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The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture
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The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,022 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
David Mamet has been a controversial, defining force in nearly every creative endeavor-now he turns his attention to politics.

In recent years, David Mamet realized that the so-called mainstream media outlets he relied on were irredeemably biased, peddling a hypocritical and deeply flawed worldview.

In 2008 Mamet wrote a hugely controversial op-ed for the Village Voice,
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Sentinel (first published June 1st 2011)
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Oct 21, 2014 Kenny rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
I had my "Come to Jesus" conservative epiphany thirty five years ago after returning home from living for two years in the Third World, where I saw up close and personal the true face of totalitarianism, barbarism, and statism. When I returned to my hometown, I wanted to kiss the tarmac, I was so grateful to be back in the land of freedom where the only limitation was my imagination.

So I recognize a real conversion story when I see it.

David Mamet, until recently the smartest, most talented, and
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 22, 2011 Mike (the Paladin) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
I have read a few of the other reviews of this book and in some cases I've got to ask, did you read the same book I did?

David Mamet was a card carrying member of the political left. His works, plays, movies, (including but not limited to, Wag the Dog, Glengarry Glen Ross, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, The Duck Variations, House of Games) and books were discussed and lauded by everyone "who counts". He was respected and welcomed among the elite of the political left and the media. He has recently
Bill Krieger
Jun 29, 2011 Bill Krieger rated it really liked it
"And we have become a nation of noodges."
- David Mamet, "The Secret Knowledge"

Lordy, my vocabulary sucks:
+ casuistry: The use of clever but unsound reasoning, esp. in relation to moral questions; sophistry
+ noodge: A pest of whiner
+ risible: Such as to provoke laughter
+ depredation: An act of attacking or plundering
+ effluvia: An unpleasant or harmful odor, secretion, or discharge
+ agitprop: Political (originally communist) propaganda, esp. in art or literature
+ inchoate: Just begun and s
Jul 02, 2012 Jon rated it did not like it
Its all straw men and morons and solipsism and imprecision and vast generalities and pieties just as odious as the ones he sites. He awakened from a long feverish heat dream filled slumber of a life, he claims, and now sees the light of the right. The right light. But Mamet has actually betrayed his only obligation as an artist; to be above politics, and not filter one's view through an ideological lens. Anyway, he's a great playwright, and I say life is hard and give him a pass. Nobody knows ...more
David Wagstaff
Jan 29, 2013 David Wagstaff rated it really liked it
David Mamet, a seminal force in contemporary theater and film, has broken step with the liberal lock stepping entertainment world and proclaimed himself a conservative in a polemic as intricate and brutal as anything he's ever written and yet, you get the feeling, as the book unfolds, that you are talking to a most intelligent whiskey warrior in a bar full of pipe smoke overlooking a bay where sailing ships from another century sail to lands far away loaded with pork bellies and axes.

No matter
Sep 29, 2011 Kathleen rated it did not like it
Not really worth reading, but I did read it for a book group. The secret knowledge he wants to impart is that there is no secret knowledge (so why write the book?) David Mamet wants to tell us why he has become a conservative, and in so doing he distances himself from his earlier plays--very strange since they were successful. He is extremely pro-Israel and anti-Obama. He can't seem to understand after two unfunded wars, a war in Iraq precipitated by a yellow-cake/weapons-of-mass-destruction ...more
John Harder
Jun 20, 2012 John Harder rated it really liked it
David Mamet, child of the ‘60’s and playwright (American Buffalo, About Last Night) came to a realization late in his life; he lived like a right winger, while asserting that he was a liberal. This is typical. One must live like a conservative to survive; practical realties, trade and common values are the lifeblood of a prosperous and free society. If one does not accept reality -- everything is subjective, there is no right or wrong and living in a meritocracy is oppressive -- you are bound ...more
Aug 23, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Mamet, David. THE SECRET KNOWLEDGE: On The Dismantling of American Culture. (2011). ****.
Eveyone has a right to an opinion. I tend to respect those opinions that are based on research and analysis rather than those that are faith-based. Mamet was apparently a faith-based Liberal who began to look closely more closely at his beliefs and the events that are going on around us and wrote these series of essays to share his findings. His topics range from global warming to school shootings. This is
Daniel Cunningham
First off, reading this book is like reading someone's private journal; the thoughts are broken up, there are incongruous jumps between what are laid out as sections of the same chapter; ideas are just thrown out with minimal or no argument or development. Not what one is looking for in an argumentative or persuasive book. On the other hand, if you want to get a peek inside Mamet's head, this is for you.

Okay, now on to the review of the content.

