Ben Nesvig's Reviews > Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday
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Aug 05, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-reads
Read in August, 2012

I hesitated in buying this. Were the reviews on Amazon actually fake like a one star reviewer suggested? Should I believe anything from an admitted liar? But I ended up buying this on James Altucher's recommendation and I'm happy I did.

This is a very important book.

So much of the book reminded me of the philosopher Eric Hoffer, which is about as high of praise as I can give a writer. While Eric Hoffer showed how mass movements evolve back in the 1951 with his book, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Ryan Holiday shows how news stories build and spread online, whether the news is true or not. Both Ryan and Eric Hoffer were largely self-educated and both have terrific books on how movements evolve.

Below are some of my thoughts on the book using Eric Hoffer quotes:

"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." - Eric Hoffer

When bloggers and journalists can write about anything, they generally copy stories from each other. Ryan gives examples of how he used this to his advantage. This of course becomes a problem when what they are copying is false information.

"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."

Bloggers tear people and ideas down through snark. Ryan quotes a thoughtful student journalist in the book, "Snark is not the response of “the masses” to the inane doublespeak of politicians. It’s a defense mechanism for writers who, having nothing to say, are absolutely terrified of being criticized or derided. Snarky writing reflects a primal fear— the fear of being laughed at. Snarky writers don’t want to be mocked, so they strike first by mocking everyone in sight."


"Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true."

When blogs repeated each others lies and false information, it generally became accepted truth despite being false. Even worse, if the blog admitted it was incorrect, the they would often keep the same headline and just add an update at the bottom.

Concluding Thoughts:
This is a fascinating book. Often insightful while also terrifying, in that it lays out the problems blogs create without any solutions. Though, I don't have any solutions either. It's like saying, "There wouldn't be a drug problem in America if people stopped using drugs." Well, blogging for pageviews is another form of addiction that doesn't have an easy cure. At least we know the root cause of the problem, thanks to this book. If you want to understand how the news and blogs work, this book is a must read.


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