Cover Image: Calling Bullshit

Calling Bullshit

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Member Reviews

A very interesting read, with a compelling call to identify and call-out bullshit. 

I found a slight unevenness between chapters, with those discussing bullshit in big data and scientific research a lot more technical and complex than the rest of the book. Though it's hard to see how this could be avoided.

And I suspect there is a fundamental problem here: that the people who really need to read this book are the least likely to do so.

But overall this is a very useful book. I will certainly be buying a few copies to give to friends and colleagues.
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This is an ideal book for people looking to improve their 'data literacy'. The authors hit the nail on the head straight away when explaining why this book is needed - people (innocently, naively or nefariously) throw numbers and stats around in order to intimidate readers into agreeing because, frankly, these readers lack the skills to dissect the quantitative claims.
Each chapter is divided into a specific type of bullshit and gives accessible examples of each form of bullshit and how to dissect it and reveal it for what it is. 
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who engages in stats or numbers. It was very eye-opening, especially with percentages and how they could be re-calculated an be made to say something is a 2% increase or a 50% increase.
The only downside to this book is that (in my opinion) it would be a struggle for teens/school kids.
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It says much about the nature of the sources of ‘news’ and comment that circulate freely today that there is a growing body of literature offering tools to assist the informed or sceptical citizen to separate truth from either downright lies or the more insidious misleading statements that circulate in the media - and, more especially, on social media. ‘Calling Bullshit’ is one of the latest offerings that claim to assist those who are looking to find ways of making sense of the world. It offers tools to assist readers in readily identifying those claims and stories that circulate with amazing speed, despite being entirely false and those that have been heavily manipulated to encourage false conclusions to be drawn.

The book is well supplied with examples of ‘fake news’ and the wide range of techniques used by companies seeking to persuade us that their product is the best available, as well as the more sinister efforts by foreign powers or their agents to influence elections or, more generally, to undermine trust in democratic systems.

Although not the first in this growing genre to be published, this book, or at least one covering similar themes, should be required reading for us all. After all, as someone once said, ‘A lie is half way round the world before truth has got its socks on.....’ and that was before the advent of social media. Not all the reading will be comfortable; there will be few readers who do not at least occasionally think ‘Oh dear, now I look at this example again I realise that I, too, had swallowed the incorrect implication of this or that interpreted data. 

This is a well written book that deserves to be widely read.
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I absolutely loved this book and I really hope that the term "bullshit" is one that I can use more frequently in a legitimate sense.... Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

As a teacher, I am often flabbergasted by the response of teens to social media and the way in which they lap up false information. Although having said that, boomers can be just as bad.... (Some, not all in both regards).

Anyway, the point is that this book is a great way of unpacking your suspicions and being more guarded and well informed on such matters. It is such an important time for us to be aware of false information or misinformation, and as such this is a timely read. Enjoy it. If you are in the social sciences, statistics, psychology etc, it will be a good text!
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Absolutely loved this. What a brilliant approach to the topic, a no-nonsense guide that I'd recommend to any level of reader, and honestly just a breath of fresh air. Highly recommend.
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Being familiar with Bergstrom and West's work academically, I wasn't disappointed by this book at all. I'm currently researching topics on authenticity and fake news for an arts masters so this has proved super helpful in regards to being a read which highlights key reference points, and studies. 

It's easy enough to read without prior knowledge of the authors academic research and honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially friends of mine who have in the past fallen for fake inauthentic content churned out by so-called media outlets.
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Acting for the greater good or for the ‘ego’: what to do with fake news and misleading graphs

The main objective of the book, Calling Bullshit, is a call to action: by demonstrating the huge volume of disguised bullshit infiltrating our life on a daily basis, the authors want us to ‘call bullshit’, i.e. speak up for the truth (in a civil and constructive way). 

Bullshit (BS) is what people create to try and impress or persuade you with any concern for whether what they are saying is true or not, correct or incorrect.
A bullshitter (BSer) is person who disregards truth or logical coherence in order to impress the audience. 
For example, someone does not want to meet you. Instead, he says, “I would love to meet you but I have no time. I had this conference in Milan, then my secretary told me last minute that I had to fly to New York. I got stuck there because of a huge tornado. I couldn’t even call you because a squirrel stole my phone.”
The first sentence is a lie. The subsequent ones are BS. 

The next 80% of the book demonstrates various ways in which BS appears. This includes statistics, visualisation of data, misinterpretation of data, story telling, AI and a few more (see an example below). These topics tend to be covered in other books too, however, the examples used in Calling Bullshit are unique. It also offers a wealth of knowledge from philosophy to data science.  

The ‘calling bullshit’ section emphasises that it is not enough to spot bullshit and quietly keep it to ourselves. Given the amount of misleading information, it is imperative that we publicly speak up about it; and that is how we ‘call BS’. This needs to be done in a polite and civil way, and anyone calling BS must fill in the knowledge gap and not just shout, ‘it is BS’. 

Someone calling BS is not the same as a ‘well, actually guy’: a ‘well-actually guy’ is someone who interrupts a conversation to demonstrate his cleverness. A calling BS person is someone who challenges bullshit to educate him and everyone else. A well-actually guy does not move a conversation forward. He offers a pedantic or tangential objection that does not have much bearing on the core claims. 

Let’s see an example. 
Francis says: “So there are 2 main theories of emotion, the dimensional theory and the discrete emotional theory.”
The well-actually guy then interrupts: “Well, actually, some scientists are keen to prove that there are 3 theories of emotion, and they also insist we say ‘discrete emotion’, not ‘discrete emotional’ theory.

A well-actually guy is in fact a BSer: he does not care about advancing truth or about the logical incoherence of his objections. He is simply trying to impress people with his knowledge. Calling BS it not about making  yourself look or feel smarter. Effective BS calling is making others smarter.
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A very interesting academic read, it took me a while to read this book as it is quite heavy with a lot of references. I found it hard to read on Kindle but think it would make a great reference book if I could get it in hardback once it comes out.

It has a lot of reference to bad news/information and even reading it makes you aware of how much you see in one day. Fake news should be covered in schools although I am sure a lot of YAs can pick out fake news quicker and more successful than me!
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Really good and interesting book. Although it took a little while to get into, the range and depth of examples was superb. I especially liked the section on Proportional Ink, and it's made me think carefully about the infographics that are increasing in use in UK papers.
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