I recommend this book be read wearing asbestos gloves. Greenwald's tone is emphatic and sometimes vociferous with dozens of passages written in bold. With a large font, these fairly jump out at the reader. His theme is just as bold and twice as profound and accurate with facts that the current events follower will readily recall.
In "Great American Hypocrites," he first takes aim at the American icon of masculinity and bravado, John Wayne, whom he brands for cowardice under fire from the Selective Service Act. John Wayne received a deferment claiming that he had a wife and three kids to support while other actors, younger and older, in similar circumstances hurried to enlist and fight for their country. While promising to enlist he ignored additional summonses from his draft board until his studio could intervene on his behalf.
Greenwald postulates that men such as Wayne need to overcompensate for their cowardice by throwing their wholehearted support to future military interventions so they will feel like patriots and men of courage. It is equally important to label people who avoid service or dissent against a war as cowards and traitors. This is an important point that the author makes.
By waving the flag and calling for war, they become courageous, strong, and patriotic. By denouncing those who disagree, the dissenters become cowardly, unpatriotic, and weak. Perfect examples of this are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who avoided combat by any means, while depicting a true war hero, John Kerry, as an effete, namby-pamby. Greenwald called this image "Tough Guise."
And this has been the republican and conservative strategy since Ronald Reagan who also avoided combat vs. Jimmy Carter who served aboard nuclear submarines. They not only portray themselves as he-men and strong, but their opponents as nerdy, Casper Milquetoasts. This is already in full-swing. A no-nonsense Hillary Clinton is "rumored" to be a lesbian, and Barack Obama is now "Obambi," according to the NY Times' Maureen Dowd.
The republican strategy requires the full support of a compliant right-leaning press that is all too eager to take dictation from right-wing and rumor-mongering blogs such as the Drudge Report, which is checked almost daily by the networks. As a result, rumors and wedge issues become the order of the day and gossip becomes "character issues," lowering the bar on public discourse to the point that there isn't one anymore. April 15th of this year provides a fine example with most of the time being spent on such issues in the Pennsylvania debate between Obama and Clinton. Almost nothing of the economy, the war, our burgeoning debt to China, healthcare, or where candidates stand, made their way to them. This plays into the hands of the republican strategy.
The big question is: whose haircut is next?
Besides manliness and courage, Greenwald notes that family values, and Christian virtue have also been a part of the Great American Hypocrisy. Divorces, second and third marriages, mistresses, extramarital affairs, gay prostitution, and drug addictions have been a hallmark of the conservative orgy of false advertising.
Another defining myth of conservative marketing is that they are pro-individual and anti-government. At least that was their campaign in the 90's where the raid on the Branch Davidians and returning Elian Gonzalez to his father was an example of government interference. With the ascendancy of the Bush regime, all this fear of big government went out the Constitutional window, as did our rights regarding habeas corpus, unlawful detentions, renditions, and eavesdropping. As the author states, "overnight [they went from] liberty-defending warriors to loyal authoritarian followers.
This book establishes its obsolescence talking about McCain as the republican candidate for president whom he describes as the same old conservative wrapped in a maverick's and independent's clothing. He is bound to be embraced by the right wing media machine because he is for staying in Iraq indefinitely, one of our more unpopular wars. The mainstream media has already given him a pass on numerous gaffes and the Keating scandal while focusing endlessly on Obama's former pastor or Hillary's "sniper fire." The author predicts it will be a replay of media bias as it was in the 2000 campaign between Gore and Bush.
Glenn Greenwald knows how to capture a reader's attention. I was only mildly annoyed at the use of bold lettering, large font, and that some paragraphs seemed a bit repetitive. It seems there was a rush to print. (No one told the author that the C.V.A. Ronald Reagan is an aircraft carrier and not a battleship). But more important is the book's credibility. Greenwald writes with impassioned accuracy about what happened, and what is happening right now.
That is why you should consider reading this right now, if for nothing else to learn about truth, justice, and the American way.
It's an in-depth comeback to conservatives lies and conservative damned lies.
Its identical twin:
Conason, Joe, "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth." (Highly Recommended HR).
About the Press:
Waldman, Paul, "Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You." Although this is five years old, Waldman does a superb job of showing where the bias really is in our media. (HR)
Boehlert, Eric, "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush" (HR)
Thomas, Helen, "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public."
For Contrasts and Giggles:
Jackson, Gregg, "Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies: Issue by Issue Responses to the Most Common Claims of the Left from A to Z." Please compare this parochial work to Conason's and Greenwald's.