He comes right out and identifies himself in the fi
Jul 04, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Liberals (brain-dead or not), government workers, Hollywood types, Ann Coulter
I listened to David Mamet's screed (and that's mostly what this book is, a screed) with interest. While I have not gone fully over to the conservative side, like Mamet, I too am a former liberal who has left the leftist camp. So I was hoping to get some insight as to what caused Mamet, a big-name Hollywood director and playwright who used to be very much a fellow traveler in Hollywod, to abandon his leftism and join the Dark Side.

But he apparently doesn't have much insight to offer - he goes int
John Parker
Aug 16, 2011 John Parker rated it did not like it
I was so disappointed with this book. Not sure where to start, except that it was annoying book and said nothing. Secret Knowledge (and I mean this, I'm not kidding, I promise), had more parenthetical phrases (and I mean literally parenthetical, not figurative, being that the phrases represented rabbit chasing trains of thought and were offset by parenthesis) than any other book (and I'm not exaggerating here) I've ever (as it were) read. And that wasn't annoying enough--it also made frequent ...more
Douglas Wilson
Aug 15, 2011 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
What a glorious book. This was a wonderful book. Yay. What a book.
Mar 09, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
A bit wordy at times, but overall quite good. Here is one particularly insightful part:

(p117) “To wish to abrogate a legal contract between employer and employee because a nonparticipant feels someone got too much money is greed. It is not greed for money, but covetousness born of envy - the desire for that which legally belongs to another. That those in favor of this may not want the actual money for their own use is beside the point - they want the enjoyment of the power to strip the money fro
Jul 06, 2011 Carmen rated it really liked it
A good conversion story always holds a strong appeal, from the transformation of Saul to St. Paul, to the lines of humility and beauty in a song like Amazing Grace. David Mamet, the famed Hollywood screenwriter and power player, here outlines how his political philosophy slowly morphed from a died in the wool "brain-dead liberal," as he termed it in The Village Voice(!), to a modern day, big government-hating conservative. Even if some West coast types undergo this sort of sea change from left t ...more
Jul 13, 2011 Libyrinths rated it liked it
Mamet has done what many of us have gradually done of late: awakened to the delusional and destructive nature of leftist constructs. Perhaps this is happening more lately because today there aren't just nice liberals anymore, but full-fledged leftists in the forefront.

Mamet uses a great deal of personal reflection to make his arguments, making his book not just some political formulation, but one of personal insights and reflections. He recognizes how easy it had been not to think, but to just
Oct 12, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it
Had been anxiously awaiting this one. I've loved David Mamet's work for many years. Movies like Glen Garry Glen Ross, The Spanish Prisoner, The Verdict, The many more. The guy is one of the most gifted and successful writer-directors in the business. Over the past few years he has also undergone a very radical change in his politics---from Liberal to Very Conservative. I mean REALLY, REALLY Conservative. I'm a pretty staunch conservative my self and he seems to be to the ...more
Marina Fontaine
I was reluctant with this one because I thought from the title that it would be really depressing. It is, in a way, but Mamet's dry humor and insight into human nature make it very enjoyable. It is a true Intellectual work, in the best sense of the world, weaving history, the Bible, literature and psychology together to show what makes people believe certain things and how that translates into political reality. I have truly learned a lot and I highly recommend it. The audiobook is very well ...more
Bob Zeidman
Oct 27, 2012 Bob Zeidman rated it it was amazing
Really great. An eloquent series of rambling essays on the foolishness of liberal philosophy by a "reformed liberal." David Mamet has found a way to be articulate, profound, and funny while espousing deep concerns about our country and Western Civilization. The book is very well researched and very well annotated. I had the privilege of having dinner with David a few weeks ago and the pleasure of discussing these concepts with someone I admired long before I knew he was a conservative thinker ...more
May 30, 2016 Brian rated it it was ok
I expected this one to be excellent and while it's message is one that have conservatives like me vigorously nodding their heads in agreement there is a lumpy thickness to Mamet's writing that I find irritating. I feel the same about the dialog of his movies but I suppose I was expecting it to be absent in a political tract. My other main complaint is how stream-of-consciousness the chapters are, where they are split off into 3 and 4 sections in just 5 pages, leaving the reader to do the heavy ...more
A damned frustrating book. I had hoped that Mamet, with his almost legendary insight into the nature of modern society, would be able to offer some worthy critiques. But instead, I find a ragged cynical Tea Party convert, able to offer none but the most useless and infuriating of cliches, defending Sarah Palin and Deepak Chopra, dismissing science as a hoax, and claiming that there is a conspiracy conducted by the entire spectrum of leftists. It's a damn shame that Mamet has fallen so far, and a ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
(En español más abajo)

I was expectant of this book by the great script writer David Mamet. I loved his work, even when I knew him to be just another voice from the self-righteous left, the elitist and intellectual left. And I could only forgive myself for liking his work because the man has talent, no question about it. Mamet explains what happened in his live, what he saw around him, that influenced him into leaving the Socialist-Liberal cocoon and becoming a Conservative, and what's harder to
May 02, 2014 Bob rated it it was ok
I read this because a friend of mine recommended it. I borrowed it from the library. He is an interesting read. His plays are probably better.

