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Willful Blindness

Published: March 1st, 2011
ISBN-10: 0802719988
ISBN-13: 978-0802719980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Purchase from:
Waterstones | Guardian Bookstore
Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril was first published in 2011.


12/20 Publishers Weekly
Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril
By Margaret Heffernan
Walker & Company/Simon & Schuster, $26/£12.99

A thoughtful and entertaining treatise on the seductiveness--and consequences--of ignoring what's right in front of our eyes, from former CEO and author Heffernan (The Naked Truth). We frequently ignore painful or frightening truths, subconsciously believing that denial can protect us, she argues, but our delusions make us ever more vulnerable, and whatever suffering we choose to ignore continues unabated. The author draws examples from the private--Bernie Madoff's family's blindness to his Ponzi scheme; a woman who married an alcoholic; another unable to see that her husband is sexually abusing her daughter--to the public: Alan Greenspan ignoring the housing bubble, a soldier working for Hitler. She gives us an insightful look into the psychology of denial and makes an ethical and pragmatic argument for engagement rather than deflection. Heffernan's cogent, riveting look at how we behave at our worst encourages us to strive for our best.

April 1 Booklist
Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril
By Margaret Heffernan
Walker & Company/Simon & Schuster, $26/£12.99

Why did so many executives and employees of Enron, BP, and subprime lenders pretend that questionable company practices were business as usual? Why do so many pretend not to notice all the signs of a cheating partner? Heffernan (The Naked Truth, 2004) explores all the ways we are hardwired to blind ourselves, at our own peril, to information that disturbs our fixed notions about our lives. She cites examples from popular culture (The Sopranos and Mad Men), history (the Hitler regime), finances (Bernie Madoff), religion (the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals), and our personal lives (marital infidelity) to describe the breadth and depth of deliberate blindness to misdeeds large and small. She draws from research on brain functioning, sociology, and psychology for instance after instance of how we ignore danger and will ourselves not to know when knowledge would threaten the orderly patterns of our lives. Finally, she examines the social and political implications of our willful blindness and how we can overcome the urge to look the other way.