For more sleaze and rumors, read the Drudge Report and Michelle Malkin's blog--just once.
Glenn Greenwald's new book is indispensable for anyone who wants to know why America seems to be going so far along the wrong track we've been running along for too long. How can we have a government controlled by a party which claims to be strong on defense, in favor of smaller government and personal liberty instead give us record deficits, a more dangerous world, a weakened military, and government intrusion into every sphere of private life? It's not an accident.
Greenwald lays out in great detail what the problem is. Our political discourse in this country has been thoroughly debased by turning away from substantive debate on real issues to a freak show where myths matter more than truth and the press aids and abets the process.
The practitioners of these myths are the Republican party, which has cloaked itself in an facade of manliness, patriotism, and moral rectitude even as the facts show they are anything but. Greenwald shows how time and time again they project their own sins onto the Democrats and the press mindlessly parrots their talking points. It's not pretty, but it works - and that's why the GOP will keep doing it.
For someone who is a Republican, but wonders why the budget is busted, why fundamentalist preachers are calling the shots, why the party keeps having scandal after scandal, why the country is now on a permanent war footing, this book is a must read.
For someone who is a Democrat, this book is a must read because it explains why the Democrats seem to be always snatching defeat from victory, why they can't catch a break from the press, and why the Republicans are literally able to get away with murder time and time again.
on April 22, 2008
In documenting just a fraction of the GOP hypocrisy rampant today, Greenwald has shown us one reason why the last 7 years of Republican rule has failed so horribly- because they don't believe a word they utter.
They decry an overreaching government- except when they are doing the reaching.
They wring their hands at "amoral liberals"- hoping no mentions their own failed marriages, arrests, scandals and fraud.
They stomp their feet at the "socialist" liberals, while gaming the system for tax cuts, military contracts for superfluous weapons systems, and earmarks out the wazoo.
The GOP is built upon lies- lies about our security, our morality, and the place of government in our lives. They either don't believe a word they spew- making them hypocrites, or they do believe it all- making them fools.
Either way, they had their moment, failed horribly, and now history will judge them. And it won't be pretty, but then again, neither has the last 7 years of GOP rule. Good riddance to bad rubbish. We as a nation can no longer afford your lies, hypocrisy, and warmongering.
Kudos to Gleen Greenwald, a voice of sanity in a world crowded by fools.
on April 25, 2008
I am a registered Republican. I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and voted Republican in the Virginia primary. Since 2004, I have slowly, painfully, come to the realizations that Greenwald so eloquently articulates.
For an exhaustive analysis, the review "Exposes the Freak Show" expertly details what is so wonderful about this book; instead I would just like to encourage fellow Republicans to read this book, so you may better understand who is currently leading our party. Despite allegations to the alternative, the book is highly evidenced with simple facts about candidates lives. Nothing more complex is necessary. Please read this book.
on April 15, 2008
Great American Hypocrites is the best book I've read on how the media works since Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. In some ways, I think it's an even more important read for conservatives than it is for liberals -- at least for conservatives, like yours truly, who put principle before party. If you want to understand how politics and the media work today, how the Republican party has betrayed the principles it purports to defend, and how opinion is manipulated by appeals to fear, prejudice, and other irrational emotions, Great American Hypocrites is indispensable. Give it a try -- you won't be able to put it down, and you'll never read the paper or watch the news the same way after.
on April 15, 2008
Anyone who plans on watching or participating in the 2008 badly needs to read this book. Glenn Greenwald's insightful take on the current electoral arena is a powerful follow-up to his previous work and refreshing perspective on the current mudslinging that has come to define American politics.
I would also like to recommend this book for true Republicans who are tired of watching their ideology of small government and rich civil liberties being hijacked by the loony wing of their party that cuts taxes for the rich and sends the less fortunate to die in their hopeless foreign quagmires for oil.
Read this book.
on April 21, 2008
What I love best about Glenn Greenwald's pieces in Salon is his meticulous research and detailing of the full story behind his assertions. It's awfully easy to forget what politicians have stated over the course of months and years, but Greenwald sets the record straight by setting the record down.
What I hate the most about "Great American Hypocrites" is that Greenwald has abandoned this approach and given us what amounts to a thinly-supported diatribe about right-wing politicians he does not like. Not that I disagree with him. Not at all. But a book-length space should give GG the chance to sit back in his lawn chair and shoot the barracudas in the barrel at his (and our) leisure. But this he does not do.
