Get Real

My previous book is Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life. It was published by Fourth Estate in 2012.

It’s about how political and financial elites legitimise themselves by co-opting authenticity, people-power, localism, and progressive ideals. It’s about how we are still influenced and conned, even at a time when we’re all supposed to be savvy citizen-consumers, and when false consciousness has become a taboo. And it’s about the power dynamics that persist behind modern smokescreens of ‘participation, ‘interactivity’, ‘engagement’ and ‘democratisation’.

I’ve made a short film about the book that you can watch here.

‘We have sleepwalked into a world where nothing is as it seems; where reality, in fact, is the very opposite of appearance’.

Multinational oil corporations trumpet their green credentials. Shadowy billionaires orchestrate ‘grassroots’ political movements. Public-spending cuts that target the poor are billed as ‘giving power to the people’. Casually dressed employees play table football in airy open-plan offices, but work longer hours than ever before.

These are just a few examples of the growing gap between appearance and reality in modern life. With the melting away of the conflicts between East and West and Right and Left, the old ideologies were supposedly consigned to history. But this book argues that they never really went away – they just went undercover, creating a looking-glass world in which reality is spun and crude vested interests appear in seductive new disguises. A world of illusion, persuasion and coercion which aims to conceal the truth and beguile us all. It’s time to radically alter the way we perceive the world, to raise a sceptical yet optimistic eyebrow.

Get Real is a passionate and entertaining guide to spotting and decoding the delusions we live under – from ‘revolutionary’ plus-size models to ‘world-saving’ organic vegetables; from heavily scripted and edited ‘reality’ TV to ‘life-changing’ iPhone apps. Busting the jargon and unravelling the spin, Get Real reveals the secrets about modern life that we were never supposed to know. It’s an insider’s guide to understanding the present which puts the truth and the power to choose firmly in our hands. Only by telling it like it is can we improve – and maybe even save – our world for real.

‘In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary’
Karl Marx

‘All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie’
WH Auden

Press coverage:

An extract from Get Real – about contemporary food culture – appeared in the Guardian Weekend Magazine on 3 March. You can read it here.

Another extract – about role models and equality – appeared in theSunday Herald on 4 March. You can read it here.

I wrote a piece in the New Humanist in May on belief and credulousness: that’s here.

I wrote a Guardian comment piece on 1 August about how social media wants to seem cuddly and radical, but is actually corporate and powerful.

I wrote a Guardian comment piece on 20 June about free school milk and the shift from overt to covert ideology in our political culture.

I wrote the Author, Author column in the Guardian on 29 March on why people act against their best interests.

And I wrote a Guardian comment piece on ‘pastygate’ and fake authenticity also on 29 March.

I wrote the Independent‘s Book of a Lifetime column on 23 March.

A preview of Jewish Book Week, featuring Get Real, appeared in the Independent on 17 February: you can read that here.

A feature on me and Get Real appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 15 March. That’s here.

Another feature appeared in the Camden New Journal on 6 June. You can read it here.

I wrote an article in the Ham&High on 3 May about fake people power:here.

I reviewed Tim Burt’s Dark Art – about the PR industry – for the New Statesman on 23 August.

Get Real has been reviewed in The Evening StandardTime Out, theGuardian, SpikedThe Times Literary SupplementThe Jewish Chronicle and The Socialist Review. The TLS and Time Out reviews are not free/online.


I appeared at Jewish Book Week on 26 February with Julia Hobsbawm. You can hear the session here.

I spoke at the Bristol Festival of Ideas on 19 May: more details here.

I spoke at the Hay Festival on 3 June: more details here.

I spoke at the Whitstable Oyster Festival on 22 July.

And at Camp Bestival the weekend after that.

I spoke at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town on 21 – 24 September.

I gave a lunchtime lecture at the RSA on what spin looks like in an age of transparency on 11 October. You can hear that here.

I debated the influence of the lobbying industry at the Battle of Ideas on 20 October.

I gave a keynote lecture for the ‘Bigger Picture‘ series at Central St Martins on the 13 November.

I spoke on a panel on arts funding and elitism at a NYU in London event on 19 November.

I gave a keynote lecture at a conference on ‘Discourses that Matter’ at the University of Coimbra, Portugal on 23 November.