TRUTHTELLER: An investigative reporter's journey through the world of truth prevention, fake news and conspiracy theories.

AuthorDaubs, Michael S.

TRUTHTELLER: An investigative reporter's journey through the world of truth prevention, fake news and conspiracy theories

Author: Stephen Davis

Published by: Exisle Publishing, Dunedin, 2019, 253pp, US$17.99.

Truthteller is a book from author Stephen Davis, an investigative journalist, editor, documentarian, producer and educator. He has over three decades of experience in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, including stints, with TVNZ, the New Zealand Herald, the Sunday Times, 60 Minutes and 20/20. Davis draws heavily on these experiences in Truthteller, in which he outlines what he calls a 'toolbox for lies and deception' that governments, politicians and others use to suppress the truth. The fact that those operating from a position of power do so is not a unique observation, something Davis himself acknowledges when he refers to these tactics as 'classic tools'; his contribution, however, is a taxonomy of the methods used to do so. He lists eleven different 'tools' in his toolbox, including such varied tactics as 'intimidation', 'character assassination', 'delay, delay, delay' and 'create your own reality', among others.

Each chapter of the book introduces a story Davis investigated in the past to demonstrate how these tools, often in combination, have been used to disguise the truth. These ten stories span from 1989 to 2018 and address topics as diverse as petroleum company BP's role in the destruction of a large swathe of rainforest in Brazil in 1989 to the media spectacle stemming from attempts to rescue three grey whales trapped in the ice 4800 kilometres north of the Arctic circle in 2012. In some cases, such as the discussion of why British Airways flight BA149 was allowed to land in Kuwait even as Iraqi troops invaded the country in 1990, the truth was eventually discovered (though, as Davis also notes, sometimes too late to make a difference). Other chapters feature mysteries that have yet to be solved, such as the death and potential murder of Australian astrophysicist Rodney David Marks at Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole. In most cases, these stories demonstrate the efficacy of the 'tools' Davis discusses.

Davis's decision to use past investigations to frame his examination of truth suppression means the book at times has the feel of a memoir that simultaneously provides a New Zealand perspective and a global experience. At the same time, the timeframe lends his discussion an historical view that...

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