What is the correct role of the media in national politics? Does government propagandize the electorate or enlighten them? Will it allow us to scale up traditional New England town democracy to a national level, or create a society of conformists, eventually marching in lock step to disaster? Historically, how malleable has the public been? What was the media's role in advancing Vietnam and the civil rights movement? When does taking advantage of and playing the media cross the line into misuse?
And what of the media in society? Could it empower the lowest common denominator and institute the “tyranny of the majority” through demagoguery? Is it even possible to be objective?, since no single person can know all (even reasonable) points of view on a major issue. Starting at a certain level of abstraction, is truth simply a matter of spin and bias? And when the media has what one regards as biased reporting – is it due to an honest bias?, or does it come from the dictates of the outlet owner on which positions their writers should be hired for or favor?
Given the role of the internet in articulately advancing so many opinions at odds with each other – in the future will it be possible to even produce consensus about anything meaningful?
I have previous purchased and tried to make my way through several books featuring Edward Bernays (Propaganda, Crystallizing Public Opinion, The Father of Spin). Past the first few chapters of nicely summarized insight I found them to become so full of routine minutia and pontification that they lost my interest.
“The Republic of Spin” traces the role of the media (newspapers, radio, TV), starting with Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. The vast majority of the book held me spellbound, with well thought out prose - ways of explaining and summing up. Only towards the end with the George W Bush and Obama administrations did it (sort of) start skimming and falling short of other books (like Frank Rich’s “The Great Story Ever Sold”) . A frank analysis of what is termed “political correctness” - in light of statistics on social pathology (our present day elephant in the room, our third rail of politics) is also missing. None-the-less, this book presents a culled set of history that’s hard to find summarized anywhere else. Five stars.