Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy

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In today’s media driven world, so much of the information and images we are exposed to comes from the Public Relations (PR) industry. PR firms are generally thought of when it comes to advertising and commercial campaigns, but they have been involved in electoral politics, foreign policy campaigns, and increasingly are the ones that create the news. In fact, the PR industry in this country was really developed by the Wilson administration to convince the American public of this country’s need to enter WWI. The group that worked on that campaign was the Creel Commission, also known as the Committee on Public Information. Several members of that commission, such as Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays, went on to become some of the most influential propagandists in the 20th Century.

Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy is a collection of essays on the contemporary role of the public relations industry that follows the legacy of the Creel Commission. The co-editors of the book, William Dinan and David Miller also wrote the first essay, which lays the foundation of how the PR industry is an assault on democracy. They identify 6 main charges against the PR industry:

1) It is overwhelmingly carried out for vested powerful interests, mainly corporations.

2) It is not open and transparent about its means or even about its clients and the interests it is working for.

3) It characteristically involves deception and manipulation.

4) It does not engage in democratic debate, but rather seeks to subvert it in the interests of its clients.

5) Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and other ‘ethical’ activities are all subordinated to corporate strategy.

6) PR has played a crucial role at the cutting edge of corporate power in the neoliberal revolution.

These six charges of investigated in the remaining essays, which look at PR in the US and England. There are a variety of PR applications that are addressed in this book: the role of Washington PR, farming salmon, Exxon, biotech, arms trade, US Democracy programs abroad, the London Stock Exchange, and Coca Cola. I will touch on just a few of these issues.

The essay on the biotech industry’s use of PR is written by Jonathan Matthews, the co-founder of GM Watch and Lobby Watch. This essay deals primarily with what the biotech industry did at the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. As a way to undermine the message and effort of international environmental activists, the biotech industry staged a protest by what we thought to be poor, third world farmers. These “farmers” were claiming that people like Vandana Shiva were responsible for the starvation of millions of people because they opposed GM foods. What Matthews discovered was quite fascinating and very instructive for those who work on international justice and environmental issues. Matthews found out that Monsanto and groups like Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are the ones who staged the protest against international activists. CEI even created an independent webpage called Counterprotest.net which has now morphed into Bureaucrash, a website designed for free-market activists. The founders of this website also created the NGO known as the Sustainable Development Network which also promotes the free market and downplays issues like global warming. What Matthews and others found out about these protestors is that they were paid to protest, and that most of them were there because of trade issues. Many of the protestors wore T-shirts that said things like “Stop Global Whining” or “Biotechnology for Africa.” When approached by people from the summit they soon discovered that the protestors were told to be there and that most of them did not speak English, even though all the t-shirts they were wearing were in English. To make matters worse, one journalist discovered that these “protestors” were brought to the demonstration on a bus that was paid for by the PR company Burson-Marstellar, who was hired by Monsanto. In fact, Monsanto was behind the whole effort to discredit international activists, all for the purpose of promoting GM foods globally. The result of this orchestrated campaign made little impact on the Summit, but the protestors received substantial coverage in most of the US media, thus legitimizing Monsanto’s propaganda message.

The chapter by Laura Miller is quite instructive, especially since the US is in the midst of another Presidential Election. Her essay is entitled “Powers Behind the Throne: Washington’s Top Political Strategists.” Miller works at the Center for Media and Democracy. She begins her piece by identifying four large corporate and political campaign strategists: The DCI Group, Feather Larson Synhorst-DCI, FYI Messaging, and TSE Enterprises. According to Miller, each of these groups are linked by a single person, Thomas Synhorst, who happens to be a founding member of each group. Synhorst used to work for the big tobacco company R.J. Reynolds and several electoral campaigns, so he knows how to manipulate the system. These groups that Miller has identified develop campaigns and strategies for their clients to gain access to and lobby members of Congress.

In 2000, when Microsoft was facing anti-trust lawsuits, they hired DCI. DCI helped the company to influence public opinion and to effectively lobby Congress by creating new trade groups such as the Association for Competitive Technology and Americans for Technology Leadership. These groups used what was believed to be a fake letter writing campaign to newspapers across the country to present what appeared to be “a surging grassroots movement behind Microsoft.”

