This review is by Ryan. (My Ryan).
Book by Ryan Holiday.
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator is a long and somewhat deceptive title. Though given the content of the book, it is rather appropriate. In TMIL, author Ryan Holiday runs down what he considers to be the full gambit of online medias many ills, “exposing” the toxic news culture that does not serve the consumer.
The book is essentially broken into two halves; the first is a sort of “confession” of ways that Holiday manipulated media outlets into reporting misleading, fabricated, intentionally controversial, etc articles in order to generate buzz and attention for his clients. Holiday worked as a publicist for the American Apparel clothing line and Author Tucker Max. This section of the book is a bit tiresome as the author comes off as both boastful of his machinations, but also tries to sound like a whistle blower.
The second half is the real meat of the book, ticking off the processes and incentives that make large scale blogging and online news media toxic to consumers and news itself. Apparently it became so insidious that the author actually felt guilty and worried about what this system is doing to our society. Holiday likens today’s pageview economy and system of reporting rumors and just correcting them later to the Yellow Journalism of the early 20th century. In each instance, he insists an arms race of attention grabbing headlines and desperate scandals competed to grab the one-off customer.
In the end the book exposes, but doesn’t fix any problems. As the author admits, he doesn’t have the solution to this conundrum, but feels compelled to expose the emperor in his nakedness and hope for a general re-evaluation of the system. Altogether I’m glad I slogged through the book. It is repetitive at times, has more typos than I’d expect (it’s a second edition paperback), and the author is not likable at all. As a reader, I constantly found myself questioning the content because having a person tell you that they lied, manipulated, and exaggerated for a living makes me wary of this person’s other information. After reading the book, however, I can’t help but navigate around the internet seeing each of the blogging sins pop up in my view over and over.
I suppose if each reader walks away with a more cautious and wary approach to consuming online news media, perhaps conversations with actual nuance can be possible again, and the author will have reached a laudable goal.