THE POST-TRUTH ERA: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life

Ralph Keyes, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-30648-9

"Casual duplicity picks at the threads of our social fabric," Keyes warns, and not just because it creates a greater tendency toward suspicion and mistrust. The consequences of letting people get away with lying can be severe: when somebody gets a job based on a bogus résumé, for example, he or she deprives those applicants who didn't falsify their work credentials. Keyes deplores what he dubs an "alt.ethics" that has made lying more acceptable, and he points to a variety of contributing factors in society, from postmodernism's denial of a literal truth to the ease of making unverified statements online. This largely anecdotal broadside essentially replays David Callahan's The Cheating Culture , though with fresher stories that address recent incidents like the Martha Stewart trial and the controversies surrounding several authors and journalists who have blurred fiction and nonfiction or simply fabricated their stories. Keyes takes a relatively nonpartisan approach; he criticizes Bill Clinton and Al Gore for their false statements, but attacks George W. Bush as the "quintessential baby boomer," accusing the president, and an entire generation, of a self-righteous refusal to confront, let alone speak, the truth. He doesn't offer much of a solution beyond a reaffirmation that lying is wrong and we shouldn't do it, advice that will surprise no one but may get some additional airplay in this heated election cycle. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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