perspective for students of history and of current events. I found myself captivated, yet shaking my head at the number of examples throughout history where we the people have truly been duped by sensationalism and outright fraudsters. My only wish is for Young to have crafted some sort of argument for us to get out of our sucker mentality; however, there’s enough history there for us to be able to realize that it may ultimately be on all of us to be more effective filters of “bunk” in the future.