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March Book Review: Lying by Sam Harris

As a young, impressionable grade school girl in Catholic school in sunny California in the 1970’s, I learned to lie. Yes, you read that correctly: I learned to lie.

Every week, I was required to attend confession, where I was to tell a priest what my sins were for the week. As a very shy youth, I hated confession because I did not like having to tell a stranger what I did wrong. One time, I could not think of a single sin to disclose, so I lied and told the priest I had lied to my mother when I actually had not. I believe I did this to avoid embarrassment (as silly as it was). Ridiculous it was, but confessing our sins was a weekly, unavoidable occurrence and I felt I had to say something, so I lied. This blog, however, is not about my adventures as a Catholic school girl. My point is that telling a lie, like Sam Harris succinctly explains in Lying, can sometime be arduous. I should have told the priest I could not think of a sin instead of lying to him, and we all might agree that lying is wrong, but is it wrong in all circumstances? Read Lying to find out!

Lying by Sam Harris is a short summary of the lies people tell and how they can and do negatively affect us on personal and societal level. Harris explains the two different types of lies: acts of commission and acts of omission, the differences between the two and how they affect us and the people we hurt with these lies. Sam discusses white lies, giving false impressions, false praise, keeping secrets, extreme lies, living a life of lies, when corporations or governments lie and more. In his short book, he also includes an interview with his former professor from Stanford University, Dr. Ronald A. Howard, in which he discusses very thought-provoking, difficult questions regarding the act of lying. Harris sees lying as a refusal to cooperate with others and finds the act very detrimental to the health of the individual and our society at large. I agree with him.

I found Sam Harris,’ Lying, very stimulating, and I recommend it to anyone who is a student of philosophy or ethics. A personal reflection or an introspective discussion with friends will ensue after this read!

A bit about the author, Sam Harris:

Sam Harris is an author, lecturer and neuroscientist with a degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in neuroscience. He is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. His other books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz). The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing and public lectures cover a wide range of topics including neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, meditation practice, human violence, and rationality. Harris’s work has been published in more than 20 languages and has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. Mr. Harris is also cofounder of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values.

To learn more about Sam Harris, or to purchase Lying, visit his website: SamHarris.org.

 

 


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October Book Review: Propaganda by Edward Bernays

Propaganda Considered a fascinating and controversial read, Propaganda by Edward Bernays-written in 1928 and revised in 1955-explains the role of public relations in government and business, or rather, explores how power is used by the ruling elite of our society to curb, control and manipulate public opinion. It is a summation of how the elite control how we think, how we act, what we buy, and what we do. I found Propaganda apropos to read in October of an election year.

The definition of propaganda, according to Edward Bernays, is “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” Not only is propaganda necessary for social order, but Bernays believed that it is also a vital and important element in democratic society, and without its use, the masses would be confused and lost.  Propaganda is used to sell an idea, a product or service, every day. Bernays, although insists that the use of propaganda is essential, does acknowledge that curbing its potentially destructive mass ramifications is impossible; essentially, he does not idealize his stance but rather understands that the use of propaganda is manipulative, covert and only serves the propagandist. Today, the word, “propaganda” has a very negative connotation, and the Oxford Dictionary definition is: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”  An example of this, of course, is the propaganda deliberately used by the mass media in this election year of 2016 with the goal of shaping public opinion in regards to the two major presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In addition to analyzing the role of propaganda in politics, Edward Bernays scrutinizes how it is used in education, social services, business, art, science, and what he terms “women’s studies.” He also briefly discusses the psychology of public relations. I found Bernays book a brief but thorough introduction of the subject of propaganda. Even though this book was originally published in 1928, it is still very pertinent today, almost one hundred years later. I recommend this reading to anyone who seeks to understand how the masses are covertly (and sometimes overtly) manipulated into thinking and acting on all levels. It is truly and eye-opener!

A bit about the author, Edward Bernays:Edward Bernays

Austrian-American intellectual Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion. During WWI, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda machine that sold the war to the American people as one that would “make the world safe for democracy.” The marketing strategies for all future wars would be based on this model. Bernays fashioned a career as a proponent of propaganda for political and corporate manipulation of the population. His career earned him the well-known title of “father of public relations.”

To learn more about Edward Bernays, visit Wikipedia.

To read a copy of Propaganda, visit Amazon or download a PDF version.

© 2016, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being