America has many good novelists both in present day and in our history. We also have many great social commentators and and non-fiction writers. It is a rare privileged to read a work in which both styles are mixed so excellently that it is impossible to tell which you are reading. Truth is that State of Fear is a brilliantly written novel which from a fiction stand point goes above and beyond the realm of normalcy and stretches out as a truly great and intriguing read. Full of action and exciting the reader is kept on seats edge with each new chapter and event. Throughout the piece the author weaves an intricate tale with just the right amount of suspense and intrigue. While it doesn't read like a normal social commentary or other non-fiction it is clear to me that this novel is able to address the current social condition in America better than any other source I have read.
State of Fear peers into the world of disinformation. The author eludes to our current society, an information society, where there is so much information that no one can possibly decipher all of the information on a single narrow topic in many instances let alone broad or complex issues. The author further shows the difficulty in determining the truth when there is conflicting data or opinion on the topic, especially science. Throughout the course of the story we see the impact of disinformation on the psyche of the characters and the difficulty people have overcoming their long held beliefs and assumptions even when presented with overwhelming evidence. The author understands an individuals natural aversion to information which is contrary to the existing knowledge and understanding of an individual. The author further paints a brilliant picture delineating the intricacies of modern information driven culture. He shows that in modern culture of excess information it is the interpretor and distributor of data rather the the facts or those who discover those facts that drive public opinion. We see the impact of message control and media control. The author, through his riveting tale gives an almost subconscious commentary on, most overtly the environmentalist movement, but really most movements especially those involving sciences. The author through his story shows us that the adages is true, never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton. It is evident in this tale that man is gullible and is susceptible to believing falsehoods if those falsehoods are repeated often enough and reinforced in the proper ways. Clearly it is not scientists who control the study or the discussion in this tale, much like the real world scene. Obviously it is those who control the discussion. It is the repetition and the emphasis that drives public opinion. I think it was Thomas Paine suggested that it is more important to your position, when it comes to public opinion, that it be repeated often then for it to be accurate. Sadly in todays society I believe that this is right on point. It is easier to perpetrate a popular lie than the truth.
We see the unveiling of the global warming debate in this book in a manner that is non-confrontational and enjoyable to read. The book is not designed to refute issues such as global warming outright but more to be Socratic in nature. The author here does point out a very many points which in particular refute global warming but his point is not to refute global warming outright but to show the lack of knowledge mixed with the firmness of belief. Many in America today have begun to look poorly towards religion in favor of empiricism and science. These individuals put high value on science and proof and have a very low regard for those of us weak minded enough to need faith. What this author alludes to however is that society has replaced one kind of faith with another. There has been no loss in faith in this society the faith has simply been shifted from the clergy to the PhD and the new reporter. It is clear in this piece that it is timely repartition and emphasis that drives our perceptions and our perceptions of the world in general and mankind in particular drive or critiques of what we hear. The author correctly shows us throughout this story line that if we expect and have been taught that mankind is destroying the environment we are very uncritical of new accusations regarding the matter. When man was blamed with the warming of the globe people automatically believed it because the predisposition of most individuals is to assume that man is destroying the environment. Sadly this may be true in certain circumstances but for the most part it is not. The author shows, to my pleasure, that is as often a detriment to nature for man to try to protect it as it is to be reckless. Much like in economics theory I believe it was Smith who said that it is easy to do good for society on accident but difficult to truly aid society on purpose. It is the aggregation of individual interest that eventually boils down to a moment in the direction of social good and not a disposition or attempt at such which most efficiently brings it. The author shows us that the environment is very similar. It is easier to be moderately responsible and yet that moderation without any attempt to “protect” that is often best for all and most efficient to boot.
The book addresses some social woes that trouble me greatly as of late. American culture is becoming more and more about sound bites and promises; headlines and pictures. We are losing our ability to critically evaluate data and differentiate between honest fact and biased or filtered disinformation. The author like Socrates seems to be pointing out to us our weaknesses. Socrates argued that true learning comes from the disorientation achieved through realizing that you do not know what you thought you knew. The author is attempting to show people the way to question their long held prejudices and truly take into account the facts before them on the issues they have strong beliefs about. This book is timely given the credit crisis of late. In this crisis different sources are arguing completely different causes and solution which cannot possibly be compatible. The simply fact is someone is lying. The people do not seem to see it that way however. To many it is a simple matter of predisposition mixed with repetition. In truth it is blind faith. Those who are predisposed to democrat sympathies believe the democrats when they blame the republicans and claim that deregulation caused the problem and republicans tend to believe that something else caused this problem. Everyone seems to agree that greedy people on wall street caused the problem and yet the facts show that nothing could be farther from the truth. Fact is Wall Street was not being greedy but simply doing what Wall Street has always done and should always do. It was reacting to signals! Wall Street greed did not cause this problem, bad government regulation and interference with markets caused this problem but because of repetition and predispositions the people believe this falsehood without question or pause. The lessons hidden within the fabric of this cleverly woven yarn are applicable to every aspect of life in this nation. Every American and for that matter every human being needs the lessons hidden within these pages. What do we truly know? That is the right question though it is seldom asked.
The author speaks specifically to global warming. He shows that most people believe things that simply are contrary to facts because they hear them alluded to often through bad unscientific anecdotes. He further shows the propensity of individuals who are sold on this due to message control and predispositions to fight any real facts that conflict with their world view. He is able to address in this book the crisis of knowledge that our society is facing and dangers arising in this knew age. Through clever marketing and with the proper resources it is possible to convince people of anything especially if it aligns with other messages which have been propagated before. The author is clear that we should be concerned with the environment. Very few people disagree that pollution is bad but this is not the real debate. The question is this: What is pollution? Put simply What do we know about the impacts of human behavior on the environment? State of Fear spells out to us that we know very little. The wake up call rings loud from the author that the true concern of the American people and the people of other nations should not be how to fix what we have broken but how can we determine if we broke it in the first place and if we did what can we do about and what are the alternatives. The author delineates that for us the steps we should take. We must evaluate our assumptions. We must check the facts and premises. We must not accept opinion of others without close scrutiny of the basis for that opinion. We must realize our limits. We must not be proud assuming that we are more knowledgeable and powerful than we truly are but instead accept the limitations of both our abilities and our knowledge and then deal with what we have.
I strongly suggest that anyone who truly likes to think to read this book carefully. Those who like a good story will also not be disappointed. If you are not looking for social commentary you will see very little but I urge you to open your eyes and dissect the true impact of the state of social structure that is outlined in this book. Please consider the broad implications of such human tendencies and structural flaws in our system. It is both alarming and eye opening. All in all it is a wonderful book that I will have to read again.