Another campaign these groups orchestrated was the creation of the group Progress for America. Created in 2001 and with close ties to the Republican Party, PFA led campaigns in support of tax cuts, conservative judicial appointments and energy legislation. When the Federal Election Commission decided to postpone its decision on regulating so-called 527 Groups, PFA created a spin off 527 Group called Progress for America Voter Fund. This group went on to raise millions of dollars for the Re-elect Bush/Cheney campaign. The Democrats have created their own 527 Groups, most notably the Democratic Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which brought in $65.5 million. Many of the 527 Groups that the Democrats created were used to target the Dean campaign. What Miller demonstrates is that these types of groups have tremendous power when it comes to shaping Washington politics. This type of political manipulation may not fit into the traditional PR model, but they are another manifestation of how PR efforts can undermine democracy.

This collection of essays not only provides excellent case studies in contemporary corporate PR campaigns it provides readers with skills to, not only ask critical questions about the role of PR firms, but to identify potential tactics and strategies that are anti-democratic. Reading Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy can arm journalists and activists with necessary tools to shine the light on deceptive corporate practices and create more accountability.

William Dinan and David Miller, eds., Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy, (Pluto Press, 2007).

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

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Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 there have been numerous books that have tried to articulate not only the reasons for the attacks, but also what has changed in the US since. The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot is one of the more recent books that seek to put America in context since those planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Naomi Wolf wrote this book, which is presented in short chapters; to a young man she knows who recently became married in the United States. Wolf had been thinking about the state of the country and says in the preface that she “could no longer ignore the echoes between events in the past and forces at work today.” By echoes, the author means the current policies of the U.S. government “are mirrored in history.” The author uses bits of information to make comparisons between the current U.S. administration and Nazi Germany, with an occasional comparison to Stalinist Russia. Wolf admits this is not an academic book; she is only trying to get people to see the urgency of what is happening in the U.S. and to stir people to action.

Making comparisons to any former government, but particularly to Nazi Germany is a difficult undertaking. I think that this is something that will cause some people to dismiss the book as trite and superficial. There indeed may be broad comparisons, but the public perception of what happened in Nazi Germany is so distorted that to make comparisons can create more misunderstanding than clarity. However, I could see what Wolf was attempting to do by looking at these historical echoes as a means to challenge readers to think about the seriousness of where the country is headed. The historical comparisons are not what are problematic about the book; rather it is this notion that these policy changes in the U.S. only began with 9/11 and under the Bush administration. Some sectors of dissidents have been spied on and targeted for the past century in the U.S., not only recently as the author suggests. The Clinton administration shifted policy in the 1990s to the degree that it paved the way for the Bush administration policies to become reality. Critics of the book my also dismiss it as just more partisan bashing, even though Wolf does not express any sympathy or allegiance to the Democrats.

Looking beyond any of these criticisms the book is well-written in that it is not attempting to provide tons of data to support the author’s argument. Wolf is writing in 2007 and with a sense that something is seriously wrong about what is happening in this country. In some ways The End of America is a clarion call for people to wake up and realize that some of the fundamental rights and principles we learned in civics class are eroding for most of us and for others they have been completely eliminated. Wolf does a good job of acknowledging that those of us who are privileged along race and class lines are not at risk to the same degree that Arabs, Muslims and immigrants are today, but we should not wait to act until things get worse.

Much of the book provides recent incidents of how government policy should concern us all. She talks about professors being targeted for critiquing U.S. policy, the creation of a climate of fear, secret prisons, the use of paramilitary forces, the monitoring of citizens, manipulation of the press, and undermining the rule of law. If readers are not familiar with these issues, then the book will be a wake up call about the dangerous times we live in. However, it is written in such a way that it will leave readers wanting, wanting more information, more conversation, more evidence that our rights are being eroded. Even the seasoned historian and activist may find this book useful and refreshing. I think the strength of Naomi Wolf’s book is her ability to convey the urgency of these issue as if you were talking to someone who only had a rudimentary understanding of current events. Too often when trying to motivate people that we come across in our every day lives we try to hit them over the head with what it is that we are passionate about. Activists and organizers can learn a lesson about how to communicate issues of urgency without sounding like the sky is falling. The End of America can be a useful tool to arm people for the struggle ahead of us.

