In 1983 the New York Times won a lawsuit. According to Seth Godin, the lawsuit was brought by the Author of the Exorcist, who claimed that his follow up novel had been unfairly left off the New York Times Best Seller list. The New York Times, in the legal defense, stated that the “Best Seller” list was not an actual representation of best selling books based on any kind of objective data. Rather, their list was based upon books that they wanted to be best sellers. That they wanted people to read.
Check out this quote
“The New York Times best-seller list is based on weekly sales reports obtained from a scientifically selected sample of bookstores throughout the United States. The sales figures represent books that have actually been sold to the public.“
A statement that is simply not true.
They won. And even though public perception is that the NYT was a trustworthy news source, one of their key contributions to our society, The NYT bestseller list, turns out, is fabricated information. And so they lost.
The NYT lost because they went on record as saying that something they claim to be a true, a “best seller” list, is actually a biased fabrication, something they desired to be true. Sure, if you read the fine print and learn the history, you know it’s not true. But how many people actually bother?
We can debate “fake news” and “biased networks” all day long. The difference between fake and biased may be nuance. If the NYT puts a book on the bestseller list, it becomes a best seller. Meaning the list is more a prophetic publishing scam than a look at current trends in culture. The NYT has gone from reporting culture to shaping culture by making editorial decisions about what ideas gain influence and why.
Along comes the internet, and now Google and Facebook have their own Bestseller lists. What posts, what pages, what rankings get seen are based not on true popularity but rather on paying the right company and holding the right values. And credibility is lost every time we see behind the curtain.
Social justice plays by the same rules. Black Lives Matters finds leverage among NBA players but the plight of Chinese dissidents finds none. I deeply respect the work of members of the NBA working to get people to vote. I am awed by what Lebron James had done with his influence and wealth to help the city of Cleveland. I’m confused how these supposed values don’t translate to the Uyghurs in western China.
Charles, you are beginning to sound like a conspiracy theorist. No. These aren’t conspiracies because they are public. They are known. Everyone can read the case history and find out the background. The question is not if the information is true. The question is, what will we do with the information?
The NYT decided long again that a select group of people would get to control a narrative that would guide the publishing industry and the ideas that gain traction in our society. Their VALUES guided the decisions. I’m glad I found Adam Grant on the list. I’m glad I found Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. They have improved my life. Controlling the list isn’t all bad.
But as a discipline of Jesus, I often have to make decisions not about what I want to be true, but what IS truth. Who I am, and who I present myself to be, can not be wishful thinking. It must be backed by reality. Am I kind? Am I loving? Do I serve?
In the lawsuit of my life, will my character stand the test of time?
Pondering this today.