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True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society [Hardcover]

Farhad Manjoo
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 2005, Stephen Colbert catapulted the word truthiness—the quality of an idea feeling true without any backup evidence—into the public consciousness. Salon blogger Manjoo expands upon this concept in his perceptive analysis of the status of truth in the digital age, critiquing a Rashomon-like world in which competing versions of truth vie for our attention. Driven by research and study, the book relies on abstract psychological and sociological concepts, such as selective exposure and peripheral processing, though these are fleshed out with examples from American history, politics and media. For example, Manjoo demonstrates how the Swift Boat Veterans' negative campaign derailed John Kerry's 2004 presidential run. He also points out that the sheer quantity of 9/11 imagery has engendered more conspiracy theories, not fewer—demonstrating, he says, the disjunction between truth and proof. Manjoo rounds out his analysis by examining the workings of partisan news realities, and he points out that the first casualty in these truth wars is a basic human and civic need: trust. Though several of the author's ideas are repetitiously threaded through his narrative, Manjoo has produced an engaging, illustrative look at the dangers of living in an oversaturated media world. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

* In 2005, Stephen Colbert catapulted the word “truthiness”—the quality of an idea “feeling” true without any backup evidence—into the public consciousness. Salon blogger Manjoo expands upon this concept in his perceptive analysis of the status of truth in the digital age, critiquing a Rashomon-like world in which competing versions of truth vie for our attention. Driven by research and study, the book relies on abstract psychological and sociological concepts, such as “selective exposure” and “peripheral processing,” though these are fleshed out with examples from American history, politics and media. For example, Manjoo demonstrates how the Swift Boat Veterans' negative campaign derailed John Kerry's 2004 presidential run. He also points out that the sheer quantity of 9/11 imagery has engendered more conspiracy theories, not fewer—demonstrating, he says, the disjunction between truth and proof. Manjoo rounds out his analysis by examining the workings of “partisan news realities,” and he points out that the first casualty in these truth wars is a basic human and civic need: trust. Though several of the author's ideas are repetitiously threaded through his narrative, Manjoo has produced an engaging, illustrative look at the dangers of living in an oversaturated media world. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, January 28, 2008)

Review

"The best political book so far this year." –Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times

From the Inside Flap

Picture yourself at a college football championship game. Cheering fans of both teams clog the stands. The play is rough, and the crowd is fed up. Supporters of each side insist that their own guys are playing fair but the other team is clearly breaking the rules. How can both sides be right? According to the surprising insights of True Enough, they are: when sports fans claim to see only the opposing team playing dirty, that really is what they "see." It is a classic example of how our deeply held beliefs can supplant our very perceptions of what's "real" and what's not in the world around us. And as Farhad Manjoo explains, the phenomenon holds sway in areas far removed from football.

In True Enough, Manjoo presents findings from psychology, sociology, political science, and economics to show how new technologies are prompting the cultural ascendancy of belief over fact. In an age of talk radio, cable TV, and the Internet—the blog- and YouTube-addled million-channel media universe—it is no longer necessary for any of us to confront notions that contradict what we "know" to be true. Stephen Colbert calls this "truthiness"—when something feels true without any evidence that it is. Here Manjoo probes the cognitive basis of truthiness, exploring how biases push both liberals and conservatives to select and interpret news in a way that accords with their personal versions of "reality."

Why has punditry lately overtaken news, with so many media outlets pushing partisan agendas instead of information? Why do lies seem to linger so long in the cultural subconscious even after they've been thoroughly discredited? And why, when more people than ever before are documenting the truth with laptops and digital cameras, does fact-free spin and propagandaseem to work so well? True Enough explores leading controversies of national politics, foreign affairs, science, and business, explaining how Americans have begun to organize themselves into echo chambers that harbor diametrically different facts—not merely opinions—from those of the larger culture. We meet people who espouse far-out interpretations of reality—about everything from the history of John Kerry's time in Vietnam to the integrity of the 2004 election to the truth about 9/11—and dig into the mechanism by which they came to hold those beliefs.

Controversial, at times disturbing, and always fascinating, True Enough will prompt you to think twice about how you too came to believe all that you do. Are your own truths really true—or merely true enough?

From the Back Cover

Advance praise for True Enough

"The news media are supposed to help us understand the world, and faster, better, more varied commun-ication technologies are supposed to enrich that process of understanding. True Enough explains why things have so often worked in reverse—and why Americans no longer disagree just about opinions and political values, but about basic factual realities. This problem of 'truthiness' is depressingly familiar, but Farhad Manjoo adds useful information and insights about its origins, effects, and possible solutions."
—James Fallows, National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of Breaking the News

"Well worth reading. Make no mistake: this is no run-of-the-mill exposé of media bias, but a sophisticated analysis of the ways and means by which lies and distortions do so well in today's fractured, cynical media world."
—Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University, and author of The Bulldozer and the Big Tent

About the Author

Farhad Manjoo manages Machinist, a daily technology news blog at Salon.com, where he also writes frequently on journalism, politics, and new media.

From AudioFile

Salon blogger Manjoo dissects how stories in the public consciousness spread, often with little regard to the truth. Through "selective perception," consumers can omit facts while forming opinions. Narrator Ray Porter maintains a respectful, even tone in describing the examples that reflect both sides of the political aisle, from the right's faulty Swift Boat campaign to the left's lack of evidence in support of a stolen election in 2004. Perceptions are analyzed in messages that offer "more theater than truth," and examples include 9/11 conspiracy theories and even a 1951 football game. But the most shocking examples come in the form of biased broadcast television "news reports." Again, Porter's narration never takes sides. Listeners will be alarmed by the influence of "experts on the take" doling out what Manjoo calls "amateur research." M.B. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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