A Reading List for the Narrowminded

Tue, 2008-04-08 08:43Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

A Reading List for the Narrowminded

Amazon has apparently sent my copy of The Deniers, Lawrence Solomon's book version of his tiresome Denier series in the National Post, a review of which will follow when it arrives.

But Amazon also followed up with a list of books they think might also interest me: a handsome reading list for anyone who is determined to remain delusional about global warming.

Tops on the list is Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, a Heartland Institute favorite by the not-very-credible Fred Singer. Next up is Bjorn Lomborg's Cool It, a disingenuous argument that the money we are NOT spending to defend against climate change would be better spent helping poor people in Africa.

Amazon offers Economic Facts and Fallacies, which the right-wingy Human Events praises for revealing a set of “economic facts” that are “all too often ignored by lazy politicians and a relentlessly Leftist media.” (For example, it's really no problem at all that women make less money than men and are poorly represented in management.) There is also Taken by Storm , Ross Mckitrick and Chris Essex's argument that climate change is just too darn complicated so we should ignore it at our leisure. And finally, there is Gusher of Lies, a book by Energy Tribune editor Robert Bryce, who tells us that energy dependence is a good thing, really.

All of you Amazon shoppers have probably seen lists of books like this before: they are computer-generated advertising efforts reporting that people who bought The Deniers had also bought these other books. It is, on one hand, an apolitical marketing effort that could actually be quite helpful for people who are trying to identify other books (or CDs) that they might enjoy.

On the other hand, the mechanism tends to herd people into like-minded groups, steering them to sources that reinforce their biases and preconceptions. Where a regular bookstore might send you to the “climate change” section, or even the “general science” section, Amazon leads you by the hand directly to the “climate change denial and weird right-wing political theory” section. As a result, people who count themselves extremely well-read on climate related issues (who have, say, read three of four books on the topic in the last year) can avoid reading a single word that challenges everything they wanted to believe when they set out.

It's creepy - insulating and sort of anti-democratic.

The interesting sidenote here was the music recommendations that accompanied Amazon's book pitches. Apparently, die-hard climate change deniers listen to Radiohead and, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss . Who knew?

Previous Comments

It’s not just an Amazon thing; the isolation is really an internet/technology thing. You go to one website follow a link and then another and you can interact with an entire community without coming upon anyone with sincerely different ideas. You can go sit on the bus and people are texting the friends they see every day rather than exchanging even pleasantries with strangers. Didn’t you just write about this regarding train trips? But here’s an example going the other direction:

Parkland Institute Upcoming Events:
Speakers’ Series: Beyond Fossil Fuels Planning for Our Future
Thursdays, 7:00 – 8:30 pm April 17, April 24 and May 1
ETLC 1-013, Maier Learning Centre, University of Alberta
Admission by donation

April 17 David Hughes Geological Survey of Canada
The Energy Sustainability Dilemma: Powering the Future in a Finite World

April 24 Dr. Donald Spady MD
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta
Preparing the Health Care System for an Age of Scarce and Expensive Oil

What mix of people will be there, and do they visit Climate Audit or read Michael Crichton? Not that they’re missing much….

Amazon (and other retailers) make recommendations based solely on what will generate sales. What would you have them do instead?

Recommending similar books is anti-democratic?

Say what?

Richard. you might want to read it before you trash it.
You are showing your religeous leanings here.
Just keep reminding yourself that true science is always skeptical.
Anything else is religeon.

Little-more has been complaining bitterly about this book since he first ordered it – and he hasn’t even received it yet.

Amazon.com are zionist neocon Bu$Hitler fascists!

Paul,

Reasonable point. I was unclear in my own mind about the situation when I wrote that, and I am struggling still.

It is, of course, sensible from a market perspective for a retailer to recommend similar books. And in a democracy, it is appropriate - critical even - that people be allowed to make whatever recommendations they choose without interference.

But this is still a creepy phenomenon - an automated mechanism designed to narrow people’s views, to remove from them the opportunity to broaden their perspective.

Democracy does not thrive in places where people are poorly educated. The whole notion of democracy rests on a foundation of tolerance and plurality. What’s happening, in media generally and now in books (the last bastiion of pluralistic discussion) is that we are self-selecting into groups that no longer communicate with one another. When one of those groups gets big enough, the democratic protections available to the other groups could disappear pretty quickly (a lesson that we should have learned from the post 9/11 crackdown in the U.S.).

And if the dominant group happens to be the one that dismisses real science as a left-wing plot, we’re all in very deep trouble.

Democracy does not thrive in places where people are poorly educated.

Sure it does. It thrives in India. Democracy is simply about “the people” controlling their own destiny. Over time, uneducated people in a democracy tend to develop laws and institutions that lift their level of knowledge.

The whole notion of democracy rests on a foundation of tolerance and plurality.

Democracy is about majority rule. Tolerance and plurality are offshoots of democracy because of the effect of regular elections.

What’s happening, in media generally and now in books the last bastiion of pluralistic discussion) is that we are self-selecting into groups that no longer communicate with one another.

I don’t see that. I see people communicating with each other and continuing to disagree with each other, which is common (and normal) in a democracy.

When one of those groups gets big enough, the democratic protections available to the other groups could disappear pretty quickly (a lesson that we should have learned from the post 9/11 crackdown in the U.S.).

Big enough? That’s how a democracy functions. At its core, democracy = majority.

Not sure what “crackdown” post 9/11 you are referring to Richard. Do you know people who can’t express their opinion? Are not allowed to vote?