Naomi Wolf, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007).

Calling All Radicals

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Gabriel Thompson’s Calling All Radicals: How Grassroots Organizers Can Save Our Democracy should be required reading for everyone involved in progressive and/or radical social movements. Following in the tradition of Saul Alinksy, Thompson presents an updated and–dare I say–entertaining book on the practical aspects of organizing. Thompson, who was an organizer at the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) in Brooklyn, shares important lessons that are too often neglected while placing organizing work into a larger context that sees it as a vital component of “democracy.”

Thompson begins his book with an introduction titled “Community Organizers as Builders of Democracy: Sparking a Revival Beyond the Vote” in which he argues that organizing can foster greater participation in the political process than voting by encouraging people to take charge and address the problems that are affecting them. From this starting point, Thompson offers practical advice on organizing mixed with brief case studies and personal stories relating to the topics being discussed. Throughout his book, Thompson focuses on the fact that social movements are built not by charismatic leaders but by committed individuals and groups and emphasizes the importance of building leadership skills so that we can all be “leaders.” Moreover, Thompson acknowledges and discusses issues of race and class privilege and how they relate to organizing.

Thompson focuses on several important aspects of organizing including media, direct action, conducting research, developing leadership and skill sharing, and relationship building. Thompson shares his experiences and discusses each topic from a position of compassion and genuine interest; none of his writing seems stale or disinterested–a welcome fact for a “how-to” book. There is plenty of practical advice for new and experienced organizers alike, with advice on everything from conducting research to scouting for actions. At the end of the book, there is a useful list of organizations that readers can contact for more information as well as a list of books that cover the topics he discusses in greater detail. Thompson also discusses history and how it relates to organizing, in terms of both how it gives organizers inspiration and how it can be used to bring people together.

Thompson also examines the difference between “organizing”–which is the focus of his book–and “mobilizing.” Unfortunately, coming out of the antiwar movement, the student movement, and the anarchist movement, much of what I have been involved with has tended more towards the “mobilizing” model. Groups I have worked with have done a good job turning people out for protests, getting folks to attend press conferences, writing letters, or doing direct actions, but we have not done so well at organizing people to build real power. I think this is one of the weaknesses of many progressive and/or radical movements and shows one of the ways in which Calling All Radicals could help build stronger movements. To be sure, antiwar organizing is different from neighborhood organizing, but we would do well to consider the techniques–from selecting strategic targets to building strong leaders-outlined in Thompson’s book.

Calling All Radicals–while touching on familiar themes for those already involved in various social movements–is an important reminder of the type of work we should be doing. Too often, we fall into the trap of doing what is easy, mobilizing the same people to attend the most recent protest against injustice, often selected for convenience and outside of strategic campaigns. Thompson’s book is full of examples of how organizing can lead to successes and concrete victories, in addition to helpful advice on avoiding burnout and the personal rewards of organizing. This is essential reading, but more

Gabriel Thompson, Calling All Radicals: How Grassroots Organizers Can Save Our Democracy, (Nation Books, 2007).

Armed Madhouse

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Greg Palast is one of the best American investigative reporters, which is perhaps why his reports are rarely aired in the United States. While Palast has broken a host of stories ranging from the purging of Florida’s voter rolls in 2000 to similar efforts in Ohio in 2004, Palast has gained little recognition in the United States. Despite two bestselling books–The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and the original version of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild–the majority of Palast’s reports air on the BBC and are ignored by the corporate media in the United States. Even Karl Rove, advisor to President George W. Bush, has noted with glee that “no national press has picked up Palast’s investigations.”

This edition of Armed Madhouse–subtitled “From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House GONE WILD”–is a reissue of the original 2006 book, expanded and updated to include two new chapters exploring how the Republican Party is planning to steal the 2008 election and the politics of Katrina. These new chapters join chapters exploring Osama bin Laden, the “War on Terror,” corporate power, election fraud, and wealth and poverty in the United States. Palast links the United States’ foreign policy to its economic policy, showing how the policies of economic warfare employed in occupied Iraq are similar to the class war waged in the United States by the wealthy on the poor. Palast makes compelling arguments that the ruling class in the United States–and yes, he pulls no punches and uses the terms of “class war”–is making billions off the backs of workers in the United States. Taking this argument further, Palast argues that the concern over “election reform” and stolen elections in the United States is a component of this class war. Palast’s reporting is fresh and he packs an incredible amount of original insight into this nearly 400-page book.

