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a deceitful book in an ugly tradition
on 6 February 2012
I picked this book up because I'm fascinated and appalled by the misuse of logic, by the misrepresentation of opinions, by the way people in power (in the media as much as in politics) abuse their power through their astute and clever dishonesty.
`Do They Think You're Stupid?' is the title of the book, but its implied subtitle is Baggini asking `Do You Think I'm Clever?' Well, yes, I admit, I do think he is clever. He cleverly takes a series of texts which his reader is unlikely to know directly. He cunningly selects the slenderest of phrases. And then his book mocks and scorns the writers in question. Well, as it happens, some time ago, I had read `No Logo', one of the books he attacks, and his interpretation seemed peculiar, and wholly at odds with my memory. Puzzled, I took the book off my shelves and looked again. And I was disgusted at the way Baggini misrepresented it, in a way which is not only illogical but profoundly deceptive. I went on to look at a few other writers Baggini attacks: over and over again, Baggini twists their words, cherrypicks their arguments, to make flat-footed generalisations which the original text do not warrant. He also, incidentally, lambasts Thom Yorke's praise for George Monbiot. I doubt very much that the world would be a more intelligent place with a Baggini but without Radiohead, Monbiot and Klein. But the reasons for Baggini's disapproval of Yorke are interesting. Baggini says that Thom Yorke is a musician, and therefore has no authority whatsoever to comment on any political subject. The crassness of this view speaks for itself, but Baggini's hypocrisy is also striking, for Baggini offers us his opinion of Thom Yorke's musical skills. Baggini is rather hoist by his own petard, here, for (according to his own crude intellectual model) being a philosopher Baggini therefore has no authority whatsoever to comment on music.
I would suggest that if any reader wishes to buy this book, the real intellectual discovery lies in reading it alongside the actual texts: to see how the deceits lie not in those texts but in Baggini's work. People in the media often abuse the power that they have: Baggini here upholds that ugly tradition in book form.