EXCLUSIVE: There are many things that writers, and the publications that publish their work, can do to lose the trust of readers. One is to write about subjects that present clear conflicts of interest. Another is to fail to be transparent about those conflicts with their readers.
The February 18 issue of the journal Nature provides a clear case in point. In the issue, Pulitzer-winning scientist Jared Diamond reviews a book of essays called Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire. The review, “Two views of collapse,” is largely negative. What Diamond doesn’t disclose to readers of the review, however, is that Questioning Collapse is not just a book about “collapse”… It’s a book about his bestselling book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.. Even more, it is a book of essays directly criticizing and critiquing Diamond’s own work and writings.
There’s nothing subtle about it. “Wrentit,” a reviewer on Amazon.com, summarizes the book this way: “Questioning Collapse is a collection of reviews of specific chapters of Diamond’s book Collapse. The whole point of Questioning Collapse is to attack Diamond’s arguments.”