Title: Trust Me I am Lying: Confession of a Media Manipulator
Author: Ryan Holiday
Price: Rs. 499/-
Pages: xx + 378
This book is as fascinating as its name. If someone wants to understand the word ‘presstitute’, well this is the book. Instead of the word ‘presstitute’, the book uses the word ‘media manipulator’. Book has no dearth of cuss words. Maybe because it has been, published for the western audience. The book was first published in the USA in 2012, then in 2013 and 2017. Current edition is published in 2018. Some new additions have been done in subsequent editions.
The author Ryan Holiday is an author and media strategist and a self-confessed ‘media manipulator’ that is, someone who is paid to deceive. He says his ‘job is to lie to the media so they can lie to you’. His idea behind writing the book as per him was “I decided to administer a major shock to both the media system and the public with the same book. I wouldn’t just rip back the curtain – I wouldn’t let anyone look away from what they saw.” And he has succeeded in his objective.
In the book he describes in details how he fooled media, how he went as an expert in TV discussions on some of the best of TV channels without having any knowledge of the subject. Majority of the readers in India will not be able to connect with the names and the examples sighted in the book but will be able to understand the modus operandi. The author has been called names by the media industry for publishing this book which is natural and he deserves praise for still surviving in the industry.
Book describes in details with examples how a fake story is blown out of proportion. Those who are curious how a small event in India soon turns into an international event along with naming and shaming Hindus and India should read this book. To such events that come to mind immediately are tragic Kathua rape case and Justice Loya’s death. The author writes “Usually, it is a simple hustle. Someone pays me, I manufacture a story for them, and we trade it up the chain – from a tiny blog to a website of a local news network to Reddit to the Huffington Post to the major newspapers to cable news and back again, until the unreal becomes real.” Well, we all know it, it is just that here one of the perpetrators is confessing it.
The book covers why bloggers behave the way they behave and how they make fortune at the expense of others. At the same time also shares some interesting insights, like stories which can incite anger travels fast and politicians with certain ideologies use it to the hilt because anger makes one irrational. Other insights are, Wikipedia is an important tool in spreading false news, false news gets more page views and tactical headline admitting fake news gets much more page views. Page views in the online world are hard cash. In today’s world of online journalism, no one is interested in truth, the only criteria of success is breaking news. For today’s media and journalist, truth has no meaning.
Book demonstrates how in modern world humiliation is monetised (public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry) and explains, celebrities are paid to tweet offensive stuff and robots write a lot of news that we read. And of course there are writers who think they are writers, but in reality, they are media manipulators, a fact unknown to them.
Book will expose readers to many nomenclatures like link economy, thumbnail cheating, shitposting etc. While differentiating each media and its role Ryan Holiday admits that nowadays’ journalism kills. And sadly, everyone, every stakeholder in the news business, media house owners, journalists, investors, public relation firms, advertising agencies, corporate, ngos, politicians each one is aware of it and is equally involved in it.
The author, in the end, does admit that he doesn’t have a solution to this, but his job was to make people aware and he succeeds in it. It is a riveting book.