Greenwald starts his attacks by honing in on the grand daddy of phony macho militarism, the Duke himself. Greenwald tells of John Wayne's attempts (all successful) to stay out of the line of fire during WWII. This while many of his fellow actors (Cooper, Stewart, Fonda) volunteered to serve in combat zones. Wayne's lack of actual military vigor stands in sharp contract to the roles he played, to his bellicose posturing about the war and to his constant commentary about his own toughness. Greenwald also sketches the gap between Wayne's moralizing about social issues and his personal life. Wayne's adulteries and multiple marriages (with hints of spousal abuse) hardly square with conservative values. Neither do Wayne's hard drinking (not surprising for a man of his era) and his "abuse" of uppers and downers. But that's about all the detail we get about this bad, bad man.
Greenwald gives similar treatment to Matt Drudge, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. While I would certainly welcome information on how well these mens' personal lives fail to match up with their public personae, I was disappointed that Greenwald was unable to deliver the goods. I found myself skipping whole paragraphs (something I almost religiously avoid) to get to the data. I was also turned off by the obvious electioneering involved in devoting an entire chapter on attacking John McCain.
Greenwald is strongest (often very strong) in his analyses of the failings of the America media. Words like "lazy" and "slothful" are flung at them, with good reason, as Greenwald describes the process by which right-wing smears (Drudge gets a drubbing here) are elevated by media into "news" and then into the public consciousness. This is a bad thing, of course, and Greenwald gives examples of how many stories of national import are buried under the avalanche of coverage given to trivial items like $400 haircurts given to presidential candidates. But interesting as they are, these are stories of stupid news gathering -- not hypocrisy.
"Great American Hypocrites" may help you identify the loose threads of some of America's loudest and most obnoxious pseudo-warriors. It may help readers give wider berth to their bellicose lies. It will give you insights into the way their mendacities reach the public. But the book will not give you the info needed to counter their influence properly, and perhaps to persuade their fans of their perfidy.
on April 19, 2008
I have read all three of Glenn Greenwald's books and he continues to build on the indictment of the GOP generally and this administration particularly. He takes what I have felt, in my gut, was true and gives me the information I need to KNOW it is true. He exposes the fact that the Emperor, in fact, has no clothes. He proves the charge of hypocracy with exquisite detail and skill. I'd be willing to bet he was VERY effective in the court room. The research and documentation are evident and convincing.
I have watched the decline of journalistic integrity over the past three decades. Through out the media mergers and growth of right-wing tabloid media "news" programming, I have marveled at the dumbing down of what passes as journalism. I have often speculated as to what the media spin would be if Watergate had happened in 2000 instead of 1972.
The GOP is so sordid and sleazy and these people are the ones with power in our country. Surely, if it didn't hurt so much, I would laugh. Even Monty Python could not have invented anything this preposterous.
on December 29, 2009
Glenn Greenwald is not a fan of "Chicken Hawks," or those who promote family values but don't live them, or "GOP marketing packages (that) are complete fabrications." His book is primarily a hit piece on the Republican contenders for President in 2008, early in the race. He finds fault and hypocrisy with all of them. As for the Democrats, he doesn't spend much time on them, except for Bill Clinton and his legacy to morality in politics, and for John Edwards and the stories of his expensive haircuts. Barack Obama does not get a mention. Apparently, he had not emerged as a frontrunner when the book was written.
The gist of the book is the following: "Time and again, Americans vote Republican due to their perceptions that right-wing leaders exude such admirable personality traits as courage, conviction, strength, wholesome family morality, identification with the "regular guy," an affection for the military, fiscal restraint, and a belief in the supremacy of the individual over the government....Liberals and Democrats generally are depicted as the opposite. Liberals are weak, irresolute, anti-military, elitist, effete, amoral, sexually deviant, profligate and antagonistic to the value of "real Americans."" And, Greenwald thinks that this is a darn shame.
To prove his point, he tells us about John Wayne, who, he says, was the "pioneer of the great American hypocrites." "While Wayne adopted super-patriotic political positions and held himself out as a right-wing tough guy, he did everything he could to avoid fighting for his country during World War II," says Greenwald. And, in the process, Wayne appeared to have no shame.
He urged other Americans to fight in wars he would not fight in, making the Vietnam War his personal crusade. He was married three times, reportedly being guilty of chronic adultery, while claiming to support traditional moral values. He was addicted to alcohol, barbiturates and amphetamines for years. Per his third wife, Wayne became a super patriot in order to "atone for staying home during WWII." He became a fervent anti-Communist, even going after Frank Sinatra for being soft on the left at some point. He made films that purposely glorified war, while generally ignoring the realities of war. He was vehemently anti-homosexual.
