At a time when average citizens are bombarded with false information every day, this entertaining book will prove to be not only a great read but also an indispensable resource. Birthers. Truthers. Moon hoaxers. Antivaxxers. Holocaust deniers. Young Earth creationists. These are just a few of the purveyors of misinformation who thrive on the Internet. Never in history has the truth been more accessible and lies so contagious. In this confusing environment, how does an honest person find the facts? This entertaining and educational book applies the tools of critical thinking to identify the common features and trends among misinformation campaigns. With illustrations drawn from conspiracy theorists and deniers of every stripe, this author teaches readers how rumors are started, and the rhetorical techniques and logical fallacies often found in misleading or outright false claims. What distinguishes real conspiracies from conspiracy theories, real science from pseudoscience, and actual history from bogus accounts purporting to be history? How does one evaluate the credibility of rumors and quotes or judge the soundness of legal arguments advanced by tax deniers? Readers will learn how to make these critical distinctions and also how to spot "evidence" that has been manufactured or manipulated in some way to create a false impression.
Misinformation takes many forms--conspiracy theories, rumors, quotations, hoaxes, pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and pseudolaw are all covered in this helpful text. Collins spells out the importance of authoritative sources with real-life examples of people chasing anomalies and denying credible evidence. Tools for spotting denialism, such as recognizing when a denialist is cherry picking or ignoring evidence or when fake experts are used to justify a claim are provided. After a thorough examination of all the ways misinformation arrives in our world, the concluding chapter reviews the reasons why this is a problem. Many people are harmed with misinformation--from vaccine deniers to those who get taken in by scams. Understanding concrete methods for evaluating information allows information consumers to base their decisions on sound evidence.
Seventy-five percent of this book is useful, readable, reasonable and well-presented. Libertarian attorney and Birther debunker Loren Collins is especially good in the chapters on pseudoscience, pseudohistory and pseudolaw. In fact, he presented much that was new and fascinating to this mostly-mainstream thinker.
It was the remaining 25%,however...
Collins, whose blog "Barackryphal" is apparently the bane of Birthers and other far-right zealots, nevertheless commits some of the sins he condemns in others, especially in those sections in which he ridicules JFK assassination theories and the 9/11 Truth movement. He cherry-picks the most far-out beliefs and presents them as widely-held. He makes false equivalencies. And he constructs straw men. While this might win him friends in the halls of power, it doesn't make him the go-to guy for unbiased fact-checking.
I read a little about the author online and discovered he plans to run for office "in the future," after an unsuccessful Georgia write-in candidacy in 2006. That explains why he has so much mental energy invested in maintaining consensus reality.
Take this book with a grain of salt, and go where the facts lead you.
Interesting book about spotting misinformation and conspiracy theories. This was a library book and, for me, the highlight of this book was that a previous borrower had scribbled over parts of the text that they disagreed with and written some really bizarre comments in the margins.
I would actually give this 3.5 stars if I could. The author Loren Collins attempts and mostly succeeds at fleshing out the difference between real facts and pseudofacts and how anybody, with some practice, can do the same. This book really gets at the heart of what I consider a sickness in our society: being proud to be uneducated and closed minded to evidence and facts. Collins touches on the biggest illustrations of bull including birthers, moon hoaxers, antivaxxers, holocaust deniers, young Earth creationists, homeopathy, ghost hunters, and truthers. I give Collins much credit for mostly staying away from ad hominem attacks and sticking to how ridiculous their thought processes are, regardless from who it is coming from, by using mountains of evidence to make his point. This is no easy task. As he explains, it is much easier for a denier or conspiracist to simply poke a hole or two out of context than it is to explain the mountain of evidence and facts that work together as a collective whole. The average person these days wants the easiest way to get facts, something that is quick to understand and easily digestible instead of having to take time and effort to really comprehend the concepts related to the issue. At the end of each chapter he gives the reader some tips and how to spot misinformation and how to combat it. If anything, this book is practically a manual on how to think critically and reasonably using relevant topics and examples. Great book for those who have not yet solidified their thinking processes and closed their minds.
In the wake of a recent wave of secessionists, anti-vaccine proponents, birthers, holocaust deniers, alternate medicine champions, Facebook privacy hoaxes and History Channel idiocy, I've been looking for a user-friendly handbook on critical thinking. This is a pretty good one. The author is a long-time newspaper writer who uses examples from across the political spectrum and begins with a personal introduction recounting how his foray into critical thinking and research turned his southern Confederate trope world upside down. He is far more patient than I have been recently about leading people through how pseudo science/law/history arguments make themselves seem legitimate and showing the life cycle of internet rumors and mutations, as well as spelling out the very real consequences of perpetuating these (bad health care, financial losses, bad policy decisions, looking like a fringe crazie) and providing a framework for examining new horseshit as it drops from the source--who benefits from this? on what evidence is it based? where was this presented? These are all sadly neglected questions that could save everybody a lot of grief.
Loren "the Moron" Collins is a liberal fascist. It is one thing to debunk someone's cockamamie theory about Holocaust revisionism, moon landing etc. but it is another to try to get someone locked up for saying Obama's father was a Black CPUSA member and mother was a whore. I mean half the kids at my High School in Brooklyn would be locked up for saying "Your mother's a whore." This is what Collins tried to do to Joel Gilbert. He filed a complaint with the FEC attempting to force Gilbert to divulge his source of funds for mailing out his DVD for free to people in swing states. Joel can mail out anything he wants and if you feel you are libeled you can sue him in Federal Court. But this dude tried to rally the liberal Dems and Obama supporters on the FEC to ask the FBI to investigate him for essentially writing a book. Going after Holocaust deniers is one thing but Joel did the research for The Lone Wolf, a book about Zev Jabotinsky, who told the Jews in Europe to split because they were going to be mass murdered.
This is a book that every conspiracy theorist should read, though they'd probably say that the production of the book was just part of the conspiracy. Collins takes apart Young Earth creationists, Birthers, Truthers, Holocaust deniers and the like by showing the methods they use to get around their lack of evidence. There's nothing really groundbreaking here, but it's nice to have it all in one place, laid out clearly. Not previously being familiar with pseudo law, I was especially interested in the penultimate chapter.
Not a bad book, although it seems repetitive at times and occasionally lacks detail. Much of its contents will be familiar to most people who pay attention to things. The book will not be popular amount young Earth creationists, 9/11 truthers, Birthers, moon landing hoaxers and anti-vaxers.