While Armed Madhouse is full of important and useful information, Palast’s writing style is at best irritating and at worst downright distracting. The book tends to meander and rapidly move from topic to topic, and while Palast says in his introduction that each chapter is meant to stand on its own, his writing within each of the chapters is occasionally muddled and difficult to follow. Thankfully for readers who are put off by Palast’s style, the book is well-indexed and the information can be easily retrieved using the index.

In his introduction, Palast asserts that he is “not a nice guy” and that argues that his book will present the facts as he finds them, regardless of whom they implicate. This is precisely what the role of a journalist should be and precisely what is missing in the corporate media’s deference to government and corporate power. Despite Palast’s somewhat irritating writing style, his reports irritate the right people–those in power–and provide important information for those working to transform society.

Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, (Plume, 2007).

Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy

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Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy is one of the best books to date that seriously looks at the details and the consequences on the 1996 Telecommunications Act. For years people have been alluding to the 1996 Telecom Act and how it set the stage for the current media ownership battles, but Jeff Chester (Center for Digital Democracy) provides information as to how that telecom policy was crafted and who the players were.

Too often the current policy battles are framed in a partisan debate when, as Chester points out, the policy is market driven. The book does a great job at looking at past and current FCC commissioners and how there is a revolving door between government and big media. One example is that of William Kennard, who was appointed by Clinton and eventually became the FCC chair. When Kennard left in 2001 he went to work for the Carlyle Group’s Global Telecommunications and Media Group. The Carlyle Group is a major political player and has strong ties to the military industrial complex. Chester documents that FCC commissioners are lobbied by big media and then go work for them in order to continue to lobby the FCC for more of the media pie.

This revolving door is bi-partisan according to Chester and was evident in the first term of the Clinton administration. In 1993, Clinton created the National Information Infrastructure (NII) since the Internet was fast becoming part of the media landscape. Deregulation was part of the plan early on with Al Gore stating “the Administration will support removal of judicial and legislative restrictions on all types of telecommunications companies: cable, telephone, utilities, television and satellite. Market forces replace regulations and judicial models that are no longer appropriate.” In addition to the administration’s acceptance of the deregulation model, media companies spent millions on lobbying to make sure that the specifics of the 1996 Telecom Act would put in place their plans for consolidation.

The book also exposes one of the more insidious outcomes of market forces dictating media use. In a section Chester calls The Brandwashing of America, he points out how the Internet has intentionally become the next major tool for targeting the public with advertising. Because of the electronic nature of the Internet, companies are able to track what sites you visit, and what consumer decision you make online. An example of how media companies use the digital technology to attract advertisers is explained by Chester with what Comcast offers on its webpage. “Comcast assures marketers that the latest in research is used to more accurately target audiences for advertisers, enabling them to collect the following: target audience identification/confirmation, purchase behaviors of your target, lifestyle activities of your target, viewing habits of your target by geographical region, and advertising activity of your competitors.”

The other major area that Chester examines is the dangerous consequences with the merging and partnerships between telephone and cable companies. Companies like AT&T and Comcast are now positioning themselves to become the new media cartels that will control the means of communication in the broadband era. We have already seen the outcome of this merger with legislation that has in effect eliminated public access TV as we have reported on this site in late 2006.

The book ends with what Chester calls a “policy agenda for the broadband era.” This is the weakest part of the book, which seems to be the case with other elements within the Media Reform movement, which is heavy on analysis, but low on concrete tactics and strategies for change. While some of the ideas are important, such as the idea of a “non-commercial media commons” there is not much offered other than creating legislative policy. It would have been refreshing to see a variety of ideas and practices from groups like the Prometheus Radio Project and the Oakland based Youth Media Council. This is in essence the difference between the media reform movement and the media justice movement.

Jeff Chester, Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy, (The New Press, 2007).

Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate

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Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate is a collection of over fifty essays examining the history and future of the Green Party, its role in electoral politics United States, and the larger role of progressives in electoral politics. The majority of the discussion focuses on the Green Party’s involvement in the 2004 election and the lessons that can be learned for future elections, while also touching on the strategy that the Party can pursue in the future. The essays, divided into five categories—“Green Independence? The Debate Begins,” “Green Tactics and Strategy,” “The Milwaukee Convention,” “Independence Versus Anybody but Bush,” and “Lessons from the 2004 Election”—explore the internal debate within the Green Party over strategy, the question of running candidates, the Party’s commitment to internal democracy, the role of Ralph Nader’s 2004 independent presidential campaign, and the role of other progressive groups and Democrats in influencing Green decision-making. Moreover, the book explores in detail how the Green Party came to the decision to run David Cobb as its presidential candidate in 2004, who despite running as a Green Party candidate, adopted a “smart-growth” strategy that would not challenge Democrat John Kerry or Republican George W. Bush in so-called “unsafe” states where the election was close and never seriously worked to win the election. Similarly, Cobb’s running mate, Pat LaMarche of Maine, stated that if the election were close she might not even vote for herself in the election.

The prospects for any meaningful definition of “success” in a Presidential campaign is no doubt limited when a Party nominates a candidate that is not serious about winning the election, as such a campaign is likely to further marginalize so-called “third parties” in the United States. Yet, despite a clear understanding of this, the Green Party in 2004 nominated a relatively unknown candidate, David Cobb, for president in 2004 who made his primary goal overcoming the notion that the Green Party was a “spoiler” party after the loss of Democrat Al Gore in 2000. In order to do this, Cobb formulated a strategy where he would campaign in states where the election was not close (states where poll data suggested that a Democrat or Republican was ahead by a substantial margin) and would encourage Greens to vote out the Bush regime in such states. This strategy was in turn supported by a number of prominent Green Party activists who, due to a combination of absorbing criticism of Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party campaign and an analysis of the Bush administration that dictated that the urgency of defeating the Bush administration was such that it justified voting for the Democratic Party candidate. Of course, this was not the position of all Greens and there was a lively debate within the Party over the best course to pursue in the 2004 election. Many Party activists, including Nader’s 2004 vice presidential candidate Peter Camejo, vehemently objected to encouraging Greens to vote for Democratic Senator John Kerry in the election, as it was clear that neither he nor the Democratic Party were interested in supporting Green issues. Some in the Green Party supported to the “Avocado Declaration,” an analysis of the Green Party, progressive politics, and the Democratic Party in which it is argued that the Green Party must pursue its own independent electoral strategy. As this internal debate raged, Ralph Nader announced that he would run again for President and indicated that he would like to work with the Green Party again, and the debate expanded as Green activists around the country argued over whether or not it strategically made sense to support Nader, to run another candidate, or run no candidate at all. In advance of the Party’s 2004 convention the debate was deeply divided, but a “Unity” plan advocated by Peter Camejo where the Party would endorse its own candidate (Cobb) and Ralph Nader and then allow the state parties to decide which candidate they would support, was circulated but ultimately rejected and Cobb was nominated. However, there is also strong evidence that this debate was purposely stifled, as multiple essays criticized the procedure used to decide the Green Party’s presidential nominee, with the process used at the 2004 Green Party convention stacking delegates for Cobb and structuring the procedures in such a way that Cobb was nominated despite only have 12% of the votes.

Several writers also explore the campaign against Ralph Nader in the 2004 election, which was one of the most intense attacks ever mounted on a third party candidate. Once Nader announced that he would run as an independent without the support of the Green Party, the Democrats mounted an intense campaign to deny Nader ballot access by developing 527 organizations to fund a coordinated campaign, organizing volunteers to challenge petition signatures, and even working with law firms that primarily supported Republicans to mount legal challenges to Nader’s effort. Other Democrats also mounted attacks on Nader, with Howard Dean gay-bashing Nader on NPR saying that Nader accepted money from anti-gay Republicans and the Congressional Black Caucus of the House of Representatives telling Nader to “withdraw” from the election. Progressive Democrats like Dennis Kucinich were used early in the primary elections as a means of attempting to absorb progressives into the Democratic Party, and even after Kerry won enough primaries to secure the nomination, Kucinich kept going in the Democratic Party creating an illusion of a progressive view within the Party despite none of his positions being adopted and the Democratic Party once again completely ignoring the concerns of progressives. However, some of the most virulent anti-Nader attacks came from “progressives” such as The Nation’s editors who advised Nader to avoid running for “the good of the country, the many causes you’ve championed, and for your own good name.” The magazine also published other articles highly critical of Nader including one calling Nader “Bush’s Useful Idiot,” while many other prominent progressives made a series of comments highly critical of Nader’s campaign.

