Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just True Enough...

Thanks for checking back again!

It's already been a long day, starting with the early morning meeting, lunch with one of our friends at Tony Cheng's Mongolian Barbecue in Chinatown, actually getting some work done in the afternoon, then coming home to walk the dog, fold the wash, post the blog, clean the kitchen, set the recorder to tape "Dancing with the Stars," and have dinner ready when Agnes gets home from the dance studio.

I'm already tired.

But not too tired to share some thoughts with you about a fascinating book I'm now reading. I heard the author, Farhad Manjoo, interviewed on NPR a week or so ago, and decided I had to read the book right away - True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

I have long been amazed at how some people can believe the most ridiculous things, no matter how overwhelming the evidence to the contrary. Holocaust deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, UFO cultists, hollow-earth fanatics - all are able to believe deeply and completely in the most outrageous and improbable ideas, even though most of us shake our heads in amazement.

In True Enough, Farhad Manjoo looks at some of the reasons why (and how) many people choose belief over the strength of contradictory facts. You will learn about (among many other things):

Selective exposure - our tendency to read the newspapers, books and magazines, visit the blogs, watch the TV stations and listen to the radio programs which agree with our own biases; and,

Selective perception - the tendency to interpret evidence in terms of our preconceived beliefs; to believe that the sources of information we seek out through selective exposure offer proof positive that what we believe must be true.

Mr Manjoo also makes a very interesting point that hadn't occurred to me: that vast amounts of available information, instead of making it easier to disprove falsehoods, actually make it easier for those falsehoods to gain traction and build credibility. Consider the tens of millions of blogs, the vast number of websites on every conceivable topic, the dozens of news channels and single-issue radio programs - no matter what you want to believe, someone out there will agree with you, and you'll feel yourself vindicated because of it.

I'm only about a third of the way through the book, and I'm completely hooked. I strongly encourage you to buy it, or to check it out of your local library and read it. You'll never look at the world the same way again.

Because nowadays, facts don't have to be true.

Just true enough.

And in a hard-fought election season, in an age of altered documents and PhotoShopped pictures, that's a frightening thing.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

It does sound like a very interesting book. I didn't have words for it but I've recently been wondering if I was suffering from 'selective exposure' and selective perception' in my parenting beliefs. Each time I search the internet, I find that the words I use will always take me to articles and sites that support my own beliefs. A simple example is 'co-sleeping benefits' ... this will inevitably take me to more sites that support co-sleeping rather than sites that tell me about what a hassle it is.

I must go take a look at this book.

Serina Hope said...

I need to read that book too. Amanda is so right. We tend to only educate ourselves on the things that we want to believe. Great post. (Waves)Sorry to have been MIA for so long. I have been lurking, no time to comment.

Mike said...

The earth is hollow? Why didn't anybody tell me this before? I'm going to start spreading the word!!!