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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Tragedy and Farce: How The American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy

Tragedy and Farce: How The American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy

1 rating: 3.0
2006 non-fiction book by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney

As this book makes clear, the problem is deeper than the administration or the right-wing echo chamber . . . the very structure of our conglomerated media system conspires against real journalism and, hence, against truth.  â€”TIM ROBBINS, FROM … see full wiki

Author: John Nichols
Genre: Broadcasting
Publisher: New Press
Date Published: November 3, 2005
1 review about Tragedy and Farce: How The American Media...

A scathing indictment of the American media.

  • Dec 2, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+3
The trend is unmistakable.  Officials in Washington refer to what is happening to American media as "deregulation".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What is really going on in this country is media consolidation.  As a result one company, Clear Channel, now owns more than 1200 radio stations across America.  A handful of other media conglomerates including Citadel, Entercom and Infinity control most of the rest. The same holds true for television stations and major newspapers.  John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney find this to be an alarming situation. In "Tragedy and Farce: How The American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy" Nichols and McChesney present a compelling case for making the ongoing media consolidation one of the overriding public issues of our day.

For most of the history of the American republic there has existed a vibrant and diversified press.  Most major cities had multiple daily newspapers reflecting a wide variety of opinion.  Likewise most radio and television stations were locally owned and operated.  In this environment the vast majority of these outlets were committed to covering local news and issues.  Sadly in just the past quarter century all of this has changed dramatically.  And as the authors passionately argue, no matter what your political persuasion, this is at the very least an unfortunate and at worst a potentially dangerous situation.  At the beginning of Chapter 1 Nichols and McChesney quote Founding Father and former President James Madison who opined that "A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both."   It is the contention of the authors that this unprecedented consolidation of American media has resulted in a situation where the American people are not being given adequate information to make intelligent decisions at the polls.  Some may argue that this is just sour grapes from Nichols and McChesney who make no attempt to hide their "liberal" point of view.  But for my money the authors present an extremely well thought out and coherent case for their position.  Their analysis of the pathetic media coverage of the events leading up to the Iraqui War is right on target.  They go on to make the case that American media coverage of the 2004 Presidential election was really not much better.  Perhaps the most persuasive argument they make involves the so-called "Downing Street memo".  This memo, which many considered to be the "smoking gun" against the Bush administration, suggested that President Bush decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the summer of 2002 and intentionally manipulated American intelligence to support his case.  At the very least, release of this information should have set off a vigorous debate about our involvement in Iraq and about the veracity of our Commander-In-Chief.  It should have become a major campaign issue in 2004. But as Nichols and McChesney are quick to point out the American media decided that other events that were going on at the time were much more important. And so it was that the American people were treated to wall-to-wall coverage of the goings on surrounding the likes of Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart and Scott Peterson.  The dumbing down of America continues.

Whatever your political persuasion, "Tragedy and Farce: How The American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy" is a book which should be read and carefully considered.  Unfortunately, due to the ill-advised policies of the last several administrations the genie is already out of the bottle.  What we have now is a media that is for the most part in the hip pocket of both political parties and extremely reluctant to make waves.   Our Founding Fathers would be appalled!!

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February 10, 2009
I have a degree in political science from a top liberal arts university, and I love this type of discussion and/or debate. I have for many years despised Clear Channel mostly because now all music sounds the same whereas before music could have some diversity, albeit not much, and still be on the airwaves. I am totally going to read this book now. Thank you.
 
February 10, 2009
The death of newspapers, tv news programs, and almost anything of worth can be blamed directly of the device we're sitting in front of right now. I'll stop short of calling it evil incarnate, but it certainly brings out the worst in us in every single respect; in our behavior towards our fellow man, in our relationship to the outside world, to what we regard as news and where we go to gather that news. Information super-highway my ass. It only works that way if you stop playing games or looking at porn every once in awhile. This generation (the computer generation)may have ACCESS to more information than any previous generation, but it knows far less. Don't even get me started about the loss of jobs and how computer technology has made out-sourcing overseas possible. My job went to Kentucky although the mail itself stayed in Florida--before beginning its 'round the world tour that is when the idiots missent it. This anti-computer rant may seem to have had no purpose in regards to your review, but it actually does. Most people are getting their news from the same source these days--the internet. So the net killed off what was left of newspapers, which in turn had been almost destroyed by television. So it goes.
 
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