More an illumination of the challenge than a pat solution.

GLASS JAW

A MANIFESTO FOR DEFENDING FRAGILE REPUTATIONS IN AN AGE OF INSTANT SCANDAL

Dezenhall (The Devil Himself, 2011, etc.) counsels beleaguered corporations on how to deal with bullying citizens and their social media attacks.

A novelist and teacher as well as the founder of a leading crisis management firm (whose clients have included Michael Jackson, though there’s no gossip here), the author plainly knows which side butters his bread—and that is the side typically seen as the powerful target of scandalmongering—but is here more often portrayed as the victim of “the bathrobe brigade,” as “online advocacy makes the powerless powerful.” He offers no road map through the minefields of new media, no playbook for the best defense (or a good offense); the landscape changes constantly and each scandal is different. “I am hired by those who are anticipating or embroiled in controversy,” he writes, “who are enduring intense criticism—corporations, public institutions, prominent individuals—and they want me to shepherd them through the storm so they can return to their pre-scandal lives.” Most often, the best that can be done is minimizing the damage rather than winning the battle, especially when the target (Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer) has been caught doing something flagrantly wrong. Someone like Bill Clinton has an advantage, since his scandal simply added evidence to what people suspected him to be, and they liked him anyway. This is not a book of morality but of pragmatism, of trying to determine what goals are within reach and what audience is crucial. Dezenhall suggests that most spin doctors are charlatans, and most bromides about getting in front of the story and other clichés are bunk. The author jumps around a lot, with bullet points and lists providing jarring juxtapositions, but he effectively shows how dramatically things have changed, from a partisan perspective that maintains, “social media promotes warfare,” and that, as with guerrilla warfare, “David has become Goliath, and Goliath has become David.”

More an illumination of the challenge than a pat solution.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 9781455582976

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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