Saturday, July 6, 2019

Book Review: '50 Things They Don't Want You To Know' by Jerome Hudson

The conservative outlook is always an education. They look at the world very differently, and given the same data, come up with completely different conclusions than most would. So it was with great interest that I read 50 Things They Don’t Want You To Know, by Jerome Hudson. Hudson is the Entertainment Editor at Breitbart News. While you might think that lessens his credentials, at Breitbart they believe that culture drives politics. The founder said so. That this is disprovable in an instant is of no matter. Entertainment is key to politics when seen from the far right. So Hudson is the man in the to read.

His 50 points are definitely real. There are valid figures that don’t make it much into mainstream media reporting. However, in reading the book it was easy to see the reason: most of them don’t have anything to do with the arguments.

For example, his first two of the 50 things concern abortion, giving it prominence and importance as a hidden issue. Apparently what they’re hiding are the numbers, and Hudson provides them. Blacks have the most abortions, whites and hispanics have fewer. But what this has to do with whether abortion should be permitted at all – no word. The argument the mainstream media treats is whether this medical procedure should be the only one prescribed or proscribed by laws as opposed to doctor-patient consulting. Or they might write about how conservative states do everything in their power to protect the unborn fetus, but completely abandon it once it is born. What difference abortion rates by race make to the argument is not explained.

In the next chapter, Hudson reveals the ethics of employing fetal cells in research, quoting Kristan Hawkins in what Hudson hopes is a dramatic finish to the chapter: “A civil society does not traffic in human remains.” But of course it does, as millions of organ transplants, blood transfusions, skin grafts, and gums recipients will attest. Hudson never shows that the use of fetal cells is some sort of horror in a society that depends on deceased donors. There is nothing here “they don’t want you to know” – just as in most of the chapters.

In the chapter on accepting refugees, the open and generous USA somehow comes first in the world with 27,000 (in 2017). Germany trails pathetically with just 3000. But numerous easily-found sources cite 76,000 for Germany. Germany expects 800,000 in 2019 (1.4 million since the Mediterranean refugee crisis began). It will likely accept ¾ of the 800,000, while the US reduces its acceptance to about 20,000 under Trump. So revealing true figures is not necessarily Hudson’s strong point. He says the US takes in about as many refugees as Canada, but Canada has just 10% of the US population, so 27,000 is a very significant number there, while 27,000 in the US is a rounding error. Plus, it turns out the 27,000 for Canada refers only to Syrian refugees in 2017. Regardless, the USA is NOT leading the world in accepting refugees (Most media describe it as “plummeting”). So you can’t trust Hudson’s claims any more than the media he slams for lies, fake news and hiding data. He is the they in his title.

One last example: the chapter complaining there are more deaths from opioids than from guns is totally pointless. True, conflating gun violence with opioid deaths is a firmly established conservative argument. But one has nothing to do with the other and both need attending to. Hudson compounds this stance in the next chapter, conflating flu deaths and deaths from falls with gun deaths. For whatever reason, he doesn’t go as far as cancer and cardio deaths compared to gun deaths, but he might as well have for all the sense it makes.

This is not journalism. It is clearly propaganda. The chapters are speckled with words like amazingly and incredibly that clearly bias the sentences. Sometimes, he appeals directly to the reader to see what he sees, calling us “folks”. Not to put too fine a point on it, he even stoops to: “Even a Democrat can do the math.”

Hudson seems to have no knowledge of the concept that correlation does not imply causation. In his world, a decline in SNAP (food stamps) participants is because some states began requiring recipients to work, not because unemployment has dropped to 3.4%. The breakdown of the family unit, which actually began after World War II, is the result of Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 War on Poverty in Hudson’s telling. Similarly, he proudly points to record low unemployment rates for minorities under Trump, as if there were some new program Trump implemented to promote them.

Hudson absolutely adores Donald Trump. Thanks to Donald Trump, he says, “The Dow hit five 1000-point milestones in one year. It had never been done in the 120-year history of the exchange.” First of all, the exchange was founded in 1792, making it nearly 230 years old, nearly twice as old as Hudson’s “fact”. Second, for most of that time, until the last 40 years or so, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was below 2000, so of course there were never any 1000-point gains, (an absurd and empty measure of nothing). It is only because of rejiggering the formula’s divisor into a multiplier that the DJIA has become volatile on a daily basis. It has soared as the index drops poorer performers so that it is no longer a proxy for the economy. And none of it was at the behest of Donald Trump and his economic policy that Hudson claims “borders on the miraculous.” This is the kind of wild inaccuracy, exaggeration and bias that makes 50 Things They Don’t Want You To Know suspect.

There are chapters on Amazon paying no federal tax, Netflix employees giving more to Democrats than  to Republicans, and other such shocking events Hudson claims “they don’t want you to know.” There really is nothing being hidden that Hudson reveals.

For all its many faults, 50 Things pretty clearly represents the extreme right’s inaccurate, self-serving and obscurative take on everything. To that extent it is a valuable book, no better and no worse than the propaganda coming from what remains of the left. But also, not helpful to truthseekers.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

Order it on Amazon today.
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