from Socrates to Social Media
by Mark Kurlansky; Eric Zelz
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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 08 Aug 2023
The modern age has provided ever-more-effective ways of spreading lies, but it has also given us the scientific method, which is the most effective tool for finding what is true. In the book’s final chapter, Kurlansky reveals ways to deconstruct an allegation. A scientific theory has to be testable, and so does an allegation.
BIG LIES soars across history: alighting on the “noble lies” of Socrates and Plato; Nero blaming Christians for the burning of Rome; the great injustices of the Middle Ages; the big lies of Stalin and Hitler and their terrible consequences; the reckless lies of contemporary demagogues, which are amplified through social media; lies against women and Jews are two examples in the long history of “othering” the vulnerable for personal gain; up to the equal-opportunity spotlight in America.
“Belief is a choice,” Kurlansky writes, “and honesty begins in each of us. A lack of caring what is true or false is the undoing of democracy. The alternative to truth is a corrupt state in which the loudest voices and most seductive lies confer power and wealth on grifters and oligarchs. We cannot achieve a healthy planet for all the world’s people if we do not keep asking what is true.”
BIG LIES [STARRED REVIEW!] From Socrates to Social Media
A book about public lies, the kind that "can destabilize the world."
Deceit, says noted nonfiction writer Kurlansky, is practiced throughout the living world, often conferring evolutionary advantages, and certainly many social ones--consider the white lie. Three hundred years ago, the rise of the Enlightenment ushered in both a new era of scientific reason and a corresponding rise in lies and conspiracy theories promulgated by power-hungry individuals attempting to dupe the masses. Today's social media makes this ever more prevalent but also gives those who pay attention tools they can use to broadcast the truth. From murderous clowns to lizard people in government, burning women as witches to persistent scapegoating of Jews, Kurlansky covers the types, tools, targets, tactics, and motives of liars as well as arms readers with defensive techniques such as searching for sources and the classic advice to "follow the money." Supplemental stories are told in sidebars set off in orange type. Blocks of larger, colorful type break up the pages, as do occasional illustrations and photographs. Short comic-strip segments enliven the ends of each chapter, illustrating Soviet spies sowing anti-vaccine disinformation and showing a dishonest, bankrupt real estate investor denying climate change. This book takes on a dense and complicated subject; Kurlansky's genius is to embrace the complexity and urge readers to question everything they read, including this book.
Impassioned, thorough, and brilliant: describes the struggle for truth that "keeps the world from descending into chaos." (photo credits, author's note, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)
-- "Kirkus" (7/6/2022 12:00:00 AM)
Average rating from 3 members
Full review will be posted soonish and I'll add links to blog as well.
I would like to thank the publisher and netgalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
A straight forward book that demands that kids/teens to think about what they read and hear. This is greatly needed in a world where everyone has an platform and an opinion, many of the loudest opinions are based on lies.
The more you hear a lie repeated the more likely you are to velieve it. Young people need new tools and teaching to make opinions based on truth.
Very engaging look at some of the “big lies” of the past and present. Kurlansky begins with a look at what exactly is a lie and how the notion of lies has been interpreted throughout time. Text features, interesting illustrations and graphics, along with some well-drawn comics make this a very readable and extremely interesting read. Granted, there are some pointed political jabs, but honestly it didn’t detract from the reading experience at all.