As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve been reading or listening to books on my phone quite a bit recently. The last book that I finished was the latest tome by controversial figure Glenn Beck called Addicted to Outrage: How Thinking Like a Recovering Addict can Heal the Country. For those unfamiliar with him, Glenn Beck is a conservative pundit who has had shows on both CNN and Fox News, but now runs his own network called “The Blaze.” He is the author of thirteen #1 New York Times bestsellers, both fiction and non-fiction. He is considered to be a controversial figure because he’s been known to be outspoken, brash, opinionated, and at times abrasive. What’s interesting to note is that much of abrasiveness has seemed to melt away in the last few years as he seeks to find common ground in a very polarized, politicized world.
Which really brings me to this book. According to the Amazon.com profile of this book, Beck “issues a startling challenge to people on both sides of the aisle to give up our addiction to hating each other. America is addicted to outrage, we’re at the height of a twenty-year bender, and we need an intervention.” Of course the biggest and most obvious culprit in our addiction is social media. If you’re reading this, you probably found it through a link on FaceBook. FaceBook, Twitter, so many others… you know them and maybe you love them. But they’ve taken over the channels of public discourse today. Most people don’t read newspapers, even online newspapers anymore. If anything, we tend to read headlines and make up our minds about the story and its meaning just from what a copy editor wrote. And then we get offended, or angry, or feel hurt… and we respond by mashing out a response on our keyboard and posting it from behind a screen name that hides our real identities.
Beck posits that the bigger problem with all of this is that we’re ignoring just how rapidly technology is advancing and that if we’re not careful, we can become collateral damage in a tsunami of advancing artificial intelligence and smart machines. It sounds a little like Skynet and the Terminator universe, except that the evidence he offers isn’t science fiction and Arnold Schwarzenegger is nowhere to be found. As a solution, Beck suggest that the 12 step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous may be helpful. This comes from Beck’s own experience as a recovering alcoholic and resonated with me because my mother was also a recovering alcoholic before she passed a few years back.
Personally, I found this book to be an engaging listen (read by the author), and would recommend it even if you’re not a fan of Glenn Beck. I find his attempt to reach across the political divide in the last several years to be genuine and his call to action in this book to be timely. As a society we need to find common ground on the issues where we disagree and come together to build a better society for every one of us and we need to do it soon. And Beck is a man of faith (Mormon) as well. While I may not agree with him on his faith, I can stand alongside him and seek solutions for a better world. Give this book a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.