120 of 130 people found the following review helpful
, 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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