The Millions

Disinformation Nation: On Francine Prose

In June 2017, while Americans were furiously debating former FBI director James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill, the writer and critic Francine Prose offered a staid, almost schoolteacherly response to the hearing. In the New York Review of Books, she presented a close textual analysis of Comey’s testimony and his exchanges with the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dissecting word choices and rhetorical tics. What did he mean by the word honest, what did former president Donald Trump mean by the word loyalty, and why exactly did Republican senators repeatedly assert that Trump was “not under investigation”?

At times, Prose wrote, the hearing served as a reminder that politicians could still “speak in complete sentences” and “strive for linguistic and moral clarity.” At other times, it reflected what she described as an “impoverished and debased public

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