Insightful, convincing, instructive reading.



A sharp addition to the why-people-believe-weird-things genre.

An optimist and fine writer, van der Linden, professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge and an expert on human belief systems, explains why humans accept something as true or false and how they can fend off misinformation. Leaning heavily on the metaphor of misinformation as a virus infecting the mind and spreading from one person to another, the author proclaims the need for an effective remedy, perhaps a psychological “vaccine” against fake news. He begins by explaining why we are susceptible, discusses how falsehoods persist, and then explains how to inoculate ourselves and others. Innumerable studies prove that debunking—i.e., pointing out the facts—almost never works. We must “prebunk” to fend off misinformation before it takes hold. Readers may squirm as the author shows how and why we accept nonsense. Humans embrace the familiar, so the easiest way to spread a lie is to keep repeating it. Despite the fact that there has been zero evidence to support their claims, roughly 75% of Trump voters “continue to believe that the 2020 elected was rigged.” If the moon landing was faked, 400,000 NASA employees would have had to be “complicit in the conspiracy.” True to his assertion that facts are feeble, van der Linden devotes the final chapters of this well-researched, psychologically astute book to the specific strategies of fakers (“Six Degrees of Manipulation”) and a powerful argument for the effectiveness of delivering a small dose of misinformation in order to inoculate against a major infection. Studies show that it works, and readers—or at least the 67% who are not suspicious of vaccines—can boost their immunity by playing a popular computer game that tests their ability to spread fake news. Google “bad news.” The author may be preaching to the choir, but it’s a message that bears repeating and continued deep consideration.

Insightful, convincing, instructive reading.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780393881448

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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