Frank Bruni

“Although the Internet could be making all of us smarter, it makes many of us stupider, because it’s not just a magnet for the curious. It’s a sinkhole for the gullible. It renders everyone an instant expert. You have a degree? Well, I did a Google search!”

The Onion

“Citing years of frustration over their advice being misunderstood, misrepresented or simply ignored, America’s foremost experts in every field collectively tendered their resignation Monday.”

Post-Truth – Lee McIntyre

For me, this was the book that started it all. It’s a wonderful overview that includes a number of relevant and concise case studies along with well-reasoned theories about what has caused the alarming growth of misinformation that has followed us into the 21st century. The primary topics covered: McIntyre summarizes what science denial is and provides a historical roadmap, citing The Tobacco Strategy as the fundamental blueprint for all modern anti-science campaigns. There is a wonderful summary of the primary cognitive biases that cause misinformation to spread. McIntyre references some fascinating psychological studies in his short but to-the-point review. The values of Traditional News Media have been undermined by profit-first motives paired with a public preference for extremely partisan content. The rise of computers, social media, and do-it-yourself online publishing have undermined traditional media. As we move away from traditional media, we also move away from the well-developed checks and balances built into journalistic ethics and best practices. There are no more gatekeepers. Postmodernism is tangled up with “fake news” and modern propaganda. There are certainly influences that run between both topics, even if the causal relationships are hard to track down. The underlying idea of postmodernism – that …

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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History – Kurt Andersen

The history of America is inseparable from the influence of various fantasies and their believers, including (but not limited to) religious followings, Disney fanatics, gold seekers, conspiracy theorists, and science denialists of all sorts. Fantasyland is an in-depth history of American fantasies and how they have shaped our culture and public discourse. The topics include: Americanized Religion The Gold Rush The Puritans Satanic Panic Early American Anti-Science Joe Smith & Mormonism Magical Healing Conspiracy Theories Industrialized Fantasy Show Business & Fantasy Entertainment Utopian Suburbs Spiritualism Alternative (baseless) Medicine 1980s Satanic Cults – (we seem to have forgotten all about this?!) X-Files GOP Embracing Fantasy GMOs Guns Andersen’s writing style is entertaining and captivating. He weaves relevant case studies and his very apt historical knowledge into a very compelling suggestion that we were always headed in this direction. Kurt Andersen – Fantasyland “Skepticism, after all, is an antonym for credulity. But when both are robust and overheated, they can fuse into conspiracy-mindedness.” Kurt Andersen – Fantasyland “… mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result …

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