Trust Me, I’m Lying

9781591845539HTrust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
by Ryan Holiday
ISBN 978-1-59184-553-9
Portfolio / Penguin, 2012

If you consume social media, you should read this book. Even if you consume only mainstream media, you should read this book. The two are inextricably intertwined—and frankly, it’s a little scary.

Ryan Holiday exposes the problems that arise when people without journalistic training or ethics use journalistic tools. He asks the legitimate question: When did it become our job to do the fact checking? Isn’t that their job? He lays bare the “publish first, investigate later” practice of blogging that shapes today’s news.

Trust Me, I’m Lying is a book in two parts.

First, Holiday describes the many-armed blogging system, or what he calls “the monster.” He gives a mea culpa version of his own dubious past in media manipulation. Emails from fake names, leaked documents, planted comments, fake scandals—he lays it out in eye-widening detail. He describes how blogging works, the economics of it, and how easily manipulated it is, because of how it works and the economics of it. Bloggers “lie, distort and attack” to get the most clicks and page-views, and more money. They “speculate, rush, exaggerate, distort and mislead” for page-views and clicks. They don’t confirm sources, so anyone can send them any rumour and they will pass it on unchecked, for page-views and clicks.

The second part of the book delves into the effect this is having on our society. Have you noticed a high level of “snark” on line? Yep. Snark generates page views and clicks, even as the cruel comments leave reputations and careers smouldering in the aftermath. Corrections, if they happen at all, are posted to generate—you guessed it—more page-views and clicks. Corrections only make things worse. They “pass along rumours as fact and rehash post from other blogs without checking them. It’s impossible to fight back against that. The Internet is the problem here, not the solution,” he writes.

Here’s some of his advice from “How to Read a Blog”:

  • “When you see ‘Sources tell us . . .’ know that these sources are not vetted, they are rarely corroborated, and they are desperate for attention.
  • “When you see ‘Updated’ on a story or article know that no one actually bothered to rework the story in light of the new facts—they just copied and pasted some shit at the bottom of the article.”
  • “When you see ‘We’re hearing reports’ know that reports could mean anything from random mentions on Twitter to message board posts, or worse.”

You get the idea.

We can’t take the internet out of the hands of bloggers; it’s too big and too wide for that. What we can do is change our awareness level and build up our cynicism muscles, so we don’t believe rumours so quickly, and we won’t add that one extra click or link to an unsubstantiated rumour.

We need to change our habits.




About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on February 27, 2013, in Book reviews, Books I borrowed, Non-fiction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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