Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The Smear: How Shady Political Operative and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote

A sobering read, for sure. Author Sharyl Attkisson defines a smear as an effort to manipulate opinion by spreading an overblown, scandalous and damaging narrative. She opens our eyes to little known details. For instance, when we read a letter to the editor by an unknown name, it may actually have been ghostwritten by a paid agent who “rent” the use of someone’s signature.

Citing from history, Attkisson tells how both the precursor to the CIA and the Nazis spread propaganda during World War II, going so far as to influence people through songs played on the radio. Citing incidents relating to Don Imus and Glenn Beck, she tells how smear artists grasp onto a “sprinkle of truth” and blow it out of proportion until it destroys a reputation.

And there’s big money behind such efforts. Attkisson researched the connections of David Brock, head of a “media watchdog” called Media Matters. She lists 15 organizations at the same high-rise address in Washington, D. C., all with Brock connections. With names such as “Political Correction Project,” “Correct the Record” and “True Blue Media LLC, one would think these were organizations dedicated to truth. Rather, through opposition research, negative ads and other media tools, they are dedicated to causing the ruin of anyone who doesn’t agree with their ideology. Brock’s known compensation from his network totals millions of dollars annually. 

Sharyl Attkisson is a bestselling author and host of Sinclair’s national investigative television program Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. She has covered controversies through the administrations of four presidents and received the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. Attkisson has reported nationally for CBS News, PBS and CNN. This imprint of HarperCollins, 2017, is not an easy read, but it will inform the way you watch the news and read your daily paper.

The book's closing line: “For now, one thing you can count on is that most every image that crosses your path has been put there for a reason. Nothing happens by accident. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much Is it true, but Who wants me to believe it—and why?

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