A sharp and disturbing look into the world of online reality.

TRUST ME, I'M LYING

CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIA MANIPULATOR

In his first book, media consultant and American Apparel marketing director Holiday takes on the blogosphere, finding its content to be little more than manufactured and manipulated “conflict, controversy, and crap.”

“Did Saddam Hussein write book reviews for Kirkus?” Of course he did not, but such a headline, writes the author, would be typical for a “blog,” by which he means all online publishing including Twitter, major and obscure websites, Web videos, group blogs with hundreds of writers and whatever else is out there. All blogs face the same pressures and same weaknesses. In a medium of infinite space and endless deadlines, they must publish and publish often—a professional blogger must write several times per day in order to make any money at all. All of this is driven by the need for page views, the number of times someone hits on a website. Page views determine advertiser dollars, which determine the reality presented by blogs. In the search for “traffic by any means,” journalistic standards and responsibility often go out the window, replaced by a new strategy: Publish first, and then, perhaps, verify. Headlines must instantly capture the audience’s attention, and adding a question mark allows plausible deniability. Truth gives way to sensationalism and innuendo, and blog-fed information devolves into “sensationalism, extremism, sex, scandal, hatred.” But if blogs manipulate, they can also be manipulated. Plant a story—true or not—in a small blog, and it could be picked up by a larger blog, then by a large media outlet. Holiday has done this countless times to create a buzz about authors, musicians, clothing apparel, etc. Ultimately, this practice is harmful. Reputations can be destroyed in a few minutes, but more broadly, blogs create a “constructed reality,” a world that does not really exist but yet seems true. Holiday has written more than a dyspeptic diatribe, as his precise prose and reference to the scholarship of others add weight to his claims.

A sharp and disturbing look into the world of online reality.

Pub Date: July 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-553-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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