Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community by Bonnie Kristian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the past decade or so, I have encountered a veritable avalanche of questionable assertions based upon dubious facts (if any) obviously designed to manipulate their target audience. It seems as if people are more gullible than ever and this book tries to identify why we are apparently unable to separate fact from fiction. In fact … given the proliferation of slanted news “opinion” and poorly researched news “entertainment” re-enforced by misleading news “memes” … how to we know what is true and what is not.
The author tries to explain what the problem actually is, how we got here and what we should do about it … the later from a decided Christian perspective … and while I am generally in agreement on pretty much everything she says, I am not as optimistic. Yes … forwarding that “political” meme on facebook designed to falsely enflame the heart against your opponent is decided unchristian and we have an obligation to avoid such evil gossip … but that doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment for many American Christians (including members of my own family who, when forced to acknowledge what they are forwarding/saying was untrue, simply respond by saying they didn’t really mean it … and they just like to stir the pot … before doing the exact same thing again). Unfortunately I typically respond just like the author … with verified sources and debate trying to get them to recognize the error of their ways come back to reason and logic and fairness and christian love. It has taken me awhile to get there, but ultimately I did … you can’t win that argument … so just don’t engage. It is a hard lesson to be sure.
So how did we get to a place where alternative facts and relative truth are the norm? From the constant attribution of ‘fake news” to anything we don’t like to the tribal identity politics that denies any authority to dissenting voices … the media seems like the obvious place to start … and “There is something off here, but it’s generally not intentional, ideologically motivated inaccuracy, as so many American fear.” The optimism here is cute. I used to think this too; but, the battle lines now have been drawn and information is the weapon of choice in this war. While profit is still important, power is the real goal … significantly more than entertainment and speed. Profit here is easy when you have the ability to so easily manipulate your partisans with fear and anger (and Entertainment generally plays on a different set of emotions … or includes such more often than not). How we got here might be chalked up to profit and entertainment initially … but we are well beyond that now.
Regardless … while biased news is not really a recent phenomena, the ability of these news outlets to so easily manipulate their audience is (at least for Americans). They are simply taking advantage of the cracks in our society and the author does a very good job at identifying what these are (and even offers advice on how we, as christians, should respond). Ultimately the author provides a few healthy habits and some welcome advice by which we might be able to stem the tide of this “epistemic crisis” by our example … and maybe bring a few of our friends and family back from the brink … I mean, it has got to be better than simply walking away from them right?
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.