Cover Image: The Art of the Lie

The Art of the Lie

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This was nothing like I was expecting. From the title and subtitle, I was looking forward to a book about why people lie and how lying affects them. What I got was a disjointed rant against President Trump.
Was this review helpful?
The Art of the Lie by Marcel Danesi is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November.

Crikey, I had told myself that I would avoid books that involve political critique, but I thought I'd work through this one, which seems to define terms and throw Trump up as a velcro-laced person against a fuzzy wall of accusation with topics, such as the personal implications of lying, holding onto it like an emotional cyst, the themes and terms of Orwell's 1984, confabulation (i.e. racial cleansing, the KKK), 'fake news,' and gaslighting.
Was this review helpful?
The thesis of Marcel Danesi's book is "This book shows how language can be used strategically to manipulate beliefs." And it appears that the author's book is ironically named, "The Art of the Lie" since it seems that the entire book is a shrill screed against President Trump, lightly masked as a delving into deceit from the perspective of what seems to be a very nicely, credentialed academic. The irony is that the very thesis of the book is a lie, fed to the marketing department of the publisher as a treatise on lying, when it's simply a tired assault on Donald Trump. So, then, the joke is on the reader for wanting to read a book on lying, when the book fails miserably to come close to addressing the point of the thesis. I suspect the publisher realized that there are dozens of anti-Trump books flooding the market and decided to market this bash-o-rama as a serious academic, but popular level title. It's an exhausting tirade. And it upsets me to realize that what I had expected, based on the publisher's description, was nothing resembling an academic exercise. The book itself is a deception.

I am not a Trump fan. Yet, I have enough formal education to know what separates academic pursuits from a screech-fest. I challenge any reader to read the book's description, as written by the publisher, and then compare that to the word frequency of terms used, which I think is clearly supportive of my take on the purpose of this title. Trump is mentioned 628 times, and his Twitter name @realdonaldtrump is mentioned 37 times. The next most frequent proper noun is Mussolini at 93 uses. That's right, Danesi's book is seedy attempt to associate Trump as a Fascist. Hitler comes in at a paltry 28. Incidentally, 

I'll include one simple example. On page 18, Danesi argues that the Twitter handle "@realdonaltrump" is evidence that Trump emulates Mussolini in swaying public opinion. No, I am not making that up. Despite many "Blue Check" accounts using "real" in their nicks, it's fascist when Trump does it. Un-real.

If the book was an honest attempt at presenting anything mentioned in the book's description, I would expect to find studies from within the scientific community. Case studies. You know, academic stuff. I would think that references to very strong studies would have more references, but instead we find Trump. 

In order to save the reader some time, here is my Cliff Notes version: Trump lies. Trump is a fascist. Mussolini was a fascist. So is Trump. Machiavellianism is lying. Trump is Machiavellian. Trump lies. Trump supporters are easily swayed. Trump is a liar.

I have a feeling that it is ghost-written by a first-year college student. 

This is a political hit piece and it's not very convincing.
Was this review helpful?
I found the premise of this book fascinating, how language is used to manipulate people, especially in politics and show business. The correlations between Machiavelli, Donald Trump and P.T. Barnum made perfect sense in context, though I think Danesi gives Trump too much credit for intelligence he clearly doesn't possess. His deceptions are more like the little boy in the playground repeating "No I didn't!" over and over again, though this still employs the same tactics of repetition and denial explained in the more clever machinations of experts in using language as manipulation like Joseph Goebbels.

The correlations of Trump to Mussolini are chilling, especially now that the UK has elected a very similar con man as Prime Minister. I found the explanation of using phrases like 'alternative facts' fits into an established model of confusing perceptions through language. The methods used to direct the average person's attention away from real facts is frightening in that we can see the real world getting manipulated through these methods into the stuff of a dystopian novel.

He does harp on about Trump a great deal, but it is a current example and very appropriate. Had the book been written a little later, Boris Johnson would no doubt have got a starring role as well.

A very interesting study and one worth reading to help see the signs of when the public is being lied to by corrupt politicians.
Was this review helpful?
The premise is great, the subject is crucial, but it can be a bit disappointing. I gag every time I have to read the dickheads' name and the credit he is given in this book is bothersome. Machiavelli was clever, trump is not. 
Seeing, acknowledging and noticing lying is crucial in this day and age but I didn't really learn much here.

