April 1 Booklist
Willful 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.