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The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on…

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time

by Brooke Gladstone

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Saw this slender little book on the featured table at the store and just couldn't resist it. Especially as it name-checked Philip K. Dick on the flap. Gladstone is clearly my kind of people. Which is confirmed over and over again as she quotes Le Guin, and then George Lakoff. So, basically I'm pretty much exactly her core audience.

Which is a good thing, because this little tract gives little space to identify a problem, its causes, and a possible solution. Those not already on board may find these arguments unconvincing. But for me, each page was assimilated directly into my brain, no resistance.

While I would have loved more concrete suggestions in the end, those given were entirely in keeping with the more philosophical tone of this tract. Very happy to have picked it up. ( )
  greeniezona | Jun 24, 2018 |
The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time is a short little book about where we are one year after Trump’s election and how we got here. Brooke Gladstone is a host on the radio program On the Media, and she looks at the elephant that is Trump’s election through her frame of reference, the media and how it helped elect Trump and what needs to be done to save the republic.

The critical issue she identifies is that we are all defining our own reality nowadays. Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Well, that was nice while it lasted, but in the era of FOX News, AM Radio, and Donald Trump, the idea of objective, measurable facts and reality have gone out the window into hellish postmodernism where reality is what Trump tweets–even if he changes reality twice a day.

Gladstone argues that Trump is a deliberate demagogue and she cites Arendt and many other students of authoritarianism to bolster her argument. She does not even mention the telling detail from his ex-wife that Trump kept Hitler’s “My New Order” on his bedside table the way many people keep their Bible. Accidental authoritarian, my Aunt Fanny!

The Trouble with Reality is a short, easy book with a useful reminder that it was not just Russian meddling that put Trump in the White House. People knowingly voted for an openly corrupt racist who lied to them constantly They knew he lied and liked it. Everything that should be disqualifying was a bonus because enough people just wanted to wreck everything. It’s not that Gladstone dismisses Russian hacking as immaterial, but she does not want it to distract from the homegrown threat of white nationalists and from the war on reality.

The Trouble with Reality at Workman Publishing
Brooke Gladstone on Twitter

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/12/19/9781523502387/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Dec 19, 2017 |
3.5 A few weeks back I read [book:Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History|35171984], which traced our history of gullibility far into the past. I receive The Strand non fiction book box, and this was one of the books in that box. Proved to be a complimentary read to Fantasyland, coming from a slightly different direction. Why do so many of us have trouble with reality?

A small book, with slot of big thoughts, and some relatable information. Explains how we are reluctant to let anything nor anyone interfere with our opinions or thoughts, when we are positive we are right. Explains how lies told by politicians, and he who shall remain unnamed, become our new reality. Who can we believe? Is it fake news or fact? I know I'm not the only one who wonders why this person is still allowed to tweet, when his tweets are often devastating and often cause a huge backlash. It appears his tweets may serve another diversion, this too is gone over in this book. As I said, much information is gone over in this little book. There is much more, but you should try to read this, it does provide much food for thought. ( )
  Beamis12 | Sep 28, 2017 |
It will be easy for Trumpists and conservatives to ignore Brooke Gladstone’s new book. Not only is she a member of the mainstream media, she's spent the last 30 years working for two bastions of biased liberal media, WNYC and NPR. They’ll justify their dismissal of the book with fleeting perusals, its reviews or perhaps the subtitle. And even if they took the time to read it, they'll dislike it because it invokes writers such as Hannah Arendt and discussions of demagogues, totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Yet such a lapse is indicative of what she believes is happening today.

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time is a succinct consideration of an era in which reality is the core of an “epic existential battle.” In assessing why this battle exists, Gladstone doesn’t lay blame entirely at the feet of Trump and his supporters (although they are assigned plenty). She builds her analysis using diverse sources, including Arendt, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, journalist Walter Lippmann, Thomas Jefferson, Philip K. Dick, Oliver Swift and 17th century poet John Milton. She believes human nature helped create our confused reality.

We mistakenly believe facts are reality, she says. Even when two people are presented with the same facts, though, they filter, arrange, prioritize and view them through their own values and traditions. Ultimately, reality “is not necessarily the world we would like it to be, … it is simply the kind of world we expect it to be.” Yet another part of the problem is that just as we sift facts, other elements of our political system affect what we sift.

As part of career spent covering the media, Gladstone has spent nearly 20 years co-hosting On The Media for years, a weekly radio program billed as examining how the "shapes our world view." In the last election, the media fell victim to what she calls Trump's "canny use of the demagogue's playbook." Using a number of Trump's campaign statements and an analyzing his use of Twitter to "embed his realities," The Trouble with Reality suggests the media's approach to an unprecedented campaign style made things worse. Gladstone argues that the Trump campaign's methods left the media "darting this way and that after shiny objects, too frantic to cull the crucial from the trivial, never pausing for the big picture that, in any case, they would not have recognized."

Yet The Trouble with Reality may reinforce the growing lack of trust in the mainstream media. Gladstone correctly notes, for example, that "reporters should have laughed less and reported more" during the campaign. Perhaps more concerning is the suggestion that Trump's hostility toward the press has created an animus that will create a new golden age of journalism. Trump's election, Gladstone says, has "blocked the appearance of objectivity at all costs" and turned Washington reporters into war reporters. Yet one of Trump's core arguments against the press is that it lacks objectivity. (Actually canceling press briefings would be a miscalculation as it would not only heighten the animus, but give “war reporters” more time to work on their marksmanship.) Perhaps it is just her phrasing that causes concern. It's crucial the media change its conspicuous tendency to accept statements at face value and fail to fact check. Yet any hint that the press is discarding objectivity has significant ramifications for media credibility.

Of course, Gladstone also sees Trump as a significant source of "our reality trouble." She seeks to explain what allowed Trump to so resonate with voters during the campaign. At the same time, the book regularly quotes and applies guidelines used to assess totalitarianism and demagoguery, suggesting Trump is both. As for what helps create reality for Trump supporters, she says he struck a "classic authoritarian deal" with them.

You can bask in my favor and recognition, in the promises I make and the license I bestow, and all I ask in return is that you believe whatever I say, whenever I say it. Even if it is false.

This certainly evinces a basis for people accepting the "fake news" and "alternative facts" motifs apparent since Trump's inauguration. It also helps explain why she suggests that the path toward repairing reality isn't agreeing on what it is.

Given that we each view identical facts from different perspectives, it is difficult, if not impossible, to agree on the truth, on reality. While Gladstone suggests that activism is a route for those so inclined, she believes gathering more facts from people and places with which we are unfamiliar is important. Even if those facts don't change our minds, it may allow us to comprehend how or what another person accepts as reality. Whether she's right or not, the suggestion is certainly better than viciously berating and maligning each other, whether publicly or online.

(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)
  PrairieProgressive | Jul 16, 2017 |
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"Reality. It used to seem so simple -- reality just was, like the weather. Why question it, let alone disagree about it? And then came the assault, and unending stream of 'fake news,' 'alternative facts,' and lies disguised as truths, all of it overwhelming our notions of reality. Now we can't even agree on what a fact is, let alone what is real. How on earth did we get here? Here's how." --… (more)

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