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True Enough

Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

By Farhad Manjoo
16-minute read
True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo

True Enough is an exploration of how facts are dealt with in the news and media. It explains how our preconceptions and opinions shape the way we experience reality, and how media producers manipulate us by using our notions to their advantage.

  • Anyone interested in our relationship with the media
  • Anyone interested in sociology
  • Anyone interested in psychology

Farhad Manjoo is an author and journalist. He serves as a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, has written for the New York Times since 2014 and contributes regularly to NPR.

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True Enough

Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

By Farhad Manjoo
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Contains 10 key ideas
True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo
Synopsis

True Enough is an exploration of how facts are dealt with in the news and media. It explains how our preconceptions and opinions shape the way we experience reality, and how media producers manipulate us by using our notions to their advantage.

Key idea 1 of 10

The media landscape has become fragmented, which makes it easier to spread misinformation.

Before the internet, media was distributed by a small handful of news channels on TV, radio and newspaper. Needless to say, things are different now.

Now that nearly everyone uses the internet, our news and information channels have become fragmented, meaning we can get our news from nearly anywhere.

We can record proof of events with digital cameras, for instance. We can spread and receive ideas through blogs. We can now be the producers, distributors and editors of our own news.

This development allows people to spread their opinions, even if they’re wrong.

The Swift Boat Veterans, a right-wing American group, did exactly that in 2004. They opposed John Kerry in the presidential election, so they started a campaign to discredit his participation in the Vietnam War.

The Swift Boat Veterans claimed that Kerry had been a poor soldier, and didn’t truly qualify for the medals of honor he’d received. This was untrue, and there were many veteran testimonies and countless documents to prove it.

Although their information was false, the Swift Boat Veterans succeeded in helping take down Kerry. At first, no respectable news channel would listen to them, and their press conference didn’t receive any coverage. But they kept relentlessly spreading their message.

They went on right-wing talk shows and promoted their website. There, they offered an open letter to be signed and forwarded to friends and relatives. This eventually snowballed enough to get picked up by the mainstream media, which changed public opinion about Kerry’s involvement in the war.

In the end, George W. Bush won the election by only two percentage points. The veterans might have swung the results with their misinformation.

The internet is now so accessible that we no longer need mass media to change a public opinion. Feats like the one pulled off by the Swift Boat Veterans are even easier now.

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