A sharp and disturbing look into the world of online reality.

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TRUST ME, I'M LYING

CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIA MANIPULATOR

In his first book, media consultant and American Apparel marketing director Holiday takes on the blogosphere, finding its content to be little more than manufactured and manipulated “conflict, controversy, and crap.”

“Did Saddam Hussein write book reviews for Kirkus?” Of course he did not, but such a headline, writes the author, would be typical for a “blog,” by which he means all online publishing including Twitter, major and obscure websites, Web videos, group blogs with hundreds of writers and whatever else is out there. All blogs face the same pressures and same weaknesses. In a medium of infinite space and endless deadlines, they must publish and publish often—a professional blogger must write several times per day in order to make any money at all. All of this is driven by the need for page views, the number of times someone hits on a website. Page views determine advertiser dollars, which determine the reality presented by blogs. In the search for “traffic by any means,” journalistic standards and responsibility often go out the window, replaced by a new strategy: Publish first, and then, perhaps, verify. Headlines must instantly capture the audience’s attention, and adding a question mark allows plausible deniability. Truth gives way to sensationalism and innuendo, and blog-fed information devolves into “sensationalism, extremism, sex, scandal, hatred.” But if blogs manipulate, they can also be manipulated. Plant a story—true or not—in a small blog, and it could be picked up by a larger blog, then by a large media outlet. Holiday has done this countless times to create a buzz about authors, musicians, clothing apparel, etc. Ultimately, this practice is harmful. Reputations can be destroyed in a few minutes, but more broadly, blogs create a “constructed reality,” a world that does not really exist but yet seems true. Holiday has written more than a dyspeptic diatribe, as his precise prose and reference to the scholarship of others add weight to his claims.

A sharp and disturbing look into the world of online reality.

Pub Date: July 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-553-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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