Friday, September 16, 2016

A Must-Read for the Election Year

I have long believed that you learn more about the world by tracking who is advertising what than from any of the more conventional sources of polls and analyses. It is therefore worth noting that the current (September 29) issue of The New York Review has a full-page advertisement placed by Princeton University Press. That, in itself, is not unusual for this particular periodical; but only one book is being advertised, Harry G. Frankfurt's On Bullshit. For those with weakened memories (perhaps in the manner Nicolas Carr discussed when arguing that Google is making us stupid), following the hyperlink on the book's title will reveal that it first appeared in January of 2005 and quickly rose to the top of the bestseller list maintained by The New York Times. The only thing that suggests that this is a recent advertisement, rather than a time warp going back over a decade, is the note at the bottom that this title is being marketed as an e-book.

Larger that the image of the book itself, the ad presents a single quote from the text:
Bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.
This is clearly a message for today. Princeton University Press has decided to use advertising as a means of entering the discourse over the coming election. The only problem is that they are preaching to the choir. Indeed, however penetrating that single sentence may be, its association with Princeton University Press will probably blunt its impact where its lesson is most needed. Nevertheless, when we consider what we must now endure in what passes for news about the election campaign, it is nice to read such a refreshing now that we no longer have Stephen Colbert reminding us about truthiness!

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