Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

True Enough: the science, history and economics of self-deception

09 Sep
Farhad Manjoo's True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society is a breezy-but-engrossing look at the increased polarization of news in the 21st Century. Manjoo convincingly argues that our own capacity for selective perception (show two groups of partisans footage of a political debate and both will swear it was biased for the other side; show the same footage to someone who doesn't care and they won't see bias for either side) combined with the Internet's capacity to network affinity groups and spread fragmented, selective media are a perfect storm, with the truth right in its path.

Manjoo makes a good case. He walks through a number of net-based conspiracy theories on both sides of the political spectrum, speaks with their adherents, the experts who claim it's all bogus, and then to cognitive scientists and other scientists who explain the gigantic gap between what is so obvious to non-partisans and what is blindingly, passionately important to the adherents.

Grounded in history and science, True Enough paints a dismal picture of a species with a limitless capacity for self-deception and selective reasoning. But Manjoo doesn't ascribe the rise of truthiness to fragmented media alone: he calls out PR firms, media outlets and others who have profited from the erosion of the truth.

I'm more-or-less convinced by Manjoo's idea that reality itself has fragmented, that many of us "know" different, mutually exclusive "facts" about the world, but I'm not so sure that this is an outcome of a networked society. For centuries, a large number of people "knew" that Jews used gentile baby-blood in Passover matzoh. They "knew" that phrenology worked. That gypsies stole babies. That the laboring classes lacked the capacity to learn and participate in society. That women had fewer teeth than men.

Our capacity to select the facts that justify our beliefs isn't new, but perhaps it is growing worse. Certainly, the money's better than its ever been. Forewarned is forearmed -- having read True Enough, I feel like I'm more ready to examine my selective perception and cherished illusions. And that's certainly worth the price of admission. True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

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Heinlein’s fan-mail solution

09 Sep
George sez, "Kevin Kelly describes how Robert Heinlein dealt with fan mail before PCs."

Heinlein engineered his own nerdy solution to a problem common to famous authors: how to deal with fan mail. In the days before the internet, Heinlein's solution was fabulous. He created a one page FAQ answer sheet -- minus the questions. Then he, or rather his wife Ginny, checked off the appropriate answer and mailed it back. While getting a form letter back might be thought rude, it was much better than being ignored, and besides, the other questions you did not ask were also answered! Indeed, it is both remarkable and heartwarming that Heinlein replied at all to most mail. Can you imagine other great authors doing the same -- even with a form letter? Heinlein's form is very entertaining to read because you are forced to reconstruct the missing requests.
I love these, especially the slightly grumpy ones about whether authors can be reasonably expected to answer essay questions as part of a student's homework assignment! Oh, and the answer to "I love your work, but your latest story stank," is spot-on perfect. Heinlein's Fan Mail Solution (Thanks, George!)

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Book on the current Secession movement (and Sarah Palin)

08 Sep

Adam Parfrey publisher of Feral House Press says: Know how Sarah Palin is accused of being a Secessionist, as part of the Alaskan Independence Party?

Feral House recently published the primary (and only) book of the current Secession movement, Thomas A. Naylor and Kirkpatrick Sale's Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire.

Naylor is the founder of the Second Vermont Republic.

Kirk Sale is founder of the Middlebury Institute. Also see this YouTube vid.

Lynette Clark, Chairman of AIP, and her husband, Dexter Clark, say that Sarah Palin was a Secessionist in the mid-90s, and attendee to meetings and such, and that her husband was an ongoing member until 2002. The McCain people protest that Sarah Palin was never really a full-flredged member of AIP, but just the past few months made a vid supporting AIP ...

Thomas Naylor's part of the Secession movement is a leftist concept, and other states hold libertarian, and sometimes rightist ideas, such as the Alaskans. The idea of the movement is an anti-Globalist, anti-Empire "Divided We Stand"...

Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire

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