Audible Book Review: The Smear, How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote, by Sharyl Attkisson

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This is remarkable — and disturbing.

The Smear
How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote
By: Sharyl Attkisson
Narrated by: Sharyl Attkisson

Length: 11 hrs and 19 mins
Release date: 06-27-17
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Politics, Writing
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0 Overall; Story 4.5; Narration 4.5.

Publisher’s Summary
Ever wonder how politics turned into a take-no-prisoners blood sport? The New York Times best-selling author of Stonewalled pulls back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research and reveals the dirty tricks those in power use to influence your opinions.
Behind most major political stories in the modern era, there is an agenda – an effort by opposition researchers, spin doctors, and outside interests to destroy an idea or a person. The tactic they use is the Smear. Every day, Americans are influenced by the Smear without knowing it. Paid forces cleverly shape virtually every image you cross. Maybe you read that Donald Trump is a racist misogynist or saw someone on the news mocking the Bernie Sanders campaign. The trick of the Smear is that it is often based on some shred of truth, but these media-driven “hit pieces” are designed to obscure the truth. Success hinges on the Smear artist’s ability to remain invisible, to make it seem as if their work is neither calculated nor scripted. It must appear to be precisely what it is not.
Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson has witnessed this practice firsthand. After years of being pitched hit jobs and puff pieces, she’s an expert at detecting Smear campaigns. Now, the hard-hitting investigative reporter shares her inside knowledge, revealing how the Smear takes shape and who its perpetrators are – including Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal and, most influential of all, “right-wing assassin turned left-wing assassin” (National Review) political operative David Brock and his Media Matters for America empire.
Attkisson exposes the diabolical tactics of Smear artists and their outrageous access to the biggest names in political media – operatives who are corrupting the political process and discouraging widespread citizen involvement in our democracy.
©2017 Sharyl Attkisson (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Sharyl Attkisson shares example after example of media manipulation and propaganda. It didn’t just start during the 2016 campaign and get worse during the 2020 election season. There are examples that existed years ago. However, the problem has gotten worse.

I was in journalism school in the early 1970s. We were taught to present the news with the five elements of “who, what, where, when, and how”. News is no longer presented that way. Somewhere in the last forty years the news moguls decided that it is not only acceptable, but imperative, that the news persuade the public to the bias of the news leaders. And it is not just gentle persuasion by the reporters  or editors but, as Attkisson reveals, there are those who intentionally use any and every tactic, twisting statements and even promoting disinformation, to smear those they want to minimalize.

Attkisson provides clear examples of smears and lies, including the names and actions of the biggest users (abusers). She notes that the propaganda and, more disgusting, the smears, are not limited to one party or ideology. There are offenders on all sides using these tools consistently although it does seem to flow more from one side. These tactics can be seen being used to influence public opinion, thereby influencing voting outcomes.

I watch primarily one news and opinion channel but I will watch other news sources so I can see how different the news is presented — or sometimes omitted altogether. There are times I feel that there are ‘news’ figures (they are not reporters) who reside in different worlds. Sadly, to be properly informed, people have to be willing to search for additional facts and to read the text of actual bills to get the true information. Too many people are still ‘sheeple’ who will follow their favorite news guru without questioning the truth. As Attkisson notes, we need to be very careful not to take reporting for ‘gospel’ and to be aware of the bias of the news providers.

I was engaged through the full book and I recommend this to anyone who cares about understanding that there is a bias in news.

Audio Notes: Sharyl Attkisson narrates the work with a clear, engaging voice and fitting energy and emotion. I imagine this would be good in print too but I am glad I had the audio version.

Source: Audible 11/14/17 Credit Purchase. This qualifies for 2022TBR, 2022Audiobook, and 2022Alphabet goal.

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