Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fundamental Prevarication

Not too long ago, I posted some thoughts after reading one of John Shelby Spong's book. That led to another blog or two.

This evening I had cause to look up his latest book at Amazon. It was interesting to read the reviews. There tended to be a big split with either very high ratings or very low. The high ratings seemed to come from people who had read the book. The low ratings came from evangelicals/fundamentalists who seemed to have not read it. In fact, I'm pretty darn sure that most had not read the book although one reviewer seemed proud to have browsed through it at the bookstore that afternoon.

We are all entitled to our opinions, and these folk are entitled to their opinions, even if they haven't read the book. They know what Bishop Spong believes or doesn't believe (at least in part); they know that he and his thoughts are anathema to them. Fair enough. I understand that.

What I don't understand is how they justify choosing this forum — an Amazon book review. Aren't they dissembling just a tad? When you post a book review, doesn't that imply that you have read the book? Is this not bearing false witness? Of course it is; the questions are merely rhetorical.

These folk are most likely well-intentioned. By posting a negative review, they can bring down the average rating and cause people to think twice about buying it, reading it, and being seduced to the dark side. I know that I was initially inclined to pass over this book when I first saw the rating. Then, I looked deeper and actually read the reviews, and the game (ie driving down the average rating) became apparent to me. Well-intentioned or not, this is deception; this is de facto lying.

There are so many means of expression these days that good folk need not resort to unethical deception. I mean, they could always ... get a blog.



Christi said...

This is totally off the subject, and I'm sure not a fitting place, but I just tagged you! You have to come to my blog, go to my post "Catching Up", and answer the questions about music at the bottom on your blog. I'm so interested to see what your answers are! Thanks!

-epm said...

With regard to books on religion and spirtuality, I've found the Amazon users' ratings (the stars) to be unhelpful. However, actually reading the reviews can, indeed, be insightful, in a manner of speaking.

The only other subjects for which I've seen such impassioned negative reviews imploring potential readers to "move on, there's nothing to see here" are political tomes and, oddly, software reference manuals.

Mel said...

For the reasons you expressed here (very well, I might add), I saw "Fahrenheit 911." I wanted to be able to criticize it with full knowledge of what was in it. I wouldn't criticize a book I hadn't read, either. You're right--it's unethical, especially on a book review site.

Heather said...

I totally agree! I've often thought the same thing when I've perused the reviews on Amazon.

Sometimes I think "righteous indignation" is just a cover for fear.

-epm said...

I'd like to add to what Anvilcloud and Mel have said: Just as a person giving a negative review of a book or movie should first read or view that work, so to advocates of same should do likewise.

Sometimes two people will argue opposite perspectives on the merits of a piece of work, and neither has actually read or seen the piece! Both are working on spin and buzz. I should know; I do it all the time. :)

I'm kidding about that last line, of course, but sometimes it's hard to keep your heart from screaming until your brain catches up. Or is this problem unique to me?