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Customer Review

120 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!, March 23, 2008
This review is from: True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society (Hardcover)
Farhad Manjoo, a writer for Salon.com, has written an innovative book about the intersection of today's media and the truth. Manjoo chooses particular popular ideas, such as 9/11 conspiracy theories, that run contrary to the generally-accepted truth, and explores how these ideas have gained momentum through the rise of what he calls "splintering" media. He posits that with the increased number and variety of news sources, we are able to pick and choose the news and truths that most agree with our already held beliefs, thus blurring the idea of what is considered "true".

For example, he talks about how the rise of conservative radio and the Internet supported the growth of the Swift Boat campaign, an anti-Kerry campaign based largely on conjecture without proof. Before the Internet and niche media such as conservative radio existed, extremist right-wing ideas would likely have been limited to just a few believers. But with today's media options and the plethora of right-wing radio and Web sites, the Swift Boat campaign was able to gain plenty of supporters nationwide and lots of donations, until the campaign was able to run anti-John Kerry ads during the 2004 election, which many think significantly damaged Kerry's campaign.

Some of the other, quite diverse, topics covered in the book include news stories that are actually paid ads (which I found fascinating), the rise of 9/11 conspiracy theories, and why Apple enthusiasts aren't able to stomach criticism about their beloved products. But what I really liked about this book was how he discusses the psychological and sociological underpinnings about why we believe what we believe, and how we unwittingly pick and choose our own media sources often to confirm our pre-held beliefs. He unearths study after study that explains how our biases unconsciously play into how we interpret the truth in politics, news, and even football games.

Manjoo has a straightforward and clear writing style, making political details, as well as the complexities of social science research, easy to understand. I came away from this book realizing that in a world where news is often designed for the viewer, and where we are often unaware of how or why we choose to believe what we believe, the truth can indeed be a slippery thing.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2009 12:58:23 PM PDT
Enigma says:
There is only one problem with the swift-boat campaign and the authors claim.

According to pollsters and sociologist, the undecided voters said they swift-boat campaign had very little or no influence over their vote and as many as 21% of them thought the campaign was sleazy and dirty and it caused them to caste their vote FOR Kerry.

According to the pollsters and sociologists Kerry lost because he never presented a viable campaign platform. Nobody really knew what he stood for. He was an ineffective speaker and did not have a message that resonated with the undecided voters. Bush on the other hand was viewed as decisive, strong, and willing to protect America, all key things that resonated with the voters.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2009 5:38:25 AM PDT
Enigma - do you have a citation for your claim that the Swift Boat campaign had little or no influence on the results of the 2004 election? I.e., not what people merely told a pollster, but instead the actual quantitative results of the campaign.

Posted on Jan 3, 2012 5:33:16 PM PST
PJ says:
Canadageese is simply identifying the reality of confirmation bias. We start with a basic belief system and filter out everything that diverges from it.

People who deny this basic reality are simply guilty of self deception. Simone De Bouvoir called it mauvais fois; it's as old as early man.

So I don't know that this book would be a game changer that everyone ought to read.

Reiska

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2012 5:05:14 AM PST
PJ writes, "Canadageese is simply identifying the reality of confirmation bias. We start with a basic belief system and filter out everything that diverges from it. [...] So I don't know that this book would be a game changer that everyone ought to read."

Well we want to avoid the consideration of some facts in our response to some observations, but that occurs in varying degrees along a continuum of complete denial to almost no denial at all. Even those with moderate confirmation bias don't immediately filter out that which they don't wish to consider as you assert. In fact developing one's ability to recognize and overcome our own bias to consider inconvenient facts is a very good reason to purchase books like this.
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