177: True Enough by Farhad Manjoo

by Gerard


177.3: Manjoo, Farhad. True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. 230 pp. ISBN 978-0-470-05010-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 170: Ethics (Moral philosophy)
  • 177: Ethics of social relations
  • 177.3: Truthfulness, lying, slander, and flattery

Information is all around us. From the Internet to 24-hour news networks to experts to neighbors, every place you look, there is someone with information. But what transforms information into fact, and what exactly are facts? How do we interpret them? How do we separate “Fact” from “fact”? When does truth become Truth? Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough explores the delicate areas between facts and truth to help us see how we deal with  new information and ideas that challenge our beliefs.

Manjoo plods through many areas of selective truth: the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections, the 9/11 attacks, and the Kennedy assassination. Each of these events is ingrained enough in our collective memory that everybody thinks they have a hold of the truth of each event. But, then, why are there still pockets of individuals who contradict the collective memory? How does their version of the event shape ours? Manjoo incorporates many elements of social and cognitive psychology (such as naïve realism, selective perception, and weak dissonance) to show how new  information interacts with personal ideas and beliefs.

He also looks at broadcast news and media presentation and how presenting information with the je ne sais quoi of truth is enough to make it believable. There’s the usual digressions into Steve Colbert’s truthiness campaign and James Frey’s fictional autobiography. The problem with all this talk of half-truths and almost-lies is that it seems to the reader that nothing can be trusted. Every picture in the newspaper could be manipulated; each news account could be potential propaganda. This book makes the reader feel as they’ve been catapulted down the rabbit hole with no hope of escape. Luckily, it’s a quick tidy volume that doesn’t get too bogged down with itself. The trick here is to think critically and trust your judgment when it comes to information. All in all, an interesting read.