- Hardcover: 245 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (September 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780312315603
- ISBN-13: 978-0312315603
- ASIN: 0312315600
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
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Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth Hardcover – September 1, 2003
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Conservative talk show hosts and newspaper columnists have made an industry out of incessantly deriding the American left, citing liberals for everything from moral decay to bad economic policy to a soft approach on terrorism. Often these accusations are bound in book form and sell quite well. Only one problem, according to Salon.com and New York Observer writer Joe Conason: the charges they're leveling just aren't true. In Big Lies, Conason dissects 10 of the most persistent, and--according to him--glaringly incorrect, arguments made by conservatives. Each chapter begins with a quotation ("Liberals control the media and misuse their influence to promote left-wing politics," "Conservatives are the only true champions of free enterprise"), which is then picked apart using statistical evidence and detailed historical research and rejected. The modern right wing, in the opinion of Conason, is not the bastion of virtue and defender of the common man it claims to be. Rather, it is a calculating and shrewdly efficient group of propagandists fueled by revenues generated by a system that rewards cronyism. Granted, it doesn't take much to deflate the bombast of shrill political talk show hosts whose very living depends on making shocking accusations about public figures, a couple of raw facts usually does the trick, but Conason offers more than simple refutation, going deeper to challenge the presumptions that generate such platitudes. And he navigates a highly readable and informative writing style that feels more substantive than Molly Ivins and Al Franken but still a lot wittier than Noam Chomsky. Many of Conason's arguments, like those of his foes, naturally come down to matters of opinion, and published material can readily be found to back up nearly any perspective. Nonetheless, he presents clear and logical points, and his thinking is well supported by both the historical record and empirical data. Accusing Joe Conason of lies (of any size) would certainly be a difficult task. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Liberals are fighting back, and Conason, a columnist for the New York Observer and Salon, delivers what he hopes will be a knockout blow to Ann Coulter (whom he accuses of "manufacturing... sham outrage for personal gain and political advantage") and her liberal-bashing comrades on the right. He lands some fine punches as he turns what he terms their "lies" back on themselves, amassing evidence that it's conservatives who are the elitists, who hold sway in the media, who violate family values (though Conason's chapter on what he casts as the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich and his cohorts, trotting out one sexual transgression after another, quickly becomes distasteful). Conason's case is substantial, especially in dismissing conservatives' espousal of the free market-arguing that what they really support is selfish crony capitalism (he indicts the Bushes at length)- and in reviewing of Clinton's strong anti-al-Qaida campaign to counter charges that he was "soft" on terrorism. (Liberals will find it particularly delicious that then senator John Ashcroft led the battle against Clinton's effort to get government control over encryption software on civil liberties grounds.) But most of Conason's points are already well rehearsed, though liberals may find it useful to have them gathered in one volume. Despite conservative Republican election victories, Conason argues, polls show that most Americans sympathize with liberal positions on issues from the tax system to the environment. Still, it's not clear that what eventually becomes a tiresome litany of the sins of the right is the best way to remind Americans of where their sympathies really lie.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Many of us who have been regularly reading center and left-of-center publications and web sites for some years now will be familiar with the material covered here. In fact the acknowledgements include a long list of web sites ("blogs," a term I dislike) that seem to herald the importance of this medium in the future. Conason has packed the most important parts of it into a slim volume, easy to read in just a few sittings, good for busy people who do not have time to read the web. I did not find a page that failed to deliver something significant. We can just hope it gets into the hands of well-meaning voters who have been duped so long.
I am still looking and waiting for a credible debunking, or at least a solid rebuttal, to Joe Conason's and Gene Lyon's _Hunting of the President._ It has been some years now and it has not happened. My guess is it will not happen with _Big Lies_ either. Instead you are going to see a lot of shrill denunciations from those who hope to keep the right-wing myth alive with yet more lies, heated adjectives, and spin on trivia. It will be interesting to see what the response will be.
Most People Suffer From Historical Amnesia
Joe Conason (JC) is a good writer and this book is a quite easy read. I highly suggest this book over Al Franken book. When you compare the two side by side you realize, that JC is targeting a higher level of sophistication. He disperses with the juvenile swear words and the pedantic ranting that fill AF's book. JC takes the intelligent and reasoned approached one that I prefer over the caustic AF.
