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Hoaxes: an American history?

caption: Barnum & Bailey sideshow advertisement.
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Barnum & Bailey sideshow advertisement.

Bill Radke sits down with Kevin Young, archivist at the New York Public Library and author of the new book "Bunk." The book is a catalog of hoaxes, plagiarism and flimflam of all stripes. Young argues that there’s something uniquely American about hoaxes.

He compares President Donald Trump to P.T. Barnum: both showmen, both hearkening back to a questionable time in American history and drawing disputed conclusions.

“Hoaxes became a way to understand what it meant to be a young nation,” Young said.

But we’re also vulnerable to what he calls “cultural amnesia.” There are things we never learned to talk about, including race. Can we reach for a greater America if we’re still buying half-truths about what we used to be?

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