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Summary

Arming Americans to defend the truth from today’s war on facts.

Disinformation. Trolling. Conspiracies. Social media pile-ons. Campus intolerance. On the surface, these recent additions to our daily vocabulary appear to have little in common. But together, they are driving an epistemic crisis: a multifront challenge to America’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction and elevate truth above falsehood.

In 2016, Russian trolls and bots nearly drowned the truth in a flood of fake news and conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump and his troll armies continued to do the same. Social media companies struggled to keep up with a flood of falsehoods and too often didn’t even seem to try. Experts and some public officials began wondering if society was losing its grip on truth itself. Meanwhile, another new phenomenon appeared: “cancel culture”. At the push of a button, those armed with a cellphone could gang up by the thousands on anyone who ran afoul of their sanctimony.

In this pathbreaking book, Jonathan Rauch reaches back to the parallel 18th-century developments of liberal democracy and science to explain what he calls the “Constitution of Knowledge” - our social system for turning disagreement into truth.

By explicating the Constitution of Knowledge and probing the war on reality, Rauch arms defenders of truth with a clearer understanding of what they must protect, why they must do - and how they can do it. His book is a sweeping and listenable description of how every American can help defend objective truth and free inquiry from threats as far away as Russia and as close as the cellphone.

©2021 Jonathan Rauch (P)2021 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about The Constitution of Knowledge

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How to steer our course back to objective truth

Brimming with insights, this must be the most perceptive account of what's gone wrong in our knowledge economy recently, what's been going right for a long time, and how to steer our course back to objective truth. Rauch articulates what I suspect many of us have felt but have been barely able to put into words. He offers a synthesis of the ideas of many thinkers, from Karl Popper to James Madison, and then reaches a little further yet than has been done before.

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Outstanding material, reader is a bit intense

This book is fantastic and essential reading for living in todays Information Age. The reader is fine I would have rather Jonathan Rauch read it as it would seem less “performative”.

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Required reading

Very balanced 8n content... offering hopeful insights. One criticism would be the examples (other than those directly aimed at problems with left leaning ideology) were predominantly instances relating to right political ideology.

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Essential

Super valuable. Feels like he makes as big a step forward as Karl Popper did.

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  • Will Blakey
  • 25-06-21

A really good book

Rauch’s analogy between the constitutional design from James Madison & the way in which our reality-based institutions (science, journalism, law, etc.) are supposed to operate is brilliant. His argument for ensuring that these institutions operate the way they were designed (based on pluralism, a commitment to truth with rules and accountability) is much needed. This book helped clarify my thinking so much on this topic, where it really can be disorienting to know what to believe given how much information is out there.

13 people found this helpful

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  • TheEponymousBAB
  • 22-09-21

Sound premise taken to unsound conclusions

Rauch lays out a sturdy argument for collective sense making along liberal lines, then proceeds to sacrifice it on the altar of technocratic elitism. The incompetence and bombastic lies of Trump are rendered such a threat to the liberal order that our only option has to be the illiberal modus operandi of tech giants and their “fact checking” councils. Rather than trusting in the common sense of common people, Rauch composes an apologia for a top-down imposition of reality regulated by institutions already captured by the oligarchical “woke” ethos. This is ultimately an OpEd by a journalist mourning the lost credibility of journalism, and projecting blame on everyone other than journalists themselves.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Greg
  • 23-09-21

Relevant read for today's information lndscape

Great book on the world of misinformation and distraction we live in today. At first I thought the book might be a one sided attack on the Trump administration's abuse of the office but it also covered cancel culture tactics used by the left. I thought it was a well rounded approach on how to handle truth seeking, defining truth, and helping one figure out how to distinguish truth from rubbish, Some of the information in this book seems so simple yet I see people I know everyday falling for the some of the misinformation tactics described in this book. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about the information landscape we all have to navigate in today's age,

5 people found this helpful

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  • T. Redwood
  • 28-07-21

Great content ... narrator is absolutely horrible

I will be reading this book, as the content is excellent and timely. The author has a clear understanding of human behavior and its outcomes. I will be returning the audiobook. The narrator is like a voice-over for a black and white sex education film shown in a middle school class.

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  • Barry Welsh Seoul Book Club
  • 24-07-21

Fantastic. Please read this book

i enjoyed this book a great deal. i think many people would benefit from reading or listening to it

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  • JustinA
  • 20-08-21

Wonderful defence of classic liberalism

In these times of attacks on liberal principles from both the chaotic disinformation campaigns of the right, and the puritan cancel culture of the left, this is a magnificent defence of the importance of the reality-based principles that underpin free societies.

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  • carsonwelker
  • 28-07-21

Very well thought out

Good for all to hear. He presents a dichotomy between cancel culture and troll epistemology. I’m not convinced these are symmetrical problems but a very convincing argument.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-10-21

second rate and massive exercise in irony

This review starts out as a second rate description of science and the benefits of multiple points of view in arriving at the truth. It's a knockoff of better writers like pinker and Haidt who the author repeatedly cites.

It then becomes an ironic smear campaign of the right where the author tries to color all conservative news as steve bannon and rush Limbaugh. One of the most ironic takes is when the author calls out Rush for saying the left lives in a world of lies while the right lives in reality, the author saying that this epistemic prioritization of view points conflicts with the Constitution of knowledge. Not only was this strawmanning what Rush said (he did not say not to listen to divergent views on the left) but on nearly every page of this book the author calls the left and left wing journalism "the reality based community" while arguing ineffectively that the right exist in a world of lies: in short he has the same view as Rush but from the opposite side.

His counterargument is, "Yeah but I'm right." as evidence of this he points to two occasions where the left had published lies and retracted the lies and fired the journalists that wrote them. But if his reality based community has such high journalistic standards, how were they able to publish those lies to begin with? what lies were printed without any consequences or retraction.

furthermore he welcomes the online censorship of facebook and twitter with glee, fully believing that it is necessary to curb right wing propaganda. he says fact checking websites remove bias from this censorship exercise. but we see what really happens is that the fact checkers like the editors at most academic journals are on the leftwing. and no one factchecks the fact checkers. So for instance the Hunter Biden story of corruption which now includes the fact that Joe and Hunter shared bank accounts and paid each others' bill's was censored during the election, there was no consequence for left wing journalists getting the story wrong, and the same fact checkers are still fact checking despite the fact there was ample evidence of the Biden corruption scandal when the story was being censored.

This book is a second rate retelling of a subject already considered by better authors. and the second half is just masturbatory material for partisan leftwingers, making the entire book an exercise in irony and demonstration of a massive lack of self awareness.

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  • Michael G. Maudlin
  • 24-04-22

Everyone should read this as a civic duty

Rauch outlines today’s war on truth and what both sides of our political divide must do to win against the champions of misinformation.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 01-03-22

Good defence of liberalism

Good defence of liberalism epistemology and government. Rauch tries to keep his partisan out, but inevitably espouses some left leaning views, but they do not detract from the overall book.

1 person found this helpful