Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman (Doubleday)

Here is a very intriguing look at how and why we—ordinary, intelligent people—are sometimes compelled to act in extraordinarily foolish ways. How could a respected and accomplished pilot choose to ignore all of his training and wind up killing himself and everyone on board his plane? How could a student let himself get talked into … Continue reading Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman (Doubleday)

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Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century, Lee C. Bollinger (Oxford University Press)

It should come as no surprise that the Internet has radically altered the way journalism is practiced. It has also raised some fundamental questions about the future of traditional news media and about the First Amendment itself. The amendment provides, as we all know, for a free and unencumbered press, but does the Internet fall … Continue reading Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century, Lee C. Bollinger (Oxford University Press)

Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People, Charlie Campbell (Overlook)

Bible translator William Tyndale first used the word scapegoat to describe a Jewish ritual of atonement, but the phenomenon goes back a lot further than the sixteenth century. In this slim but idea-packed book, the author looks at scapegoats through history (and, by extension, the history of scapegoating). Alfred Dreyfus, the French artillery officer famously convicted of … Continue reading Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People, Charlie Campbell (Overlook)

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Futures, Mark Bauerlein (Tarcher)

It’s an irony so commonplace it’s become almost trite: despite the “information superhighway,” despite a world of knowledge at their fingertips, the younger generation today is less informed, less literate, and more self-absorbed than any that has preceded it. But why? According to the author, an English professor at Emory University, there are plenty of … Continue reading The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Futures, Mark Bauerlein (Tarcher)

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, David Aaronovitch

  Like Michael Shermer in Why People Believe Weird Things (1997), or Damian Thompson in Counterknowledge (2008), Aaronovitch tackles the intriguing question of why people accept as factual things that are patently (and provably) untrue. Most of the popular conspiracy theories are here: 9/11 as an inside job; the faked moon landings; the secret Zionist world empire; the Priory … Continue reading Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, David Aaronovitch

Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, Michael Kimmel (Nation)

Kimmel believes it comes down to aggrieved entitlement: the school shootings perpetrated by middle-class white male students, the men’s-rights movement, white supremacists, the fathers’-rights groups, etc. There is, he elaborates, a strong (and getting dangerously stronger) feeling, among some white male Americans, that they are losing their place in society. The era of entitlement, when … Continue reading Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, Michael Kimmel (Nation)