Joel Deane reviews 'Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy' by Jonathan Taplin

Good books are like recurrent dreams: haunting the reader’s waking hours by sitting, tantalisingly, on the edge of conscious thought. Take, for example, The Big Con: The story of the confidence men, David W. Maurer’s 1940 study of American grifters in the early twentieth century. Maurer’s book has dogged me ever since I revisited my old stamping ground of Berkeley, California, on the eve of Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension to the US presidency. Walking those familiar streets, talking to old friends, watching Trump’s coronation, one of the lessons of The Big Con surfaced in my mind and has done so ever since. Maurer’s rule, which he considered trite but true, was: ‘You can’t cheat an honest man.’ It was a maxim told to Maurer by the gaggle of con artists he interviewed for his linguistic and sociological study. According to the grifters, a person could only be swindled if they had ‘larceny in their veins – in other words, he must want something for nothing, or be prepared to participate in an unscrupulous deal’.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are already a subscriber, click here, or on the ‘Log In’ tab in the top right hand corner of the screen, and enter your username and password to log in. If you have logged in but are still seeing this message your subscription to ABR Online may have expired. Please contact us or click here to renew your subscription to ABR Online. More information about ABR Online can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in ABR Online Exclusives