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Publisher's Summary

People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues.

Today, everyone knows everything and all voices demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism. Tom Nichols shows this rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the Internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine.

Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.

Nichols notes that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy - or in the worst case, a combination of both.

©2017 Oxford University Press (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A sharp analysis of an increasingly pressing problem." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • aaron
  • los angeles, CA, United States
  • 06-19-17

Buy a Copy for your Congressman!!

This is probably one of the most important books to be written in the last decade. And yet, the people that SHOULD read it, NEVER WILL!!!

And such is the conundrum we are in as a society. The idiots that think that science and facts should be spelled "science" and "facts", complete with smug little air quotes and all, will NEVER, EVER read this book. And why would they? It would utterly destroy their precious little fantasy world, where their opinion on particle physics is just as good as the particle physicist, or, much more disturbingly, that their lone opinion on climate change is equally as accurate as a consensus of climate change scientists.

It disgusts me that this book even needed to be written, but thank the Greek Gods that it was!! This is a truly revolutionary read, and in a perfect society it would be mandatory reading for all politicians and children.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A defeatist sentimentality

I enjoyed the book immensely and it gave me pause to remember that humility is the virtue and pride is the sin. Even though this is non-fiction it has a very dystopian feel to it, much like the fictional works of Orwell, Huxley, Atwood and Sinclair. I would recommend it to both expert and layperson alike.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Any additional comments?

Seeing the other reviews, I realize I am in a very small minority in stating that overall, I was disappointed in this audio book. I had read some good (though brief) reviews, but the book seemed to meander and deviate from what its title indicated the subject would be. I thought too much time was spent discussing the failings of colleges and universities. The Introduction and Conclusion parts of the book were good, as was the chapter on “The ‘New’ New Journalism.” I did like the author’s writing, and his use of words and conveying his thoughts were well done. However, the substance of what he said was often unimpressive, and I was somewhat put off by the author’s occasional flashes of a fondness for elitism (though he was referring to “good elitism” rather than the “bad elitism” as is typically viewed for an egalitarian society).

If the audio book had been condensed to 90 minutes from its over 8-hour length, hitting the high points, it would have been a worthwhile listen for me, since the author did have some good observations. What helped me finish the audio book was the superb reading by Sean Pratt. He was one of the best narrators to whom I have listened.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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There couldn't be a better book at this time.

I learned of Tom Nichols when I first started using Twitter last year. He was funny, sharply critical of foolishness, and to my surprise, an avowed conservative. What struck me most about his tweets, and profoundly moved me in his book, is his well-reasoned insistence that we the people, who have so much to lose by living a life of indifference or studied ignorance, have access to resources that can address and often solve our greatest problems. We need only listen, carefully but critically, to those with expertise. He does not espouse blind allegiance to a greater education or heap disdain on those whose expertise is born of painful errors or years of tedious, mindane work. It is well-balanced book that simply requests that we be responsible for our own lives, and respect the skills and experience of those whose specialized knowledge can help us as individuals and as a society.

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Preaching to the choir but I ate it up.

Well written and well performed. It tells the story that needed to be chronicled. The only question is how to get the people that -really- need to hear this message to bith hear it -and- accept it.

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An extremely important book for our time

This book is more important than ever! It covers how expertise is dying at the hands of too much information and the laziness of the average American to get the real facts. The author covers the domains of higher education, journalism, politics, and our democracy as a whole and discusses how people's need for quick snippets rather than delving deeper is costing us a great deal. A scary tome for our future, but understanding the problem is the first step to fixing it. READ THIS BOOK!!

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If you care about the direction of America.

We are at a crossroads and the electorate needs to be more informed. Opinion does not trump (no pun) expertise. Listen to this well researched and entertaining book.

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Fantastic !

An all to clear look at where we were and where we can wind up. The discussion of the world and people we must all deal with everyday!

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A humbling slap in the face

This is a much needed critique of the relationship between experts and laypeople. It covers some important topics such as confirmation bias, the devolution of higher education, and the deterioration of institutional trust as a result of lack of critical thinking.

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A Good diagnosis - short on remedies

A decent enough book. A lot of preaching to the choir and a bit more "snarky" that it has to be and really offers no solutions. He makes some very good points with great arguments but could be about 1/3 the length.