Evan Davis – Cheltenham Literature Festival Review

Alas, the time has come. The final review of the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2017. I internally wept a silent tear whilst leaving Montpellier Park’s bustle of couples and families, smells of hog roast and fresh books and abundance of joy it brings to the town centre for the 10 days of October.

(Cliché alert) To say we ended on a high with Evan Davis would be an understatement. It may have been one of my favourite event of the manic week for a lot of reasons. He started with a 20 minute intro to bullshit. The theory of it and the connection between bullshit and 2016 which heavily involved Trump and Brexit, were covered and explained briefly as this is what his book, “Post Truth” is all about. The second segment involved Georgina Godwin interviewing him on topical questions and elements of his book and finally some questions from the audience in which he was tested, deciding whether or not to create a bullshit detector and having a women from the third row attempt to twist his views and words to squeeze out an opinion he didn’t necessarily have. Nevertheless he saw straight through her and put her in her place. *fist pump*

As I previously mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed this event. The reasons for which are threefold.

1. He knew exactly what he was talking about. Obviously he has done extensive thinking and research for his book and as a Harvard and Oxford Graduate in economics he brings in this topic effortlessly without overworking the audience. I loved how simply he put such complex thoughts that academics study for years upon end into analogies and Metaphors that simplify rather than confuse. He explained that bullshit is highly informative. Not literally but in the sense the way somebody goes about bullshitting reveals a lot about their character. Using the example of someone telling a host of a dinner party that their burnt pie was delicious shows that this person is bullshitting not to hurt their feelings. This also illustrated the point he made that bullshit doesn’t have to be negative.

 2. I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Particularly with his running message of open mindedness of which I am a strong advocate of. Open mindedness would solve so many problems and make day to day life so much easier it doesn’t make sense to me why it’s not something people strive for more strongly. Open mindedness protects from bullshit and allows us to accept new and changing ideas. We need to welcome the opposition and challenge our comforts to progress forward. These were points all made during the hour, just slightly better articulated. I genuinely think this topic should be taught in schools – just swap out the word bullshit for a child friendly one.

3. My boyfriend interviewed him prior to the event. And he nailed it. A slightly less meaningful point than the first two but still worthy.

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“Bullshit works”, claims Evan Davis. From pricing items at £9.99 to appear cheaper than £10 to putting phony laughter tracks on sitcoms, Davis made the auditorium that bullshit works because we buy it. A startling realisation that we are the reason that we are constantly being fed bullshit. His most poignant example of this was his comparison of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to old and new bullshit. Clinton was seen as inauthentic and fake like any other politician (old bullshit) whereas Trump was outright awful but didn’t lie as other politicians are seen to be doing (new bullshit). Davis put this as one of the core reasons why Trump won the presidential election. Another clear example of something so blindingly obvious put so simply that it was difficult not to understand and agree.

The Literature Festival never fails to teach me, entertain me and make me more aware of the world. Evan Davis was a perfect example of this and therefore a perfect event to end on.

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