cover image It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News

It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News

Drew Curtis, . . Gotham, $20 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-59240-291-5

The editorial principle behind Curtis's Web Site is remarkably simple: readers submit news stories with their own wacky headlines, inviting snarky commentary from other readers. Here, he steps back to examine why "Mass Media" keeps churning out the sort of inane stories that are "supposed to look like news" that make the site so wildly popular. The critique is familiar—see Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear , among others—but Curtis delivers it with richly sarcastic humor. A section on hysteria over unlikely disasters, for example, punctures alarmist stories with one-line synopses like "Oh my God, there's bacteria on everything." Other chapters explore fake news trends, such as "Equal Time for Nutjobs," which explains how 9/11 conspiracy theories manage to get public airing, or the proliferation of nonevents that are little more than publicity stunts. But the anger behind his criticisms of media companies for producing such nonsense is defused by the acknowledgment that readers actually want to be titillated. Unfortunately, the pleasure of reading online, where you can always add your own two cents to the conversation, doesn't always translate to the printed page; old user comments aren't so much comic relief as tacked-on disruption. (June)