Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Book report: "True Enough" and "truthiness"
Old 10-15-2008, 03:28 PM   #1
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,616
Book report: "True Enough" and "truthiness"

"Truthiness" is Stephen Colbert's term for something that feels true, although there's not necessary any valid evidence to support that conclusion.*

The author of "True Enough", Farhad Manjoo, wrote the book at the cold-call suggestion of a publisher's agent who liked his Salon columns. So as I read about manipulation of the media and the hidden motives of marketers, I couldn't help noticing that the author's selling his book. If he can't persuade us that this problem is worthy of our attention, then he hasn't motivated (or manipulated) us and his conclusions may lack credibility.

Despite those disclaimers, he shines a spotlight on some interesting tactics in the field of information dissemination. It's worth reading the book just to understand the issues and to be aware of the vocabulary.

It's a compact summary of the fragmentation of today's media. While a traditional 1960s marketing campaign had to work within the expensive confines of big-city newspapers and three TV stations, today's media is splattered across millions of websites and hundreds of multimedia outlets. Not only is the market fragmented, but its experience and professionalism have been diluted to the point where any ol' amateur can attract quite a bit of attention, let alone credibility. And it's YouTube cheap, too.

Manjoo makes the point that people will believe what they want to believe, regardless of the alleged facts, and they're committed to their personal reality. Thanks to current communications technology, just about everyone can not only create their own reality but can find an audience and disseminate it around the world. The only thing that we all have in common now is that we don't have to have anything in common.

It's "confirmation bias", as well as a desire to attend only to sources that try to challenge your point of view without requiring you to change it. People avoid cognitive dissonance by selective exposure. We actually seek "weak dissonance" because then we can affirm our bias by discrediting the dissonant suggestion. [Don't retire, "re-wire"! Annuities, anyone?] We prefer weak dissonance over any sort of consonance-- we'd rather denigrate the other side's flimsy attacks on our ideas than to support our flimsy overwhelmingly accurate attacks on their ideas, let alone endure our priests preaching to our choir. When a subject is too complicated to analyze, instead of marshaling our resources and researching and processing the information on its own merits we tend to revert to "peripheral processing"-- relying on "expert opinions" and heuristics even though their sources may be suspect.

The rest of the book delves into the details of manipulation by reviewing political campaign tactics, election voting discrepancies, conspiracy theories, "video news releases", "satellite media tours", product placement, astroturfing, and cable TV "news" channels. The author concludes that we're living in a world without trust, where everyone's motives are subject to scrutiny before we even listen to their message.

While I appreciate learning how to recognize when my strings are being pulled, I don't share the author's alarm. He seems to feel that "this time it's really different", and that the Internet has made it too easy for anyone to fool everyone. (Ironically as I was reading the book, my spouse was watching a PBS documentary on Nixon's 1946-50 Congressional election campaigns.) It's possible that Manjoo's experience is too young shallow to lack perspective, although admittedly my experience isn't much deeper. I agree that the potential for abuse exists-- but his examples of the "good ol' days" show that the problem was just as bad before modern media, only a bit slower to catch on and a lot harder to refute. But when it caught fire, it spread just as quickly and caused at least as much damage as today.

Well, that's how it seems to me anyway. I don't have any actual data to support my conclusion, but it just feels right!

When you're done with "True Enough", I recommend "Predictably Irrational"…


*I have no idea who Stephen Colbert is or why he cares about the subject, so don't shoot this messenger. I'm just giving him credit for his concept. The book covers a lot of juicy media & political scandals but divulging their details here would instantly relegate this thread to the [moderator edit]ing Soapbox.
__________________

__________________
*
*

The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 10-15-2008, 04:19 PM   #2
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
dex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 5,105
Predictably / Irrational Book
True Enough: Learning to Live in a ... - Google Book Search

txs
__________________

__________________
Sometimes death is not as tragic as not knowing how to live. This man knew how to live--and how to make others glad they were living. - Jack Benny at Nat King Cole's funeral
dex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-15-2008, 07:19 PM   #3
Full time employment: Posting here.
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 826
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Well, that's how it seems to me anyway. I don't have any actual data to support my conclusion, but it just feels right!
I agree with your opinion. I enjoyed his book, but I think he could have peeled the onion at least one layer deeper and found that what's really driving selective perception and selective attention (he used a different word) is personal comfort optimization, which has always been a characteristic of humans and other animals.

His implicit reminder to 'distrust and verify' anything you hear from any source is worth hearing again, considering the onslaught of self-serving lies we endure on a daily basis. Just because a certain meme brings you comfort and pleasure doesn't necessarily mean it's true!

Were people more trusting and trustworthy back in the old days? Interesting question to ponder. My 95 year old grandmother is alarmingly trusting and reasonably trustworthy, but this is only one data point.
__________________
socca is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-15-2008, 09:28 PM   #4
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,616
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Well, that's how it seems to me anyway. I don't have any actual data to support my conclusion, but it just feels right!
Just so there's no confusion among the readership, this was sarcasm. It's the stereotypical sentiment that keeps the author awake at night-- no doubt working on his sequel.

I should've known better. Norman Lear was astounded to learn that not everyone realized "All In The Family" was a satire on race & prejudice. Some people truly appreciated what they thought was his sensitive portrayal of Archie Bunker as just a hard-workin' blue-collar guy with family problems...
__________________
*
*

The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Book report: Richard K. Morgan's "Woken Furies" (hardcore sci-fi) Nords Other topics 32 05-29-2007 11:34 AM
Book report: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Early Retirement" Nords Other topics 0 06-21-2006 02:49 PM
Book reports: "Blink" & "Tipping Point" Nords Other topics 2 12-04-2005 05:15 PM
Book report:  Marc Freedman's "Prime Time" Nords Life after FIRE 16 03-23-2005 12:52 PM
Book report:  "1st National Bank of Dad" Nords Young Dreamers 9 03-21-2005 10:30 AM

 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:41 AM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.