In addition to the exploration of the Green Party’s internal debates and the status of the Party in 2006, the book also raises important questions about the progressive involvement in electoral politics and the relationship of progressive movements to the Democratic Party. Several essays in the book make it clear that the Democratic Party is now dominated by corporate interests and has an institutional role of accepting and neutralizing dissent as a means of preserving the status quo on economic and foreign policy rather than providing any substantive challenge. Similarly, the Democratic and Republican Party’s focus on social issues such as abortion, is a means of distracting the electorate from the fact that there is a consensus on much of their agenda. In light of the failings of the Democratic Party, the book makes compelling arguments that progressive electoral strategies must focus on independent politics and building movements outside of the Democratic Party. An inherent part of this is restructuring elections in the United States to incorporate reforms such as instant run-off voting (IRV) or proportional representation in order to be able to build parties that can make concrete improvements in people’s lives, as such electoral reforms would go a long way towards eliminating the “spoiler” questions. It is also clear that running a candidate without aiming to win is a bankrupt strategy. Following Cobb’s dismal showing in 2004, the Green Party lost ballot access in several states and received little media attention for either his campaign or Green/progressive issues. Moreover, progressives got nowhere in the 2004 election and with the loss of John Kerry and the millions of dollars spent to get him elected, a variety of movements were temporarily dispirited. Of course, since there were no demands made on Kerry in exchange for his vote, there would have likely been a similar period of disempowerment once the realities of his lack of commitment to progressive causes became clear to those that glossed over it during the election.

Independent Politics is an important and engaging examination of both the Green Party and progressive electoral politics in the United States. Unfortunately, as we enter the final months of the 2006 election it seems that we are poised to make many of the same mistakes of the 2004 elections with many progressives once again voting for Democratic Party candidates who will largely ignore their issues once elected. To that end, progressives would benefit greatly from reading this books and committing themselves to genuinely independent politics.

Howie Hawkins, ed., Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate, (Haymarket Books, 2006).

Tragedy & Farce: How The American Media Sells Wars, Spins Elections, and Destroy Democracy

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Free Press co-founders John Nichols and Robert McChesney have teamed up again to write another critique of how the news media in the US fails citizens in promoting democracy. Like many of their previous books, this one critiques major events in recent years, particularly the US War in Iraq and the 2004 Elections. Nothing new was really provided in these sections, but they provide a useful overview and hit on the important aspects of US coverage of these major events in the past 3 years. Much of what they argue is laid out in the first few chapters which looks at some of the main problems confronting modern journalism. The areas they identify as most problematic are the notions of professional journalism, official sources, lack of context and the corporate consolidation of media ownership. These are the standards which they apply to the war and election coverage.

In the election coverage they spent more time on the media campaign to discredit Howard Dean than I would have, but the important point that they make is that even for the media Dean did not fit into the category of being a “viable” candidate, which means even for the media Dean did not represent the privileged point of view. This is one of the norms of professional journalism, according to Nichols and McChesney, the internalizing and promotion of elite viewpoints. we can see this both in terms of how news people themselves have become celebrities, but also due to the fact that their salaries are equivalent to that of the top ten percent of Americans.

Where the book falls short is in the concluding chapter which looks at the media reform movement. The do provide a nice overview of what the movement represents and even identifying the specific challenges to making media more democratic in this country. As with many books there was not enough in this section, either looking at many recent victories in the media reform movement or best practices being employed by groups around the country. It left me wanting more details about what groups are doing in their communities and how they are using media issues as an organizing opportunity.

John Nichols and Robert McChesney, Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy, (The New Press, 2005).