The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to “psychographic” categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.
As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.
It’s from a newly released book by a popular figure. Answer.
Books that shouldn’t be, according to Peter Feld: MySpace for Dummies. Has anyone bought this book, and if so, have they used it as intended?
Books like this make the statistic on how many books are published in America less scary. I’m sure 20% of the annually published books in this country are stuff like this, and why should I complain? I don’t lose money on them.
Dick Staub, author of The Culturally Savvy Christian, was interviewed on Moody Radio last night. Here’s the audio. It begins with a brief discussion of why Staub choose an American Booksellers Association publisher over an Association for Christian Retail publisher.
Here’s a book I just learned existed: Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts. I hope that sets a few people straight–those people who believe foolishness while are not actual fools.
I’ve always believed you can’t argue with fools. The Bible even says as much, but these people could vote too, and that’s a little dangerous. Today’s cultural and political conversations seem foolish and shallow in large part, and our major media outlets are increasingly untrustworthy. What is an average citizen to do?
I like this review by Bruce DeSilva of Christopher Hitchens’ latest book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. DeSilva writes, “Christopher Hitchens is an essayist and pundit who loves a good fight and is never afraid to pick on someone his own size; but this time he’s outdone himself. He’s picked on God. . . . Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.”
[first posted July 29, 2003] Shaw Books, an imprint of Waterbrook Press which is a division of Random House, has quietly announced the upcoming release God of the Fairy Tale from Jim Ware, coauthor of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings. Ware is a writer, folklorist, and Celtic musician, which are just credentials I wish I had. The book reports to be an examination of twenty fairy tales, retelling them and highlighting their themes. It’s the type of thing I would hope any reader could do with their children, but Ware will undoubtedly bring significant insight into the literary analysis. This work probably echoes Tolkien’s opinion that myth is not an untrue story, but a story which delivers essential, though maybe not factual, truth. The Gospel can be considered a myth, a beautiful story, but one that is true in almost every way it’s told. (Should you wonder why I say “almost,” I think that Philippians 2 describes the emptying of Jesus which the best of us cannot fully understand and may even interpret incorrectly.)
In related news, Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin is now available and is currently #2 on Amazon.com.
Mindy Withrow reviews The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. “He does not presume to have all the answers,” she says, “but suggests that the ‘best way to fight industrial eating is by simply recalling people to the infinitely superior pleasures of traditional foods enjoyed communally.'”
April 1–We call it April Fool’s Day because for a long time it was celebrated as New Year’s Day, and after the changing calendar, some clung to the old ways, I suppose despite a lack of evidence. Wikipedia notes the Nun’s Priest’s Tale as being a tale of two fools occurring on April 1, so whatever the reason, fools have come out of the closet on that day for a long time. I’ve always thought of it as an alternate New Year’s Day, which is why in Camelot they sing, “The lusty month of May, that darling month when everyone throws self-control away.” Now that I type it, it makes no sense whatsoever, but . . . onward.
If you’ve come to this week in April thinking your New Year’s resolutions are shot or that you really haven’t given yourself a chance to work them out, let my heartily recommend some fantastic booklets. P&R Publishing offers “Resources for Changing Lives,” a series of short books on hot-button issues and the harder stuff of New Year’s resolutions, such as anger, loneliness, depression, handling conflict, grief, marriage, cutting, and stress. Weight-loss is not among them nor is one on improving your sex life, but appetite and love are there.
When your thirty-one year-old wife and the mother of your two young children dies of brain cancer after countless prayers from hundreds of believing friends, what difference does it make to ask Jesus into the despair? When your one year-old has to undergo physical therapy, and the treatment you inflict on your baby makes him scream in pain every day for months, what difference does it make to invite Jesus into that pain? When your dark tunnel of depression has become darker, narrow, with no end in sight and the in-breaking shafts of light mostly memory, what good does it do to invite Jesus into your desperation? If he is our God and could change really, really tough circumstances but will not, what good does it do to do life with him?
Part of Glenn Lucke’s interview with author Leigh McLeroy on her recent book, The Beautiful Ache. (by way of Mr. Bertrand)
There’s certainly not the build up to Amazing Grace, the movie on William Wilberforce, as there was to The Passion, but I note one similarity. Author John Piper wrote a companion book to both films. You can read Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce in PDF at desiringgod.org.
If you know about Wilberforce, you know he still speaks for our day.
The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight, and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.
If you don’t know about Wilberforce (1759-1833), he is remembered for having “the grand object of [his] parliamentary existence” as the abolition of the slave trade. “If it please God to know me so far may I be the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before disgraced a Christian country” (quoted from the preface of Piper’s book).
Here’s a book for those who think they understand Jesus’ intent behind his command to avoid judging others lest we fall under condemnation. Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart, by Terry D. Cooper.
Mr. Holtsberry reviews P. J. O’Rourke’s On The Wealth of Nations, which is O’Rourke’s take on Adam Smith’s classic (Does anyone read The Wealth of Nations anymore? Does anyone read any of the classics?). In short, he doesn’t think much of it. “I am not sure O’Rourke really captures anything quintessential or insightful about Adam Smith’s famous work or helps the reader understand it better. It is an interesting journey but you end up with little to hold onto in the end.”
God’s Upside Down Kingdom points out a new book on the history of Lutherans in Nazi Germany. “Readers … will discover the stories of courageous church leaders who prevented the Nazis from absorbing Lutheran Churches into the Reich Church.”
As she promised, Mindy Withrow has reviewed Andrée Seu’s Normal Kingdom Business, a collection of essays. I jumped to buy her first collection and am taking my time (putting off with no good reason) buying the second. I need to buy it for myself and maybe a few friends.
Mindy praises this new collection and pull out some quotes: “Story is how we learn theology…Reminding yourself of the real story is good for what ails you. If you’ve gotten too high and mighty, it reminds you that you are ‘dust.’ If you’re feeling like dust, it reminds you of your glorious destiny.”
“These biographies of theater luminaries outshine the rest,” writes critic Terry Teachout of his Five Best column in today’s WSJournal. He recommends
- Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life
- Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw (the one-volume abridgment)
- Simon Callow, Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu
- Moss Hart, Act One
- John Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton
In related news, can you guess which movie version of a Broadway production my wife and I saw last night. Here’s a line from it: “_________, that should have been my name, cause you can see right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.”