Russel Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum come to the blog with a book that explains the current assaults on the democratic principles and the foundations of democracy, narrated by Katherine Fenton in
A Lot of People Are Saying
I honestly didn’t go into this one expecting the many lessons and references to political and sociological theories and thoughts that are within, but those do help, in some ways to explain the (at least to me) comfort level with half-formed ideas, not always based in truth that are running about out there. From Trump’s “It’s a Democratic Hoax” to explain everything from the impeachment (for cause) to the Covid-19 response (inadequate) to the many who still claim the earth is flat, or the moon landing was staged on a set in Hollywood – the theories, and the fact that people who spout them are more intrinsically invested in the idea – true or not to completely flummox those of us who consider ourselves to be rational, thinking, investigating and curious people. Perhaps even, at first, I was hoping for that “magic bullet” to take inane comments and beliefs and turn the spouts of misinformation into a thinking being.
And, to no one’s surprise – there is no magic bullet. There also isn’t a standard conspiracy theorist, as I had commonly believed. In some ways, adherence to a belief in a conspiracy and using the ‘lacks’ that one would need: lack of solid proof, refusal of scientific facts, over-reliance on religion, reliance on social media for ALL news: these all are, in different situations, perhaps preferable to the more malleable or intellectual approach – where evidence helps to form a belief or thought, and this can be altered and adjusted to allow for new evidence. Yet – the initial conclusion here from the authors is one that states that the chaos of the internet (and it is chaos out there) combined with the “first heard version is the hardest to discount” nature of humans – and we have an administration that is thriving on the half-formed, exaggerated or even wholly invented ‘facts and events’, to create the struggles that we see between parties, in the political discourse, and the frustration that many find in the lack of desire to FIND the truth, let alone speak it.
Where this strikes hardest is the reliance that the attackers have to their methods – as distasteful, untrue and even over-stated as they are, and that discourse turning on and degrading the institutions that have been in place since envisioned by the founding fathers – and the ultimate damage that all are doing to both the nation and what we have all grown up believing was an America that was a ‘melting pot’ and welcomed all to the shores – where the dream was available to all – not just the 1%. There are theories and explanations, references to old style “conspiracy theories” and this newer, and I believe more dangerous, new conspiricism of thought as advanced by Trump et al. It took me off into multiple directions to read cited references that I was unfamiliar with, look at different approaches throughout the years, and even taking into account my own bias when I have to ‘grit’ my teeth to deal with the GOP spoutings that even, from the first sentence, I want to pull out the lies – leaving little behind but the play on emotions and the need (we all have it) to feel a part of something. It was an experience that while a lengthy one, left me better for it. Narrated by Katherine Fenton, the text wasn’t a ‘story’ and did often feel like a university lecture – but a lecture that has so many facets that you can’t help but pay attention and take notes. Her voice is clear, consistent and doesn’t ‘drone on’ but allows for the listener to scroll back, research, re-listen and resume with ease.
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 5
Title: A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy
Author: Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead
Genre: Contemporary Elements, Historic Elements, Non Fiction, Political commentary, Political Elements, Sociological Relevancy
Narrator: Katherine Fenton
Published by: Princeton University Press
Published on: 4 February, 2020
Source: Princeton University Press
Audio Length: 6 Hours: 49 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
How the new conspiracists are undermining democracy--and what can be done about it
Conspiracy theories are as old as politics. But conspiracists today have introduced something new--conspiracy without theory. And the new conspiracism has moved from the fringes to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. In A Lot of People Are Saying, Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum show how the new conspiracism differs from classic conspiracy theory, why so few officials speak truth to conspiracy, and what needs to be done to resist it.
Classic conspiracy theory insists that things are not what they seem and gathers evidence--especially facts ominously withheld by official sources--to tease out secret machinations. The new conspiracism is different. There is no demand for evidence, no dots revealed to form a pattern, no close examination of shadowy plotters. Dispensing with the burden of explanation, the new conspiracism imposes its own reality through repetition (exemplified by the Trump catchphrase "a lot of people are saying") and bare assertion ("rigged!").
The new conspiracism targets democratic foundations--political parties and knowledge-producing institutions. It makes it more difficult to argue, persuade, negotiate, compromise, and even to disagree. Ultimately, it delegitimates democracy.
Filled with vivid examples, A Lot of People Are Saying diagnoses a defining and disorienting feature of today's politics and offers a guide to responding to the threat.
A copy of this title was provided via Princeton University Press for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.