Monday, April 23, 2012

The Influencing Machine: Brook Gladstone On Media

“Since the industrial age began, there has been a recurring delusion that an evil machine is controlling our minds.”          
Starting in Rome, Gladstone guides the reader through the history of journalism and the influence it has on us. Throughout the Influencing Machine she quotes experts and historical figures. As her sassy cartoon avatar (sporting boots, a black dress, and a cloud of bushy black hair) interviews tyrants and heads of state, it is much more engaging to the reader, rather than her simply quoting them (clever).  It removes the distance between historical figures and the reader. I’m still horrified about the story about a censored interview that might have stopped Hitler’s rise to power. Graphic nonfiction might appear to be a novelty, but it is powerful way to communicate.
The narrative touches on several subjects related to the influence that he media can have on you and the influence your “lizard brain” has on you. She explores subconscious biases, or desire for the status quo, censorship, the influence of the Internet, and the history of journalism (which she confirms that it’s pretty much been the same since its conception).

Staying true to the genre, graphic novel, Gladstone does not linger too long on any of the before-mentioned topics. With the help of illustrator, Josh Neufeld, she covers a lot of material with impressive efficiency.  For, there is one chapter about war journalism in which Gladstone tells the story of journalist Ernie Pyle in World War II. Neufeld’s graphics are just as powerful as the script, if not more, as he lay with his last column in his pocket.

Throughout the book Gladstone denotes that there is no hidden agenda of the media. She goes on to press that the public is responsible for the media’s irresponsibility. We helped to create this thing that no one appreciates and the Internet is steadily making obsolete. Hmm…Although, I appreciate Ms. Gladstone efforts, I would ask her how is she able to objectively write about the media and its influences and non-influences when she is a part of it?

The Influencing Machine: BrookGladstone on the Media is informative, easy to follow, and visually enjoyable. These are all of the elements that a graphic novel needs in order to engage a young audience. I would recommend this book, yet I would caution young readers, not to believe everything they read. Although Gladstone professes objectivity, it is clear that she has written this fantastic book with journalistic eyes.

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