This does not make the book great though, rather than try to correct every point in the book I have listed just a few brief examples of illogical deductions or downright lies.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration did not rescue the miners as JC implied instead it was a combination of volunteers and paid professionals who effected the rescue. (14-15)
JC was completely disingenuous in how much the average taxpayer received back in Bush's tax cut. The tax cuts were equal across the board but the best he could come up with is people who paid NO Federal tax got NO money back. HOW UNFAIR! (16-17)
To prove that the media isn't biased he states that conservatives actually get to voice their opinions in the editorial sections this is terrible compared to 20 years ago when they were excluded completely (30) and again he is irked that the newspapers even allow conservatives to pen their thoughts. (41)
JC asserts that Ann Coutler gets good reviews of her books by the press these are the examples of good reviews:
"Insult Slinging", "Sarcastic overhype", "Piece of agit-pop", "Pretends to intellectual seriousness where there is none." (32)
Wow if those are good reviews I would hate to see the bad ones.
JC is very upset that the media might even report that there is a bias (38-39) Shhh don't talk about it and nobody will notice.
To prove there is no bias JC shows these rather strange statistics for political endorsements for presidential candidates by Gannett Papers
1996 29% of the papers endorsed Bob Dole
2000 38% of the papers endorsed George Bush
He then follows those statistics up with this quote
"The trend favors republicans; Bob Dole won many more endorsements that Bill Clinton did in 1996, but not by the margin as impressive as that Bush achieved in 2000." (39-40)
Amazing 38% is an IMPRESSIVE margin. Well, NO, JC 38% shows the pervasive liberal bias. Nice try
NPR has politically balanced programming (47) STOP LAUGHING I didn't write that JC did, I guess politically balanced programming means that NO right or even middle of the road voice is heard.
Another great quote: "Conservatives enjoy other vast stretches of uncontested terrain in the national media." (48) His than lists all that he can think of to prove his point: 3 newspapers, 2 magazines, FOX news.
That's it folks that's the extreme conservative bias in the news.
To prove that CNBC is slanted powerfully to the right JC found that the WSJ ONCE had a show on it. Oh my God, 1 show, on 1 hour, once a week. That is 1 out of 148 hours of weekly programming that was conservative and that makes them slanted powerfully to the right. (48-49)
BTW the show was cancelled it is now 148 out of 148 hours of liberal programming. Thank God no more right wing slant.
He admits that Dan Rather and the CBS news are liberal (51)
Wait a second JC just spent 20 pages explaining that the media was slanted to the right, he even slammed Bernard Goldberg for saying Dan was liberal, but now he admits it. The only conservative voice on the Network or Cable news is FOX and everything else is liberal. Thanks for 20 pages of TRUE LIES.
JC is upset that Anne Coutler actually dates men and has many close GAY friends. (113) So much for normal homophobic invectives bandied about by the left.
One of my favorite quotes by JC "Conservatives cannot compete in the black community because they uphold color-blind principle, civil-quality and the constitution" (129) WOW such brutal honest Joe, those damn color-blind, non-racists, constitution believing scum on the right what are they thinking?
In the end you are left rather exasperated. It seems that JC thought pattern, like much of other current day liberal authors is, if you repeat a lie often enough it will become the truth. His examples throughout the book are simply stated, PATHETIC. They usually show the exact opposite of his intended point, but it doesn't matter to him or to his INTENDED audience. They have no interest in the truth and even when they are presented facts such as a 38% endorsement for Bush is "PREVASIVE" conservative bias they simply fall to think what percentage then endorsed Gore?
On page 3 JC wrote probably the biggest truth of this book "If Americans have a common fault, however, it's our tendency to suffer from historical amnesia." Joe you are right that is how you can claim the Civil Right Act was a liberal victory. The majority of Americans, especially liberal ones, do not know that more liberals voted AGAINST civil rights than conservatives. It's simple facts like these that you turn around and they wage your campaign of BIG LIES.