There is indeed a vast right-wing conspiracy out there, writes Trudy Lieberman in Slanting the Story
: "How the right wing has come to dominate public policy debates is one of the most significant political stories of the last two decades. The right-wing success stems largely from a variety of aggressive strategies used by well-financed think tanks and policy institutes to influence the media's coverage of political and economic issues." She has a point: conservative organizations that barely existed a generation ago now play a major role in shaping American political life, including the media's coverage of it. Her opinion of what this all means, however, is rather slanted itself: the result, she asserts, is "misleading and one-sided reporting that has given the electorate a distorted view of many important issues." Conservatives who can't find jobs in universities or have ever seen the surveys showing that the vast majority of reporters vote Democratic will laugh out loud when they read Lieberman's red-alert prose: "Conservative organizations are designing the agenda ... debate has become one-sided. The implications for the future of American democracy are profound."
Lieberman does make several intriguing observations, such as how conservative groups have modeled themselves after the consumer and environmentalist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. They've "beaten Ralph Nader at his own game," she writes. She also offers a few interesting case studies on how conservative groups have fought, with some success, against the growth of government. Lieberman clearly wishes they had failed. She urges journalists to engage in more objective, balanced reporting, but she doesn't practice what she preaches: this book is a hit job. It will appeal to left-wing partisans, and few others. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
"How the right wing has come to dominate the public policy debates is one of the most significant political stories of the last two decades," declares Lieberman, health policy editor at Consumer Reports. This dominance has come, she says, through the aggressive strategies used by well-financed think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, to frame political debates in the media. Lieberman backs up her thesis with effective case studies. She notes that the conservative Capital Research Center's "ad hominem attack" on the liberal American Association of Retired Persons, as part of a campaign to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, resulted in an "avalanche" of news coverage echoing various charges made by the Center. Likewise, she says, the "modernization" (i.e., the weakening) of the Food and Drug Administration was effected by a campaign by a handful of right-wing think tanks on an antiregulatory campaign. Lieberman doesn't aim her cannons at the right-wing think tanks alone; she also criticizes what she sees as the intellectual laziness of many in the news media. News stories, she argues, often fail to identify the ideological bias of their sources and fail to provide context for their charges, resulting in "misleading and one-sided reporting." In a few cases, the author does not seem critical enough when analyzing the think tanks' claims for credit as the source of news stories, and she unfortunately doesn't grill the journalists whom she claims have too readily accepted think-tank propaganda. But she sagely observes that the "old journalistic model" may not work well when confronted by a "sustained, well-funded lobbying effort" and that journalists committed to neutrality are unwilling to supply critical context. She also warns that liberal advocacy groups must better promote their arguments and counter their opponents. (May)
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