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Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back (California Series in Public Anthropology) First Edition
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"The punditocracy are our modern day mythmakers. The anthropologists assembled in this collection deftly debunk their myths and make a passionate case for the importance of anthropology to public debate. The authors present sustained, intelligent, and often biting and humorous criticisms of some of the most influential recent popular writings on social science and international relations. This is a very important book." - Bill Maurer, author of Recharting the Caribbean; "From an anthropological standpoint, the world increasingly looks as if it is led by glib, but uninformed, insensitive dolts. In this volume, the authors fight back against the pundits whose influential publications presume the same expertise as anthropologists. They underscore the overgeneralizations, prejudices, false reasoning, and inaccuracies of these popular authors and in doing so provide a useful corrective." - William Beeman, author of The Study of Culture at a Distance"
From the Inside Flap
"From an anthropological standpoint, the world increasingly looks as if it is led by glib, but uninformed, insensitive dolts. In this volume, the authors fight back against the pundits whose influential publications presume the same expertise as anthropologists. They underscore the overgeneralizations, prejudices, false reasoning, and inaccuracies of these popular authors and in doing so provide a useful corrective."―William Beeman, author of The Study of Culture at a Distance
"This volume is a bold attempt, in language as accessible as the reigning rhetorics, to remake the terms of public debate, to lessen the fear of the primordial, and to allow Americans to understand better the challenges, the errors, and the possibilities of what is being done elsewhere in their name."―George Marcus, co-author of Anthropology as Cultural Critique
"This 'must read' volume is Public Anthropology at its best. It invokes the anthropological veto, brings in voices from the margins, and talks back to society's new tribe of talking chiefs―the spin doctors, myth-makers, and pundits who reduce the richness and complexity of global and national dilemmas into bite-size and dangerous platitudes."―Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death Without Weeping: the Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil
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Often I feel that most pundits are wrong, simplistic, or polemicists most of the time. Rarely does notoriety of their books seem justified. But they are promoted, publicized, applauded - usually by those who share similar bias, stand to make money on their work or just want an easy read or entertainment - and some sense that they "know" - without having to think critically. .In an age of well funded think tanks and endowed Chairs, of textbooks and case studies designed more for job training than of education and independent thinking about history or the presumptions hard wired into their training --debate is narrow in scope if there is debate at all. Money and publicity replace questioning authority. People are conditioned to parrot, to believe absurdities uncritically - and sometimes manipulated by their fears. Feeling they "know" better, are superior, and deserve to be so replaces competent critical analysis and questioning presumptions. Assertion replaces careful making the case. Quips and metaphors replace evidence. Where there is evidence it is often used in a sloppy manner comparing falsely unlike cases (Murray's black students generally with whites and Asians from educated families expecting and `pushing' education.)
Even if you entirely disagree with this "take" on public "discourse" you are likely to read (or at least be much effected by second hand versions of) Samuel Huntington; Robert Kaplan; Thomas Friedman (and Bernard Lewis's recent polemics parading as history) regarding foreign matters and/or Dinesh D'Souza; Charles Murray, and Sociobiology's commentators on race, poverty, sexism. Most politicians when trying to sound authoritative and much work from think tanks are but "lite" versions of the same travesty. Generally are all so remote and isolated from what the great majority of people experience that they are totally out of touch.
Everyone who reads or listens to anything more serious than "talk radio" needs to read this book. Everyone! It will enlighten most and organize the thinking of others. If you choose to follow the footnotes (often worthwhile here) there are important lessons about manipulated programs outsiders saw (and continue to see) as ancient rivalries in the Balkans and Rwanda; about policies of governments and the IMF that cause disasters attributed entirely to primitive (and racially inferior) people and their innate inferiority and violent nature. Not traditionalism but new fears and new economic crises explain much. The "olive tree" people and Seattle protestors are concerned about economic and social justice and taking care of their families not just thoughtless reactionaries. It is always the dirty poor rather than the clean elites (who finance, control, and buy the work of pundits after all) who inevitably are the cause of their own misery. Self fulfilling prophecy and self fulfilling policy are both evident from a critical reading rarely even