But, according to Greenfield, he was a farce, but one who was able to build an image of a tough guy who had the guts to stand up for the things "he believed in." He played to American myths like "liberty and freedom do not come cheap." He became the epitome of the American right-wing male: a rugged individual with the frontier spirit, a cowboy. But, again, per Greenfield, "...just as it is true of that movement's leaders today - his actual life was in every respect the precise opposite of what he claimed to be."
Hypocrite John Wayne is followed by a legion of "top tier Republican leaders," who, according to Greenwald, similarly bring with them "the very opposite of the virtues the conservative movement claims to embody." Ronald Reagan, for example, volunteered during WWII, but avoided combat. And while Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered to go to Vietnam, members of the "right-wing noise machine" did not. Says Greenwald, "They are, with extremely rare exceptions (such as John McCain), draft dodgers, combat avoiders, pencil pushers, career government lawyers, coddled corporate lobbyists, bloated pill addicts....their masculine toughness comes from the costumes they wear, the scripts they read, the roles they play - never from the reality of their own lives."
Most of these guys have a "monomaniacal obsession with military glory." They are "chicken hawks," which is defined by the author as "advocating a war from afar as a sign of personal courage and strength." The names here include Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney and "macho man" George W. Bush, who, in May 2003, landed on an aircraft carrier dressed up in a fighter pilot costume to establish himself as a "great masculine warrior-leader." For the most part, he got away with it, as he announced in his carrier-deck speech "an end to major combat operations" in Iraq.
Joe Leiberman "steadfastly avoided (military) service." Rudy Giuliani got a deferment as an "essential" civilian employee. Mitt Romney spent two years in France on his Mormon mission during the war in Vietnam. When he returned, he received student visas for attending college. Of Romney's five boys of military service age, none have volunteered for active duty service. "I respect their decision in that regard," says Romney, who unabashedly hawks the war in Iraq. Fred Thompson spent 20 years as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington avoiding military service.
And then there are the family values. Since President Clinton's sexual scandal while in office, the Republicans have added sexual moralism and traditional marriages to their campaign props. But most of the Republican leaders have histories of living "the most decadent private lives imaginable." Gingrich has been married three times. Each of his divorces was messy. His current wife, who is 24 years his junior, was his former congressional aide. Fred Thompson dumped his wife of 25 years to marry a woman 25 years younger than him. At the time, he was 59 years old.
Greenwald tries to make the case that staying married is a Christian virtue. But he points out that in politically conservative Texas, it is very simple to get divorced. And he points out the irony that Texas with its very high divorce rate refuses to let gays marry, while, the state of New Hampshire, which has legalized gay marriages, has the lowest rate of divorce in the nation. Says Greenwald, "...we have scads of people sitting around opposing same-sex marriage on the basis of Christianity, while their third husbands and multiple stepchildren and live-in girlfriends sit next to them on the couch." He adds that it is an electoral winner to demonize gay people and that Republican candidates routinely milk the issue for political gain.
John McCain, while he was married and living with his wife of 15 years, was actively dating his future wife, who was only age 25 at the time. Rudy Giuliani, a Roman Catholic, has been married three times and has been accused of "serial adultery." Yet, he believes gays should be barred from marrying on the basis of "what he calls the sanctity of marriage."
A discussion on the size and power of government also gets a chapter in the book. Greenwald claims that "conservatives have endlessly claimed that they stand for limitations on government intrusion into the lives of Americans,." Yet, when in power, Republicans tend to grow government in size and power, and they are anything but the party of limited government." And, as "the Communist supervillains of yesteryear have been replaced by Islamic Terrorists as today's Prime enemy...", George W. Bush becomes, arguably, the biggest spending president in history, in an era when the federal government extends "the tentacles of government into virtually every area of Americans' lives.
There are also stories recanted about Senator Larry Craig, Senator David Vitter, Congressman Mark Foley and other Republican hypocrites. And Greenwald tells us how the Washington press corps are generally supportive of Republican myths. Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman are singled out the most for their supportive comments. For much of this, Greenwald gives credit where credit is due to "political operative" Karl Rove, who, during the Bush presidency provided the press with "their instructions, their leaks, their scoops, their access." But he warns that right-wing operatives like to "feed the media shallow story lines, and they dutifully repeat it." And, he says that Rove was able to "keep the press in line - half intimidated and half reverent."
