Stephen Colbert isn't really a right-wing nutcase; he just plays one on TV. We can be reasonably sure that when he promoted the term 'truthiness' to denote a claim that feels right, even if there is no factual evidence to support it, he was making fun of certain right-wingers whose fact-checking is mostly internal; who will accept as true a story that fits with their worldview, regardless of the facts. Of course this is a universal human tendency, to which left-wingers are not immune, but Manjoo cites scientific studies that indicate that right-wingers are more susceptible to it (see below).
Manjoo tells the story of the 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,' who created an almost entirely fictional story of John Kerry's service in Vietnam to discredit his record as a war hero, because they were deeply offended by his declaration of opposition to the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after he returned from Vietnam. The SBV version was first presented publicly on numerous radio talk programs, with conservative hosts and audiences, to whom that version was truthy because they already held a low opinion of Democrats in general and a high opinion of George W. Bush. It felt right to them, and they accepted it as true, an opinion many hold to this day, despite conclusive evidence that Kerry did, in fact, genuinely earn his medals, and was truly a war hero.
This accords well with the observation of cognitive scientists that when the facts don't fit a person's frame, the frame stays and the facts are ignored or denied. (see Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think, by George Lakoff.)
Manjoo tells about a study by Stanford professor Shanto Iyengar and Richard Morin of the Washington Post, in which they obtained a list of headlines in six categories: politics, Iraq war, race, travel, crime, and sports, and randomly placed beside each headline one of four logos: BBC, CNN, Fox, and NPR. Democrats somewhat preferred CNN and NPR, and Republicans very strongly preferred Fox. The Fox logo tripled the interest of Republicans in stories about politics and Iraq, and even increased Republicans' interest and decreased Democrats' interest in headlines about travel and sports. Professor Iyengar says that people "have generalized their preference for politically consonant news to nonpolitical domains."
But why was the Republicans' bias so much stronger than the Democrats' bias? Democrats might be tempted to explain it as evidence that Democrats are smarter, but that explanation is questionable at best. I think the correct explanation lies in the correlation between two dimensions of personality characteristics: Progressive vs. Conservative and Liberal vs. Dogmatic. Liberals tend to be progressive, so much so that the political spectrum is often cited as Liberal vs. Conservative, which is not correct. There are dogmatic progressives and liberal conservatives, but they are relatively rare. Dogmatics especially tend to be hostile to opinions that differ from their own, and they tend to be conservative, whereas liberals by definition are willing to consider opinions other than their own, and they tend to be progressive.
Manjoo contends that on many subjects, (not just the obvious one of religion, with its many 'only true churches,' etc.) different groups of people hold to different, and incompossible, versions of reality. Republicans and Democrats may legitimately disagree about what should be done about a situation, but when the facts are known, it is not legitimate to disagree about what the situation is. But consider the study by Neil Vidmar and Milton Rokeach, in which 237 students were asked what they thought about people who were different from them and what they thought was going on in the TV show ALL IN THE FAMILY.
"The majority of those surveyed found ALL IN THE FAMILY hilarious. But bigots and nonbigots harbored vastly different ideas about what was happening on the show. It was a classic case of selective perception. When asked who seemed to win most of the arguments--was it Archie [the bigot] or his hippie [non-bigoted] son-in-law, Mike?--the bigots thought it was Archie. Those who weren't bigoted thought it was Mike."
Chapter 4 has forced me to change my opinion about what happened in the 2004 election in Ohio. If the Republicans stole Ohio by vote-tampering, they did it cleverly enough that the experts couldn't detect it, albeit several amateurs thought THEY could and did. Beyond doubt, there was skulduggery going on, probably at least some on both sides, but there is not sufficient evidence to support a definite conclusion that it changed the result.
Chapter 6 discusses deceptive advertising practices. One such is video news releases, or VNRs, which are clips of "marketing propaganda produced in the language and style of real news." Dozens of VNRs are sent out each week to TV stations in the often-realized hope that they will be used on a local news program, usually without the public being told that they are being shown a commercial in disguise.
Another deceptive practice is the creation of a fake grass-roots organization (Astroturf organization), such as GGOOB, the Get Government Off Our Backs Project, which "attracted an impressive array of member groups" including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Traditional Values Coalition, the NRA, Americans for Tax Reform, and many others. GGOOB claimed to have been created "at the 'grassroots' by 'business groups, civic groups, and other organizations'" but it was really created by R.J. Reynolds' PR company, MBD, to fight against new regulations on the cigarette industry.
I may have two small complaints, which may have been corrected in the final published version:
(1) An index is needed.
(2) While many of the footnotes are where they belong, others are gathered at the end of the book where the index should be.
You need to read TRUE ENOUGH to know what you are up against; how lies are transformed into common (but false) knowledge. IT SHOULD BE IN EVERY SCHOOL LIBRARY. IT SHOULD BE READ AND DISCUSSED IN CLASS IN EVERY HIGH SCHOOL.