Nice idea, questionable execution.
Was this review helpful?
Knowing that Marcel Danesi writes books about language and books about puzzles, among other things, I was looking forward to an informative and possibly entertaining books about the use of language to deceive, perhaps like Maria Konnikova's excellent The Confidence Game. I was disappointed.

Danesi combined his knowledge of Machiavelli, philosophy, linguistics, and history to write what could have been a very interesting book about how Donald Trump uses language to persuade, bully, and deceive. What results is more of a personal attack on Trump's language. I probably agree with everything Danesi thinks about Trump, but I don't need another anti-Trump screed. I compose my own, out loud, almost daily.

I think that Danesi gives Trump too much credit for being Machiavellian. Machiavelli was a clever, if unprincipled person. But what bothers me the most about the book is how Danesi seems to believe that Trump's supporters are intellectually inferior and are being led by the nose. He's actually quite condescending about these supposed Trump followers, calling them "uninformed." He goes on to say that while what Trump says might seem absurd to some, "to those with little education and mental vulnerabilities, [Trump]...can set them down the path of questioning their entire reality." I'm sure that some Trump followers are "uneducated" but many have excellent educations, for instance Harvard educated Trump adviser Stephen Miller.

The Art of the Lie will only appeal to those who already completely agree with it and that don't mind the outlandish stereotyping of the unwashed Trump mobs. I can't imagine the reader who will come to it with an open mind waiting to be convinced that they are wrong about Trump.

(Thanks to NetGalley and Prometheus Books for a digital review copy.)
Was this review helpful?
The book incorporates several interesting facts about the psychology of our as well as examples. I found the concept quite interesting although a bit difficult to read (maybe because I am not a native speaker). Knowledge is the power and it is always important to be equipped with the information like this.
Was this review helpful?
In a world of "alternative facts", "fake news", clickbaits, and constructed personae on social media platforms the pursuit of truth is not an easy one. In The Art of the Lie author Marcel Danesi gives insight into how and why lies affect us, how they have been used for centuries to manipulate mankind, and how the Machiavellian strategies of lying and deceiving helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election and built his voter base. It is a very interesting take on a topic that has been a widely debated topic for nearly 3 years. 
Highly relevant in today's sensationalist society and highly recommendable! The author does a great job of explaining the different concepts and the writing style is very enjoyable, too.
Was this review helpful?
"Words have power" is a phrase that bombards us constantly. It's one that can be applied to numerous contexts, can cross disciplines or political spectrums, has been embedded in the literature we read, the media we consume, and the society within which we're reared to the point where it begins to feel like just another one of those things we all say. A platitude that loses a little of its "zing," its import. Its significance withering because of such prolific usage. 

As a result, it can be easy to overlook or diminish the role language often plays in shaping our beliefs, the way guile and deception and vagary can be utilized by some as linguistic tools to manipulate individuals as well as the masses; polluting their minds with destructive lies they grow to accept as fact. So how does it happen? Why? Where and when have we seen it throughout history? In modern times? What types of verbal strategy and rhetoric do masterful liars employ that enable them to persuade so many people to support their nefarious agendas?

These are some of the questions, among others, that the author endeavors to answer in this book. 

Danesi takes readers through the "art" of lying step-by-step, concept by concept, to show these clever machinations at work. He explains how skilled deceivers aim, overall, to twist words into weapons that can or do divide people against each other in order to promote self-interests, exaggerate truth, or achieve political dominion. (The latter of which has already been exemplified by dictators throughout world history.) 

The concepts he explores vary from ritualistic repetition to false equivalency, from confabulation to doublespeak, and to the construction of alternate narratives (i.e. deflection, denial, redirecting blame) and attackonyms and beyond. No stone of artifice is left unturned. No "cognitive dissonance" discourse is off-limits. He also frames his arguments in literary as well as modern day contexts. That means Orwellian 1984 parallels pop up (in thought-provoking ways!) almost as readily as connections, comparisons, and criticisms of Trump abound. 

Trump is a focus of this book, I won't lie. So if you can get over the fact that this lumps him into the Machiavellian liar category without preamble and in a clinical manner, exploiting the devious strategy in his falsehoods and setting him up as a current example to rival other notable examples, then you will find much to intellectualize over between past, present, and future. If not, you might be disappointed in the content. Or at least in the pointed emphasis that swings in his direction.

Personally, I believe there's a lot to be gained from reading either way. It's important to try to understand the hypnotic power of mendacity and how it can affect our minds so we can learn from our past mistakes. An engrossing, if not controversial (for some), read to say the least.

