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Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News In a Time of Terror Hardcover – August 25, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From cultural critic Wolcott (Vanity Fair; the New Yorker) comes an examination of the "infotainment" that he says now passes for political news. In an age brimming with 24-hour news channels, talk radio and the Internet, how is it, Wolcott asks, that Americans seem to be less informed than in the past? He points a finger at the rise of TV news personalities, or the "attack poodles," those ratings-hungry pundits, who, he says, are geared more toward quips, rants, profits and fame than to informing a democratic populace. Wolcott finds examples of the specimen in Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Chris Matthews, Dennis Miller and Bob Novak. Beneath Wolcott's humor and catchy prose, however, lurk some dark revelations, such as a Fox news staffer's claim that he and his colleagues are instructed to seek out stories that "cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk-radio and yell at their televisions." That strategy quickly took Fox News to the top of the heap and has left the other networks in a dizzying game of catchup that has set what Wolcott sees as a dismal, fractious tone for our national discourse. Intelligent, amusing and insightful, Wolcott's effort is still unlikely to approach sales anywhere close to those of books published recently by some of the "attack poodles" he criticizes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

If this volume only excoriated the policies of the current Bush administration--which it does--it would go to the end of a serpentine line of books and articles published this season on the topic. However, in looking at those policies through the reportage of those he felt abdicated their professional duties, or who freely allied themselves with the right wing, Vanity Fair cultural critic Wolcott delivers a blistering, funny, and wholly useful reference to the media coverage we'll see in this November's elections. Its topicality probably gives the book a brief shelf life, but Wolcott's overview of the press in 2004 is as sharp as anyone's, and his zingers can be irresistible. On New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: "If he were any more indefatigable, he could chase down his own line drives." Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax (August 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140135212X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401352127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,260,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Tom F on August 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was worth the wait. Although about 300 pages, Attack Poodles more than makes up in quality than quantity. What makes James Wolcott's analysis of the rampant media whoredom so compelling is that he's so damned funny. Although the subject is depressing as hell, I laughed out loud as he turned the tables on the American Fourth Reich starting with NYT's Medusa Judith Miller up to and including the loathsome not a comic in standing Dennis Miller. His chapter on Peggy Noonan finally deflates that gasbag for good. Another reason to read this book is his snappy writing style, his cultural digs and his dead-on observations of the squawking, amoral toads who stench up OUR airwaves with rightist malevolence. Wolcott's premise is not that they're ideologues, they'd have to have principles for that, they just want to "win." Even if it means selling this country down the river. This book is the perfect complement to other such media criticisms in "the Left Strikes Back" series including the first shot across the SS Bush's bow, Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?," Joe Conason's "Big Lies," and David Brock's "Republican Noise Machine." Bushies and Dittoheads won't like this book (not that they'd ever read it), but knowing it exists will cause more distemper. I can hear the "tinny arfs" beginning to stir in the background. The poodles will not be amused now that Wolcott has given voice to who they are and what they're doing.
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103 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Whatley on August 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
James Wolcott has written an amazing book. Be warned, when reading in public you will attract stares because the book is laugh-out-loud funny. While deconstructing the attack poodles (a breed of pundits who never met a fact that they cared to acknowledge), Wolcott's direct and informative while using humor to nail the hypocrisy of the inbred breed. His use of rhetorical questioning is almost as amazing as his devastating one liners.

Attack Poodles is a wonderful book from a Vanity Fair writer whose intelligence and wit lives up to the tradition fellow Van Fair writer Dorothy Parker long ago set.

I hope future reviewers don't use pull quotes to demonstrate the humor. It's tempting but it will destroy the element of discovery for the reader.

The Peggy Noonan chapter has been cited by a previous reviewer and it is an amazingly strong and funny chapter. All who've suffered under the "commentary" of Peggy Noones would be wise to sample a page or two of that chapter. If you don't find your nods turning into bursts of laughter, this isn't the book for you.

Should you find yourself laughing, purchase the book and delight in the style and humor of Wolcott's strong writing.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By DOC BARHAM on February 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Up front: I'm NOT a Democrat. However, since the "liberal media bias" meme has gone viral, I've noticed that Democrats and the Left, in general, have really been taking it on the chin for the past four years. I wondered just how long liberal talking heads were going to sit back and take the constant barrage of malicious abuse levelled against them. Finally, a handful of decent books began to roll out in an attempt to fight back. With the 2004 election, though, Democrats seemed bloodied, dazed and confused, and reeling against the ropes once more.

Democrats lost because, like it or not, the Republican party has it's act together. They know how to frame the debate to their favor and disseminate their ideas as talking points to every node of the media chain, while the Democrats are left squabbling amongst themselves and fumbling for a coherent message that reaches voters hearts and minds.

The Republican Party is like a very good boxer who's also not afraid to throw a few illegal elbows when it comes time to mix it up inside in a tie up. Machiavellian, and it gets the job done.

Unfortunately, in the past ten years, the Right wing political beast has squeezed out a brood of 'Attack Poodles', vicious little psuedo-intellectual, yappy dog pundits that have become the rabid new breed of the chattering class. It's one thing to pull out the occasional 'snap' during heated political debate, but the tenor of op-ed commentary and public discourse in this new millenium has been shockingly over-the-top. As an example, trying to reframe political dissent as "treason" and calling for the imprisonment of those who disagree with administration policies is not only shameful and unethical, it is inexcusable.
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73 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on September 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Can you imagine researching this book? How many viewing hours must it have taken James Wolcott to listen to the dozens of "Attack Poodles" about which he writes? I, for one, am glad he did as he has written a first-rate, alarmingly funny book about those right-wing pundits that fan out across our airwaves.

With the ongoing speed of a locomotive, Wolcott chops up people like Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Peggy Noonan, Dennis Miller and a "host" of others. His comments on Coulter would make the blonde bimbo's hair curl more than it would on a hot, humid day. And he allows us to see through these hapless purveyors of nonsense like a clear pane of Zell-ophane.

While the subect matter is one that should concern us all, the best part about "Attack Poodles" is that it is so deftly written. It leaves the reader trying to decide which poodle is the dumbest, (my vote goes to Joe Scarborough), the smarmiest (aren't they all), the biggest bag of wind (how about Robert Novak?) and so on. It's like being a kid in a candy shop with so many options from which to choose.

I found myself nodding in agreement with his final conclusions, which are pointed and welcome. It's a serious ending to a book which sticks the knife in, pulls it out cleanly and has fun along the way. When you have finished the book, just for added kicks, re-read the paragraph about Reagan's foot!
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