“Not sure what “crackdown” post 9/11 you are referring to Richard. Do you know people who can’t express their opinion? Are not allowed to vote?”

What?! You haven’t heard of the mass-arrests, the martial law state-of-emergency? Micheal Moore and Sean Penn being frog marched to internment camps? Widespread censorship against political dissent?

Then, clearly, you haven’t been paying attention to the prevailing left-wing mythology.

Little-more wrote:

“But this is still a creepy phenomenon - an automated mechanism designed to narrow people’s views, to remove from them the opportunity to broaden their perspective.”

EXHIBIT A: http://tinyurl.com/5jbatm

It gets worse! I went to the Amazon site and had a look. Today the list includes Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (it’s cover graced with a smiley face wearing a cute little Hitler moustache), and Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. There’s my Christmas shopping done.

All I can say is I am glad I am no longer in the book-selling business! I can’t imagine putting some of this stuff out on display – but I would, just as we made the decision to sell and display The Satanic Verses years ago. In response to the comments here, online shopping has its merits, but if I were still running a bookstore, I would have these books on a single table with other titles representing the full spread of the political spectrum, not in specialized groups with signs identifying “Fascist Alarmism”, “Revisionist History” or “Environmental Fantasy and Misinformation”. Fern Mackenzie

Yes, when I want to learn about something I may look up a specific book in a library, but then I will browse the area around it, to see what else might be relevant. And as you say, in a library or a physical bookstore, the books are grouped by subject, not by whether they agree with each other.

Off Topic - But Interesting
The BBC is now officially a propoganda advocate of AGW:
Nothing reported there can be trusted any longer. http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/04/bbc_folds_then_folds_again.html

Interestingly, yesterday you linked to BBC in discussion with me in order to bolster support for your repetition of a skeptic talking point. To bring this back on topic, the fact that we have trolls reading here (well, sometimes reading) or at least linking to sites where ‘AGW-deniers’ were obviously exposed to ‘AGW-alarmist’ discussions – this does indicate some exchange of ideas across ideological boundaries. The exchanges were probably unconstructive, but at least there were exchanges. Perhaps, from a democratic standpoint, that recommends hope?

I agree on both counts.
While I feel strongly about my view of the subject I respect that you feel just as strongly the oposite way.
Without at least some airing of oposites, it would be a pretty boring blog.
Just a group of ministers preaching to the choir.
Sort of like Real Climate where decenters are censored to create the appearence of concensus.
Have a Day Steve.

Maybe you have a different Real Climate site bookmarked, different from the one which typically generates 150 or more scientific responses per blog item. Please check your bookmark – it should be: http://www.realclimate.org

BTW, thanks for reminding us to check out the real RC site. On April 3 they posted an item “Blogs and peer-review” which has generated 115 replies in a useful discussion: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/04/blogs-and-peer-review/

A good read:
http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/legislative_issues/federal_issues/hot_issues_in_congress/energy/Inconvenient-Announcement.htm

Excerpt:
Conditions in the EU have deteriorated so badly that the European Roundtable of Industrialists has written the EU to warn that the EU’s Kyoto mandates are eroding businesses’ ability to compete in the world economy.

What you call a good read is probably not worth visiting.

VJ:
You most certainly would not enjoy reading that article. It does not support your religwous belief system at all and would just make you angry.
Best you stick with propoganda from Pseudo Climate.org. They will always print exactly what you want to hear. Truth be darned.

But it’s still crappy. The comparisons are wrong (1% increase for entire EU or what countries in it? … membership changes, and this ‘analysis’ has ignored that) – they compare EU economic growth to US but EU emissions growth to zero. How much have US emissions increased? Huh, US economic growth based on … poor fundamentals and now headed for a tumble(?); let’s see how EU does with these fuel prices compared to US. Kyoto runs from 2008-2012 – when should the comparison be made, anyway?
Next they talk about businesses moving to foreign lands – no quantitation of something that’s been occurring everywhere; can they really attribute this to Kyoto? The linked article fails to do so. The AGW deniers are eager to tell us that warming global temperatures can’t be attributed to increases in greenhouse gases, but they are unwilling to apply even a tiny amount of skepticism to unfounded claims regarding the economy.
The linked article ignores other cap-&-trade successes and ignores that there are other approaches (carbon tax). I’ll have to look at the European Roundtable Industrialist (whatever that is, is Monckton part of it?) report the article discusses (but doesn’t link). I don’t trust an ideologically-based American think tank to comment objectively on European economics. Do you?

yes

however, don’t you think that believing think tank articles (with no quantitative support for claims made) just because the think tank shares your ideology and tells you what you want to hear is “religeon” on your part?

No, despite Marc Sheppard’s bigotted explanation at the rightwing website, I would say the BBC simply corrected some misapprehensions. It’s longterm trends that matter.

“And as you say, in a library or a physical bookstore, the books are grouped by subject, not by whether they agree with each other.”

This will come as a shock to you, but Amazon.com is not a library.

It’s called a “contrast”.

Wow, the dumbnitude is just heart-wringing. Rob had nothing intelligent to write, but he just couldn’t keep his nasty little fingers quiet.

ROB:
This is just for you.
Please don’t let anyone else read it.

http://www.nbr.co.nz/home/column_article.asp?id=21153&cid=39&cname=NBR

I promise not to tell a soul!

It is very clear that popularity and use of online shopping sites is increased and thus  many business developers entering in this field with different category which helps to buy whatever we want.I think this information also helps and guides many individuals.

online bookstore