Idaho Falls magazine sat down with authors Neal Larson and Rebecca Adams to talk about their new book, "Living in Spin."
IFM: Tell us about where "Living in Spin" started.
RA: I’ve always kind of had this interest in motivational psychology. I started collecting information and stories and sources and news articles and things. There’s actually quite a lot of propaganda that goes on out there and a lot of influences that happen. As I put it together, I brought it to Neal and thought maybe he would be somebody that could contribute just because [of] some similar interests and perspectives.
NL: So we collaborated and I read the manuscript which she had, but as I was reading it I thought, “You know there’s this angle” and from my background, I’m very political. I’m a conservative radio talk show host and I follow the media. There were just multiple examples of propaganda that goes on. And not just in how the media is portrayed, but in tactics that politicians use and in PR. And so I thought, “I think I can add to what she’s got here.” And the fact that I had a radio show with a sizeable audience was a good fit for the book as well.
IFM: Are you promoting it among the followers that you’ve already got?
NL: Yes. When we felt like it was ready to publish, and we have self-published this. So within the first three days we had hundreds of downloads, we felt like it was really successful. We reached the top of several lists on Amazon.com. I think it’s been an education for both of us because this is our first book.
RA: And our second career. We’re not authors, we’re not publishers. It’s kind of been fun to learn what effects certain things have.
NL: We’re not being made millionaires off of this one novel. We never really had the expectation that this book…was just going to be a new career for each of us. We just felt like this is something we’re passionate about and there’s a lot of material we can contribute here, so let’s put a book out there.
IFM: Do you see your careers altering at all because of this, or is this kind of a one-time thing?
NL: I think for me, it’s a nice fit for what I do. This is a nice add-on to what I’m doing. But in the future, yeah, I’d love to sort of put more time and effort into it if it were something that we could have a good return.
RA: I’m a family physician, so it’s so different than my day job. But I love writing. I’d love to do it, and it ties so much into medicine, that motivational psychology. It fits with one of my pet projects or personal interests. But I love what I do. I love being a doctor, so I don’t know.
NL: We just want to take it and see where it goes. And if there are things we can add to it in the future, we’ll add to it.
RA: When you have a conversation with a colleague…that conversation goes much better if you have the same vocabulary and know the verbiage. I’ve started to pick up some of that and be able to communicate in a more educated way about those things. I think it would certainly in its next edition…it would be really fun and a better product on some levels, but I love what it is now too.
NL: The reviews that we’ve got back on Amazon have been largely very positive. These are people we’ve never met before and the feedback is this is a great book.
IFM: Can either of you kind of explain if you had to do a new synopsis, what the book contains?
NL: I think it essentially takes a good look at the progression of propaganda. And one figure that portrays prominently in the book when you read it is Edward Burnays. Ed Burnays was the guy who turned the art of propaganda into the science of propaganda. And I think that that is both incredibly interesting, it’s also a little bit scary too how easily we’re manipulated
RA: When I posted it on Amazon, I had to really put it into a category. Is this consumer behavior? Is this political science, history, linguistics, marketing, advertising? And it covers all of those things and so I think it appeals to a wide audience. But really the thesis, the thing that ties it all together is that they’re all anecdotes, examples of how propaganda developed.
It makes it have kind of negative “1984”-type connotations. I certainly don’t feel that’s the tone of the book. Really the purpose is to say, “Hey this is what happens. Be aware of it. Draw your own conclusions, but at least think about the fact that it’s no accident that those pieces came together in that way.” It’s a very orchestrated, thought-out program to direct your thinking in a specific direction, and if you don’t recognize that, you’re going to be controlled.
I tried to take a fairly neutral political stance in the book so that it would have that appeal.
IFM: How do you think it ties in with what’s going on now?
RA: Well, I mean, it’s such an exciting year politically. I just really hope that it has some influence on [people] to think about what their goals are, what they really think and believe and insure that they’re making the best decision to control their destiny and to control the destiny of the United States and where they want it to go.
NL: I think Donald Trump could have his own chapter in the book, or maybe two. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what’s going on with the media and with propaganda. I’m not even sure I fully understand how Donald Trump has gotten to where he has in the Republican Party. Same kind of thing with Hillary Clinton. And so, I think that’s how this applies to what’s going on today.
IFM: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?
RA: It’s sort of fun to come to your own conclusions and have those “aha” moments. So, yes, the LDS conservative in Southeast Idaho certainly will take something out of it, but I lived in Vermont for ten years. I mean Bernie Sanders country, big time. They’ll probably take something different out of it and be just as passionate about their conclusions and their interests in the book.
Editor's Note: This interview was edited for clarity and length. You can find "Living in Spin" on Amazon.com.