Book Review: The Encyclopedia Of Misinformation

The Encyclopedia Of Misinformation:  A Compendium Of Imitations, Spoofs, Delusions, Simulations, Counterfeits, Imposters, Illusions, Confabulations, Skulduggery, Frauds, Pseudoscience, Propaganda, Hoaxes, Flimflam, Pranks, Hornswoggle, Conspiracies & Miscellaneous Fakery, by Rex Sorgatz

On the one hand, I am perhaps the ideal reader for this book.  The author certainly has known his smark here, in talking about those who rejoice in the redneck theater of fake wresting [1] or talking about those who hatewatch (or hateread) things knowing they will dislike them just for the point of blasting them.  Yet even if I am someone whose writing has touched on many of the subjects dealt with by the author [2], I did not find this book to be as enjoying as I would have hoped.  A large part of my dissatisfaction with the book comes with the fact that the author is highly selective about the sort of flimflam and fakery he wants to criticize, and the author assumes that the reader of this book is going to be some sort of atheist hipster who looks down on Republicans, as he has very little nice to say about Sarah Palin or Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump.  Considering my own worldview commitments, the author comes off as someone who wants to believe that he is a rational soul but who believes in an awful lot of fakery himself of a left-wing variety.

That isn’t to say that the author doesn’t deliver at least some of the goods he promises in his long subtitle.  This book is an alphabetically organized compendium of a great deal of exaggerations and lies and manipulations and mistaken beliefs that are common in a wide variety of fields.  The author shows himself to have an acerbic sense of humor and even as the author is flattering the reader, there is an underlying sense that human beings are subject to deception because in many ways we want to be deceived.  We want to believe that we know what others do not, and are inclined to misinform others and accept misinformation of others given our own self-interest.  One gets the sense that the author understands himself to be as subject to this universal human tendency as everyone else, but that he appreciates trolling his audience even when it is not obvious that the audience is going to appreciate being trolled by him.  I must admit that I did not enjoy the author’s ideologically biased trolling, even if it was fun to see him tweak the New York Times a couple of times for their inability to own up to/retract some of their more dubious statements.

Even so, if you are willing to overlook the author’s partisan hackery there is a lot of insight that can be gained here.  For one, fakery has been around for a long time, and the author’s grudging respect for P.T. Barnum and the way he leaned into disputes and doubt about the validity of some of his claims signifies that he is aware both of the long pedigree of various manipulations and misunderstandings, including things like Roman vomitoriums, and the fact that the future is likely to be rich with newspeak and truthiness and extreme doubts on the part of people that evidence is valid.  Indeed, the corrosive skepticism of the author suggests that it is a difficult matter to overcome skepticism in a world where everyone’s views can be backed up by some sort of research or argumentation and where honest conviction of others of their mistakes is not likely to be an easier matter than it was in the past.  There is a lot to laugh about in this book, but a lot that will make one think about oneself and others and about the barriers to understanding truth and acting on it.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/08/12/redneck-theater/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/15/the-presidents-of-the-confederate-states-of-america-an-alternate-history/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/12/06/book-review-there-are-no-space-aliens/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/05/19/book-review-terra-firma/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/07/12/book-review-the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-science/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/09/26/book-review-quest-for-justice-the-elementia-chronicles-1/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/14/in-mother-russia-you-dont-write-blogs-the-blogs-write-you/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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