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Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth Paperback – 1 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; Reprint edition (1 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826476201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826476203
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 4.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

The book is well researched and well written, as well as fascinating to read, with extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter. ... This book would be helpful for an academic library collection. It could be used to counterbalance the viewpoint of the media and other sources. --The Christian Librarian

About the Author

Christopher Booker was one of the founders of Private Eye and its first editor. He has a weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph and has published several books. Richard North is a political analyst and was formerly a consultant on public health and food safety. He has co-authored several books with Christopher Booker.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas J. R. Dougan VINE VOICE on 7 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Booker and North posit a "scare phenomenon" by analysing a series of scares, starting with HIV/AIDS and salmonella in the 80s, though BSE, the Y2K bug and passive smoking amongst others, to the global warming scare of today. They identify a pattern that starts with scientists making exaggerated claims based on inadequate evidence, becoming so obsessed with their theories that they manufacture evidence to support them while excluding consideration of contradictory data, and then actively suppress those who oppose their "new orthodoxy". The media, finding such scares make good copy, further hype them up, often finding scientists to speak in support of them whose own areas of research were quite different. Politicians, unable to distinguish between good and bad science and reliant on officials who have in many cases become members of the new orthodoxy themselves, and faced with media hysteria, overreact under cover of the "precautionary principle" by implementing policies that are scientifically suspect and economically damaging.

I purchased the authors' first joint book, "The Mad Officials", some dozen years ago after hearing Richard North speak, very entertainingly, on the excesses of environmental health officers. I was greatly entertained by that book's humorous, "if you didn't laugh you would cry" style. This is a much more scholarly work, although, thankfully, still flavoured by a wry sense of amusement at the irrational behaviour of many of those who would tell us how to live.

The book's longest chapter is on global warming, the biggest of these scares and one that is still gaining momentum.
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By J. DARBY on 28 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
.....then try reading the chapter on satanic child abuse when your children are in the same room watching the T.V. I did, and an icy chill went down my spine. Imagine at that point someone came into your house, took your children away, accused you of the most disgusting crimes and gagged any attempt you made to speak out. Orwell, Kafka? No. Cleveland, Rochdale and Nottingham in the Twentieth Century.
This book is not about denial. Booker and North do not try to deny or trivialise AIDS, BSE, smoking related diseases, E coli, Listeria or any of the issues raised. Indeed these are major issues that require a well thought out and appropriate response.
The authors take issue with the scientists who push their own research and exclude any notion that alternate research might show something to the contrary. They round on lazy jounalists who do not research facts for themselves and compete for the most sensational headline.
Mostly however, they condemn politicians who settle on the current orthodoxy and take disproportionate measures, cost millions or even billions to the taxpayer and yet fail to do any good whatsoever (what the authors call 'taking a sledgehammer and missing the nut')
What is most telling is that once the scare has been proved to be groundless, the powers that the authorities have taken for themselves to solve the problem are never given back.
An excellent read, concise and well referenced. A copy should be sent to evey politician bureucrat and pompous town hall official in the land.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. O. P. Akemu on 8 Sept. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are all familiar with recent media-driven hysteria such as foot-and-mouth disease, BSE/madcow disease, dioxin poisoning in Belgium, child-abuse in the UK etc. The question is, what is the anatomy and the psychosis of such scares? What drives scares in today's enlightened, Post-religious modern Western society?

In this riveting book, Christopher Booker and Richard North take a deeper look into recent scares and reveal an intriguing pattern:
- The scare is usually based on genuine concern that some chemical/bacteria or phenomenon has endangered human life
- Thereafter, the evidence for the scare is blown out of proportion
- The media get on board and without bothering to check the evidence drive a mass hysteria campaign
- Various interest groups get on board on one side of the argument or the other. (They authors call them 'resisters' and 'pushers')
- The pushers - usually scientists - do all in their power to frustrate the legitimate views of dissenters, including ad hominem attacks
- Politicians, who don't want to seem out of touch, respond disproportionately
- The result is overkill and ruined lives.

The authors do an excellent job of dissecting the evidence in past scares such as asbestos poisoning, salmonella and BSE in the UK to reveal a disturbing pattern of behaviour on the part of scientists, governments and the media.

However, Messrs North and Brooke are less exacting when they describe the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the Millennium Bug "scares". As an African, I beg to differ that HIV is a not a scare. What do you call disease that wipes out the productive class of a developing country?
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