So, this is a book full of juicy stuff on major Republican leaders. It is a quick, easy read. It tells us that in 2008 before the Presidential election that "as a candidate, (John McCain) is the spitting image of George W. Bush." The author claims that McCain is an "apolitical maverick despite a willingness to change positions the minute that doing so is politically expedient." And, he adds that "The press refuses to subject him to critical scrutiny because of their great personal affection for him."
But even though Greenwald is critical of TV host Chris Matthews in the book, reading between the lines of some quotes from "Hardball" in the may tell us how the Republican leaders get away with their stuff. On one show, Matthews argues with Howard Dean about why people vote for one candidate or another. Per Dean, people vote on values, and Democrats need to make known their values. Says Matthews, "No, they vote on personalities." And, following the Bush speech on the flight deck of the carrier, Matthews is quoted as saying, "Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy...The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
If Matthews is right, and I think, for the most part, he is, then we are probably in for years more of the Republican strategy of running candidates who project visions of courage, conviction, strength, family values, affection for wars and the military, and fiscal restraint....even if none of this is consistent with the candidates past or future. Whether the person is a hypocrite or not may not be as important as the personality projected. O.K., but, to end, now tell me how Barack Obama fits into all of this.
on August 7, 2008
...provided you're Democratically- (as opposed to democratically-) inclined. Glenn Greenwald's object in life appears to be to take the fight to the right-wing Republican loonies, to repossess the ground that they have taken and dominated for so long, namely, the ideas that Republican men are real men, Republican women are real women and Republican little furry green creatures from Alpha-Centauri are real little furry green creatures from Alpha-Centauri, and only they can be trusted to bring security, low taxes, free gas, high morality and family values, and to have a direct line to God (who, as everyone knows, votes Republican, if He knows what's good for Him). On the other hand, Democrats are faggotty, wimpish, limp-wristed, girly men, their womenfolk are dragons, harridans and dykes, and they're friends of terrorists, poofters, global warming liars, Big Government, Satan and Richard Dawkins (the last-named two possibly being one and the same).
Mr. Greenwald mercilessly (but somewhat repetitively - a Greenwald trait, it seems) exposes the lies, distortions and utter humbug of these appalling people, starting at the archetypical American hero John Wayne, ultra-hawk, who, like his distinguished successors Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol (Sr. and Jr.), etc., etc., furiously struck heroic poses but strenuously avoided combat, and were happy enough to send others off to do the dying. Remember Dubya's contribution to the Iraq War; he gave up golf, poor baby. I did love the contrast between the disgusting San Francisco liberal and potential civilisation-ender Nancy Pelosi (one husband, children and grandchildren) and that sterling defender of family values Newt Gingrich (multiple wives, sordid divorces, multiple affairs).
To me, as a limp-wristed, cheese-eating, domineered, surrender Yurpeen, the most worrying thing of all is that a book like this needs to be written at all. Those of us outside the USA can see it all clearly and how silly it all is. The scary thing is that so many in the USA apparently can't or won't. They ignore substantial issues and concentrate instead on trivialities, and that these trivial issues decide who will be the leader of the world's most powerful armed forces, with his or her finger on the trigger of a major nuclear arsenal. If John Edwards had good positions on issues facing the country, I would be interested, regardless of the facts that he spent $400 on a haircut and combed the results for half an hour at a time (funny that nothing is made of John McCain's taste for seriously expensive Italian shoes), and, yes, even the occasional infidelity (he wasn't the first and he assuredly won't be the last - besides, The Holy Newt leaves him totally in the shade).
Has US political dialogue and the things that determine elections really sunk so low? As I write, John McCain (basically a fine and honourable gentleman, I believe) has unleashed the Rovian Republican attack dogs whose job is to dig up dirt for an easily-conned (or willing to be conned) electorate. One can sense the desperation that this is his last chance at The Big One and that he'll stoop to any dirty trick to get it. As Mr. Greenwald says, Mr. McCain is More Of The Same. And you'd think that the US electorate could see through it all by now. Apparently not :-(
Trouble is, you just know that, if the pendulum were to swing the other way, the Democrats would become just as rotten, corrupt, petty and downright dishonest. The system itself is at fault. If Mr. Greenwald's book wakens America up to the fact that it needs major surgery on its institutions, in order to move away from being the world's largest banana republic, it will have done a great service.