The Influencing Machine
by Brooke Gladstone & Josh Neufeld
W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
An engrossing study of the American media, its history and current troubles, presented in a graphic format familiar to any Understanding Comics fan. Broadcaster Gladstone puts herself into the story with a Scott McCloud-like avatar, and Neufeld’s clear, diagrammatic drawings convey information clearly and efficiently, covering the history of war reportage, censorship, bias and the variable fashions for objectivity and disclosure.
The most interesting sections cover the failure of US media to challenge the relentless lies and warmongering of the Bush II administration, and how modern American journalism has evolved from a government watchdog to propaganda tool and back again, several times, depending on the political climate and the ambivalence of the ruling administration towards journos.
The content is ultimately a bit thin, with many fascinating concepts covered only briefly (both Marshall McLuhan and Douglas Adams make an appearance), but you can only fit so much into 170 pages of images and text, and there’s detailed footnotes for further reading.