Thanks to NetGalley and Prometheus Books for the ARC! 3.5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Based on the title of this book (and my not catching the reference to Donald Trump’s book), I thought it would be a studious examination of how people use their words to manipulate others. After all, this is what most humans do at one time or another, and some more than most. I was not, however, prepared for the personal beliefs, half-truths, and name-calling that author Marcel Danesi spreads throughout the pages of this book, the majority of it aimed at President Trump.  At best, his writing is a great example of what he is railing about. It becomes sad and shameful that some of the quotes inserted in the book WERE NEVER SAID. 

As an example of misquotes, in chapter two Mr. Danesi quotes President Trump from a speech at a VFW Convention in July, 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what is happening.” The author then goes on to compare the President with Big Brother from “1984.” What’s the reality? The quote is a paraphrase from what was actually said: “You know, every once in a while you hear something, and usually you’ll understand.” He then went on to talk about liberal statements on illegal immigration, and how difficult it was to understand what was voiced by those defending open borders. This is in no way, shape, or form what Mr. Danesi printed in his book. A later passage stated that Sarah Sanders said “…Trump was sent to Earth by God…” which was not close to what she said. Misquotes like these causes one to wonder how many other half-truths and lies are included in this book only to prop up the author’s viewpoints.

Throughout the book the author offers details on the questionable to despicable actions of people like Mussolini, Stalin, Lenin, and Goebbels, barely pausing before linking Trump to them and intimating as well as clearly stating that the U.S. President is no different. The tragedy here is that Mr. Danesi also provides informative passages describing the subject, yet each time he does, it is related back to President Trump or conservatives in general. It would have been an interesting read if the information would have been applied to both of the main political parties in the U.S. A discussion on how both parties affect the American population would have been fascinating. However, that would have demanded a nonpartisan view and, in Mr. Danesi’s world, only conservatives lie or twist the truth. 

A good example: Mr. Danesi repeatedly commented on President Trump’s use of “Crooked Hillary,” telling us that Hillary Clinton “…used the traditional verbal etiquette of American political discourse.” The author then omits to remind us of how Ms. Clinton attacked both Donald Trump and his supporters when she said “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the Basket of Deplorables.” Verbal etiquette, indeed.

The full title of this book is “The Art of the Lie: How the Manipulation of Language Affects Our Minds.” Nowhere on the book cover nor the sales blurb does it indicate this is a book specifically aimed at the current President of the United States. If the goal is to write a book on politics and condemn a politician, then state that. A book on the art of the lie would be more powerful if it stayed on topic and didn’t bunny trail off on personal rants. My apologies to those reading this review as I am not a fan of reviewers who turn reviews into political vehicles. Unfortunately, the author went there first. As I stated earlier, this book is a good example of what Mr. Danesi chose as his topic. Trump-haters will love it. For me, I felt he veered away from the stated topic and moved into a personal arena. What could have been a five-star book turned into a dissatisfying read. Two stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and Prometheus Books for an advance electronic copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
A very interesting topic, it's something that I love reading about and understanding more. The book reviews problems that we, as a society, face nowadays, and makes us see things from another perspective.
Was this review helpful?
#TheArtOfTheLie #NetGalley
A great look how we as a society can be easily manipulated by media. The confidence and emotion that goes into language techniques on sway the public was downright scary. The Art of the Lie is a must read for the media frenzy that we live in today. It gives the reader a overview to why we see lies as valid when we know that they are not just based on common sense.
Was this review helpful?
Oh the art of the lie. What a magnificent book it was. I appreciated the candor in a book with the word “lie” in the title. 

The author’s voice really shone through in the writing and I found that very effective to read and a nice way to keep me, the reader, engaged. I’ll have to read more of Marcel Danesi’s works
Was this review helpful?
This book is right on time. There is always content on social media that serves the author's agenda and with this the rise of "fake news," and "movements" and "hashtags."
Marcel Danesi is a renowned linguistic Anthropologist and Semiotician. To me that means that he's got a good understanding of language and in this book he actually breaks down how we use words to move people and more often than not we do not include any facts or logic while at it.
One thing is certain, Trump cannot read this.
I also learned a new term in Chapter three called Confabulation. 
Thanks Netgalley for the eARC. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in understanding the link between language and reality and why falsehoods are believed.
Was this review helpful?