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The Experts Speak : The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation Paperback – August 4, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Did you know that the stock market had reached a "permanently high plateau" in October 1929? You would have thought so, had you listened to the experts back then. Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky of the "Institute of Expertology" have made it their mission to compare the actual statements of professional prognosticators with the events following their predictions. Knowing better than to comment directly, they let the reader decide about the (ahem) reliability of the experts.

Brilliantly organized, using the categories of Adler's "Outline of Knowledge," The Experts Speak will educate the naive and entertain the cynical with its thousands of well-documented quotes by wise men and women, from Aristotle ("The brain is an organ of minor importance") to Albert Einstein ("There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear]energy will ever be obtainable"). Concise, well-written descriptions of the events that actually happened--usually at variance with informed opinion--add to the dry humor. If you've always wanted to be a self-assured talking head, The Experts Speak will make you an authority on definitive misinformation. --Rob Lightner

From Library Journal

A revised and expanded version of the 1984 original, The Experts Speak collects hundreds of the dumbest predictions ever made by newspapers, critics, and business executives such as an L.A. surgeon's assessment that "smoking has a beneficial effect," a Decca Records exec's brainstorm that "groups of guitars are on their way out" after auditioning the Beatles, and BusinessWeek's insistence that the "Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself." Silly, but lots of fun.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 445 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; Expanded and Updated edition (July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679778063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679778066
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Cerf is an author, record and TV producer, composer-lyricist, semi-bestselling humorist, and co-founder and president of the educational media production company, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., where he co-created and served as Co-Executive Producer of the multiple award-winning children's literacy show, "Between the Lions," which recently completed its 10th season on PBS.

Cerf has won three Emmys and two Grammys for his musical contributions to "Sesame Street" (for which he has written over 300 songs since the show's debut in 1970); was a senior editor at Random House, where he worked with such diverse authors as George Plimpton, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, and Dr. Seuss; and was a charter contributing editor of National Lampoon. He has also won two Emmys for outstanding writing in children's television. In 2010, Cerf was awarded the Harold W. McGraw Prize for his contributions to American education.

For all his success in TV, music, and publishing, Christopher Cerf is perhaps best known for his work as an author and satirist. He co-edited "The Politically Correct Dictionary" (with Henry Beard) and "The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation" (with Victor Navasky), and in 2008, he and Navasky collaborated again to produce "Mission Accomplished!," a bestselling compendium of misstatements, failed predictions, and outright lies uttered in connection with America's military adventure in Iraq.

In November 2012, Simon & Schuster published Christopher Cerf and Henry Beard's "Encyclopedia Paranoiaca" -- a comprehensive field guide to things you absolutely, positively must not eat, drink, wear, take, grow, make, buy, use, or do. including an awful lot of toxic, lethal, horrible stuff that you thought was safe, good, or healthy. Painstakingly researched, and alphabetized for easy reference, this book just might save your life. (Cerf and Beard apologize in advance if it doesn't.)

In June 2015, a new Cerf-Beard collaboration, "Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deceptive Language," will be published by Blue Rider Press. The authors promise it will teach readers how to succeed in business (and politics and everything else) without really lying.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Neal J. Pollock VINE VOICE on November 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a fun book of humorous quotations many about scientific predictions that were WAY off the mark. My favorites concern computers, and I've received some of them over the internet. Since I'm concerned about Urban Legends, this book was very helpful in discerning the veracity of these statements-though the authors are careful to point out quotes that could be Urban Legends or ones that have become part of the culture, whether historically accurate or not. Some good examples are:

Regarding Radio (and, perhaps now, cordless phones, cell phones, and Voice Over IP):

Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value. (Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865

The radio craze ... will die out in time. Thomas Alva Edison

I do not look upon any system of wireless telegraphy as a serious competition with our cables. Some years ago I said the same think and nothing has since occurred to alter my views. (Sir John Wolfe-Barry, Chief Executive of Western Telegraph Company at their annual stockholder's meeting in 1907

Regarding the development of computers:

Worthless. (Sir George Bidell Airy, K.C.B., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., F.R.A.S., Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, estimating for the Chancellor of the Exchequer the potential value of the "analytical engine" invented by Charles Babbage, September 15, 1842. This resulted in the British government discontinuing its funding for Babbage. Today, however, Babbage is hailed as the inventor of the computer.)

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Kochel on January 6, 2006
Format: Paperback

This book is a great book. I have two copies of ¡§The Experts Speak.¡¨ I have one at my house for reference and then another in my classroom (I teach economics, sociology, and psychology) and that¡¦s for reference too. The book is full of quotes both famous and not from ¡§experts¡¨ both famous and not, who have made predictions, and relayed facts and/or opinions that we later see to be simply wrong. The book itself is funny and interesting. Funny, to see how wrong man-kind has been in the past, and interesting to see how we¡¦ve been wrong, but also on speculating how much we are wrong about now and what the future generations will look back and laugh at our current ¡§experts¡¨ for. The book is broad and this should be mentioned at there are sections on religion, science, inventions, music, war, gender, medicine, and so on¡K so there really is something for everyone!

Lastly, I am not making fun of official experts here, I think they are doing the best they can and I would trust an expert who spends all their time studying a field and is subject to peer review by the other brightest minds of their generation before I trusted myself or someone else. What I am finding amusing is the pride we sometimes have at thinking we really have THE answers now, and in the past ¡§they¡¨ were so dumb, and we are so enlightened ƒº

Finally, I hope you like my review and vote nicely for it! Thanks and have a good time shopping.

Sam Kochel
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
This highly quotable and humorous--but accurately researched--book fills an important gap. It provides a unique window on history by demonstrating the uncertainty principle of so-called factualness. Using laughably fatheaded predictions from the ages as well as from just a few weeks ago, the authors show how profoundly wrong the "experts" are during any given moment. During the present bombardment of expert opinion from every direction, this book is especially valuable. You will never again be able to listen to the talking heads or read the newspaper in quite the same way after consulting even a single page of Cerf and Navasky! An excellent reference book, cautionary guide for any authority in any field, and a fine teaching text as well.
I predict this book will be the biggest seller in the universe from now until the end of time. Buy it for your great-great-great grandchildren at the present low price.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
Awesome list of some of the most ignorant statements made by some of the most "important" people in recent history.I found it rather satisfying to know that even the "SMART" people in this world are just as "DUMB" as the rest of us from time to time.Read this book and you will probably think a little harder before you make any quick comments about things you aren't educated about.You will find some of the most outrageous comments ever made by people who are supposed to "know what they are talking about"Not only is it good to know everyone speaks too soon once in awhile, this book is so good it will also have you laughing and perhaps wondering how these "people" got into the high social position they did.Who knows perhaps anyone can be a big wheel if we're in the right place at the right time!!
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