Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell
A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
By Al Franken
Dutton Publishers, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. NYC 2003
$37.50 377 pages.
When Fox News
decided to sue Al Franken over his use of “fair and balanced” in his
title, it gave the book the kind of publicity publishers dream about.
Fox calls their news coverage “fair and balanced” and figured no one
else should be able to use the three-word phrase. The judge wisely
tossed the case out and book sales soared.
This is a great book to read on the bus to work or while waiting in a
ferry line-up. It’s fast paced, easy to read and likely to raise
a chuckle or two. Franken serves up an entertaining read that attacks
the lies of the right wing media. Not only does he say they lie, but he
shows how they lie. Franken’s previous book was Rush Limbaugh is a Big
Fat Idiot so obviously subtlety is not his strong suit.
Franken’s book is a freewheeling romp through right wing territory.
Working with TeamFranken, a research group of 14 Harvard
undergraduates, Frankel begins by shredding arguments made by the right
wing media that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media. Not
so, Franken chortles, trotting out examples of the unfair drubbing Al
Gore received by the news media and their fixation on raking Bill
Clinton over the coals as just two examples.
He concludes there is no liberal bias but there is an influential right
wing media that puts its own spin on events and who never let truth get
in the way of a good show of righteous indignation. Fox, the Washington
Times, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and
American talk radio are the domain of the right wing pundits. Not only
are they biased, Franken says, but they have an agenda and feel
justified in concocting an inflammatory story, repeating and
embellishing it to serve their purpose.
Some parts of the book drift off into self-indulgence. There are a
couple of comic book type sections and scripts of plays that seem to be
more filler than substance but the book quickly resumes speed when
Franken returns to lambasting the “lying liars.”
Watching Fox News and listening to American talk radio is not a
prerequisite for enjoying Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them).
It’s Franken’s way of describing his personal experiences that make
this book enlightening and entertaining.
George W Bush and the Making of an American President
By JH Hatfield
Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn New York 2002
$US16.50 383 pages
When Jim Hatfield wrote Fortunate Son his subject was the newly
re-elected governor of Texas and a presidential hopeful. First
published in 1999, this unauthorized biography of George Walker Bush
offers up a refreshingly impartial story of the life of the eldest
scion of ex-President George Bush. Unlike other present-day George
Dubya biographers, Hatfield shuns fawning admiration but neither
does he reach for the hatchet.
In the preface,
journalist Greg Palast states, “What you get here is the drumbeat of
fact after fact on the rise of a President born with a silver oil well
in his mouth.”
Readers are presented with quite astonishing stories of the future
president as a party-hearty animal who attended Yale and Harvard
despite mediocre grades. Hatfield also writes about George Dubya the
businessman and the dealings of a man never loathe to use his political
connections to further his business interests and vice versa.
With 46 pages of source notes, this is no slash and burn biography but
one painstakingly researched and verified. Out of all the revelations,
however, it was stories of Dubya’s alleged arrest for cocaine
possession in 1972 that stirred up an inferno of controversy but in an
Coincidence or not, upon the book’s release, the Dallas Morning News
received confidential information about Hatfield’s criminal past,
revealing he had been convicted of attempted murder in 1988 and served
five years in prison. When this news became public, the media frenzy
made the author’s checkered past overshadow and discredit the contents
of his book.
Just three days after the book’s release, a nervous St Martin’s Press
recalled 70,000 copies of Fortunate Son and dispatched them to the
furnace. Outraged by this action, Sandor Hicks and his Soft Skull Press
picked up the rights to Hatfield’s book and began publishing and
distributing new copies.
Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending here. George W Bush went on to
become president of the most powerful nation in the world. And
Hatfield, faced with personal problems and financial pressures, died of
a drug overdose on July 17, 2001 in a motel room, leaving behind a wife
and infant daughter.
Read Fortunate Son in memory of Jim Hatfield and give thanks to Sandor
Hicks for not allowing the story to be silenced.