True Enough | Farhad Manjoo

Summary of: True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society
By: Farhad Manjoo


Welcome to the world of ‘True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society’ by Farhad Manjoo! In this book summary, we explore the impact of the internet on the fragmentation of news and how this has allowed people to spread opinions, even if they’re false. From Swift Boat Veterans to conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11, we’ll investigate how preexisting beliefs shape our perception of events, how selective exposure bias and political partisanship can cloud our judgment, and how media corporations twist facts to fit their agendas. We’ll also examine the dangers of unverified experts sharing their opinions online and the waning trust among people in today’s society.

The Power of Fragmented News

With the rise of the internet, news and information channels have become fragmented, giving people the power to produce, distribute, and edit their own news. While this development allows for the spread of opinions, it also opens the door for misinformation to sway public opinion. An example of this is the Swift Boat Veterans, who successfully discredited John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election through their false claims. The internet has given individuals the ability to easily and effectively spread their message, making it easier than ever to change public opinion without relying on mass media.

The Uncertainty of Truth in a World of Overwhelming Coverage

In a world where we have access to an abundance of photos and videos of significant events, it’s still difficult to agree on what truly happened. This was evident in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where despite overwhelming coverage, many Americans doubt that the attacks were properly investigated. Even with clear evidence, preexisting beliefs can shape our perception and make it hard to reach a consensus. A study of a 1951 football game showed that fans of both teams disagreed on which team played dirtier, suggesting that preconceived notions are often the cause of different interpretations of the same evidence. It’s clear that video proof isn’t always enough to establish what really happened, but it’s vital to critically assess the information we see and rely on solid evidence rather than personal beliefs.

The Danger of Selective Exposure Bias

Our beliefs not only shape our perception of reality but also determine what we perceive in the first place. Selective exposure bias makes us choose information that aligns with our beliefs, leading us to dismiss facts that contradict them. In a study, smokers and non-smokers were more interested in information that confirmed their beliefs rather than the opposing one. Christine Maggiore was a tragic example of what happens when we reject information that goes against our views. She refused to believe that HIV caused AIDS, depriving her daughter of proper treatment and resulting in her death. We’re all vulnerable to selective exposure bias, and it can have severe consequences.

Political Biases in Media Consumption

People tend to access news material that aligns with their political beliefs. This tendency is more pronounced among Republicans who show a preference for brochures with strong messages they already agree with. This preference extends to blog posts with conservatives linking only to other conservative blogs. Despite their differences, both Democrats and Republicans believe that the media is biased against them, a phenomenon known as the Hostile Media Phenomenon. However, studies have shown that there are numerous programs targeted at both groups. When asked to recall news information, both parties remembered more facts and arguments from the other side, yet they remain convinced of media bias towards the other side, even though there is no evidence for it.

Propaganda in Media

News Channels’ Use of High and Low Feedback Topics

Media corporations are always careful about spreading propaganda, even if false information spreads easily. News channels should never twist high feedback topics to fit a certain agenda. High feedback topics comprise hard facts that can be easily checked by the audience, such as weather reports, sports results, or stock market updates. News channels do not lie about high feedback topics because they are easy to verify. Instead, channels use false information to twist low feedback topics like healthcare, tax policies, or necessities of war. Such topics do not have definite truths that can be easily checked.

For instance, the topic of global warming is a classic low feedback topic. Fox News constantly doubts global warming by presenting information in a way that argues against it. Fox News takes real facts that are mostly true, like evidence from a drought, flood, or good harvest, and presents them in a misleading way to argue against global warming. This type of propaganda is hard to prove wrong because their facts are factual. News channels need to ensure their propaganda is nuanced enough to deceive the audience because low feedback topics are challenging to expose.

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