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76 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2004
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
on August 18, 2004
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
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. Dissent is the essence of democracy and any attempt to squelch it is in itself anti-democratic.

Well, out comes Wolcott bright-eyed with a wide-swinging haymaker of a book that makes the last few years seem like a liberal rope-a-dope ploy as he pounds the Right wing meathead punditocracy into low-grade elephant burgers. His performance is magnificent, as he waylays the entire smarmy lot.

This book is a joy to read, spot on, hilariously funny, and sings right along with page after page of beautiful, witty prose. The only drawback? Like any great bout, I was sad when it was all over. So, lace up you gloves and climb in the ring. It's your turn tackle the 'Attack Poodles'.
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73 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2004
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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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2004
Wolcott has a way with a phrase and the only thing he shares with his right wing brethren is an instinct for the jugular. His riffs on Ann Coulter alone are worth the price. A furious, funny, and (sadly) accurate account of our prostrate media culture.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2005
I thoroughly enjoy James Wolcott's blog and find him smart yet hilarious whenever I see him on some political TV show, so I was looking forward to reading this book. If you've read a lot of the recent anti-Bush/right-wing-takeover-of-the-media type of books that have come out in the the past few years, there may not be a lot of groundbreaking new information. The real reason to read this book is Wolcott's writing style--I don't think many people can write about political punditry with a sarcastic, poetic wit the way the author does. He has a real gift for inventing phrases and descriptions for things and people that I would never have thought of, yet are totally recognizable. One of my favorite examples of this is Wolcott's uncannily apt description of Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball": "Plump and sassy inside his own hotdog skin (a self-described 'happy troll'), Matthews splashes and spills his noisy presence around the studio like a man supremely assured that he's at the top of his game, the life of the party, the zeitgeist zapping from his pores."

As a few other reviewers have mentioned, the chapter on Peggy Noonan was one of the best, and probably the chapter that provided the most completely new material. As I said before, if you read a lot of these political/media critiques, there may not be much new here, and may find the book overlong. But if you enjoy Wolcott's style, you'll be able to finish this book quickly.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2005
Wolcott offers a hilarious but sad look at how our media has become nothing more than one sided propaganda. Just under 4 years ago, Bush made an empty promise to capture Bin laden dead or alive and it hasn't happened and even after the recent bombings in London, he made the same empty promise. The Iraq war mess is no better as the media is doing all they can to defend Bush's Iraq war despite the glaring evidence that it wasn't worth it. My only complaint is that the author does not make known the fact that us average Joe and Mary six-pack voters are still resigned to these leaders and the media despite all their flaws. It's not that the voters are informed about the truth but that they are purposely misinformed about the truth. Why would the media go on a wild goose chase covering the Chandra Levy missing case throughout the summer of 2001 while at the same time ignoring the glaring dangers of potential terrorists who ended up destroying the two towers in Manhatten and part of the Pentagon in D.C. ? Or for that matter, why else would the same media that ignores the ever increasing dangers and failures presented by Bush's Iraq War choose to give more air time to Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson? I would have appreciated it if the author had talked about why the voters and the Democrats are not standing up to the corrupt kon-servative media and government and holding them accountable. Other than that, I think this book is a beginning step to correctly informing the misinformed.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2005
If you just read the description of this book you will almost immediately know if you will like it. It's not a scholarly, thoughtful meditation on media bias. It's a glorious lambasting of the forces of propaganda and mediocrity. Walcott is mad and more than willing to let that show. He's not pretending to want people to get along, he's hollering that the emperor has no clothes.

Reading it I would the style light and blog-like. But without the laziness that blogs usually entail. Walcott has taken a light idea and sculpted it marvellously. His turns of phrase are a joy and never felt overdone. And his targets are passionately deserving of their pummelling.

Simply put, if you think you might like this book, you will. If you don't, you won't.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Wolcott has written the best critique to date of media punditry in the Bush era. He casts a harsh but hilarious light on the lineup of retro right wingers who call themselves fair and balanced, as well as the milquetoast middle-of-the-roaders who lay down in the middle of that road to be run over by every Republicatan and reactionary vehicle that comes speeding noisily onto the airwaves. His takes on O'Reilly, Matthews, David Brooks, Dennis Miller, Peggy Noonan, are devastatingly funny and giddily entertaining. He writes just before the worst of the Swift Boat and other right-wing attacks on Kerry but he uncannily predicts them and other developments around the pre-election period. Mostly he presages the way in which the media colludes with the right; the best example being their giving equal weight to the Kerry Swift Boat attackers as they did to the defenders who had every bit of hard evidence on their side. So a bunch of slanderers get the benefit of equal treatment by our ever-fair and ever-balanced media. If we get stuck with Bush, Wolcott has squarely placed much (if not most) of the responsibility squarely on the media's shoulders, and unfortunately it may take decades before real historians (not the ones who play them on TV) will be able to get across the message of just how globally destructive this administration has been. Wolcott gets all this right, sounding an alarm bell but doing so with so much wit that reading his book is pure pleasure...setting it apart from the more scholarly and rigorous media critiques by Alterman and others. (Though "Attack Poodles" appears very well researched.) I hope Wolcott gets exposure where he most deserves it--on Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and Al Franken. (Unless I missed something). The only problem with the book is cosmetic--the cover would have helped the book sell better if it had had caricatures of Coulter, Matthews, Noonan, Miller, etc.,instead of the poodle picture. How 'bout a quick paperback edition, with an election update, and a new cover like that?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
In the spirit and linguistic pungence of HL Mencken and Gore Vidal, Wolcott skewers the "attack poodles" of the media, loathsome cable news creatures who contribute to the dumbing down of America by their cheap marketing of ideas, their use of gimmicks, their reliance on sensationalism, their unfair demonism of their opponents, and their predictable self-promotion and self-aggrandizment. With supreme assuredeness, Wolcott lambastes the minions at Fox News and other cable news pundits. So why only four stars? Because there's an intensity to Wolcott's language that is his greatest strength as a writer but that asserts limits for book-length works. After being razzle-dazzled by Wolcott's delicious display of scathing critique, the exercise becomes redundant. He deftly defines "the attack poodle" in the book's opening, then proceeds to paint every media figure according to his definition so that the exercise, after 150 pages or so, becomes predictable and a bit monotonous. Still it is a pleasure to watch a master of language do his work, so please let me end this review on a positive note: Wolcott is always worth reading. For a companion piece about the way the media is the lapdog of politicians, you might pick up the equally deft and more complex critique Sore Winners by John Powers.
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