I am trying to understand the other side or other people's "conservative" opinions, especially my friend's. There is a wide range of opinions on many issues but the liberal vs conservative distinction Mamet seems comfortable promoting. This book about the fact there is no "secret knowledge" is perhaps better titled something else like "What is wrong with t
John Gustafson
Apr 09, 2012 John Gustafson rated it liked it
I consistently love David Mamet as a playwright, but I think that some of the qualities that make him such a brilliant playwright--clarity of purpose chief among them--are the same qualities that make him infuriating to read as a critic. His writings about acting and directing are HIGHLY prescriptive, and what where Three Uses of the Knife, for example, could have been a fascinating look into one gifted director's mind becomes instead a series of dogmatic pronouncements on ALL directing. As an ...more
Jun 16, 2011 Frederic rated it liked it
An infuriating book...not because I disagree with Mamet's analysis of American Culture(I agree with much of it)but because I think his basic premise(a Manichean duality of an all-powerful,all-pervasive,atheistic Leftist ideology opposed only by a tiny band of Right-minded patriots seeking to reclaim the America of 1776,or,at least 1956) is not only flawed but badly argued...Deepak Chopra,Jane Fonda,New Age Crystals,Leftist Teachers(from Kindergarten to Graduate School)and Democratic politicians ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Ted rated it liked it
My first conservative book I've read since high school.

Mamet is a gifted writer. But he writes for himself. What I mean is that his grammar, sentence construction and odd phrasing lends itself nobly to a screenplay- but reading an entire non-fiction nook was tedious at times.

He has some salient and worthy points. Then the next minute he sounds like a man who watches Fox screaming at people to get off his lawn. In many ways he has become the mirror image of what he finally had determined was an
Oct 16, 2011 Rodney rated it it was ok
Any review of this book will be based upon the political viewpoint of the reviewer. It is simply impossible to be unbiased on a book like this. Since my political beliefs are similar to Mamet’s it was easy to agree with this book. That is not to say however that the book does not have some issues. I will have to admit, the issues that I did have with the book are possibly because of me rather than the author. Overall, I did not experience the book as a whole; it seems much closer to a collection ...more
David Buse
Jul 29, 2012 David Buse rated it liked it
David Mamet makes some compelling arguments about the realities of modern politics and the negative impacts that political discourse have on the fabric of our culture. Unfortunately, Mamet uses primarily anthropocentric viewpoints to make his arguments. There is no doubt that American productivity and prosperity over the past century have been based on the exploitation of vast natural resources and improvements in technology. In addition, the role of women in the nuclear family has transitioned ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Leonard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few chapters of this book and would like to read more. Mamet calls himself a "reformed liberal" and I'm not sure if that means "no longer a liberal," " a conservative who thinks he's a liberal, " "apologizing for not being a liberal any more," or " just not as liberal as he used to be". His writing is scattered and more unfocused than what I would expect from someone with so much writing experience. He makes some unjustified assumptions about liberals, the same predictable ...more
Ben Batchelder
Oct 23, 2012 Ben Batchelder rated it really liked it
Among the bravest Americans are liberals who come out of the closet and celebrate their conservatism. Even more so when you work in the arts. Mamet dramatizes superby the quandries of our era: “The struggle of the Left to rationalize its positions is an intolerable, Sisyphean burden. I speak as a reformed Liberal.” If you have any doubt about the corruption of today’s higher education, and the disservice done to generations of youth, read his Arrested Development chapter.
Rick Larsen
Mar 05, 2013 Rick Larsen rated it it was amazing
Perhaps one of the most expansive insights into the contemporary liberal ideology, by one who has seen the light, and escaped it's illogical and specious grasp.
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David Alan Mamet is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. His works are known for their clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and arcane stylized phrasing, as well as for his exploration of masculinity.

As a playwright, he received Tony nominations for Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for Th
More about David Mamet...

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“Society functions in a way much more interesting than the multiple-choice pattern we have been rewarded for succeeding at in school. Success in life comes not from the ability to choose between the four presented answers, but from the rather more difficult and painfully acquired ability to formulate the questions.” 10 likes
“The first rule of tinkering is, of course, ‘save all the parts.’ But in dismantling the social fabric, the parts cannot all be saved, for one of them is time. Time, we were told, is a river flowing endlessly through the universe and one cannot step into the same river twice. Not only can we not undo actions taken in haste and in fear (the Japanese Internment), but those taken from the best reasons, but that have proved destructive (affirmative action); the essential mechanism of societal preservation is not inspiration, but restraint.” 7 likes
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