Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Review
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Remember when Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet? But wait...did you actually hear him say that or see that claim in something he wrote? Or did you just hear it second-hand from someone in the media, along with all the other celebrated examples of Gore's exaggeration and boasting?

This example gives us the main point of Al Franken's new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Franken points out that Gore was one of the first members of Congress to see the potential of the infant Internet in the 1980s and was instrumental in getting federal funding to expand this new communication medium. Then, in 1999, Gore said "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

  
 
Republican press releases then accused Gore of dishonestly claiming to have "invented" the internet--conveniently omitting the context that Gore was speaking about his role in funding the Internet. The mainstream media then picked up the story and used it as part of a multitude of stories questioning Gore's honesty about his own accomplishments.

Franken uses the Gore-Internet example as one of many to show that the commonly held belief that we have a liberal media is, in truth, the opposite of reality. The media actually leans much further toward the conservative end of the political spectrum in the way it covers American political processes and policies.

Franken's book eloquently and comprehensively explains the mechanics of the conservative media slant. First, someone in the extreme right wing makes a claim that is exaggerated, slanted, out of context, or (as the title of his book states) simply a lie. The lie gets repeated, emphasized, and expanded by the right wing until the mainstream media considers it newsworthy enough to cover. But the mainstream media's slant toward sensationalism, ratings, and scoops puts their focus on the titillating aspects of the lie, rather than researching the lie to unearth the facts behind it.

And all of this leads to a mainstream media that gives the American people the impression that Al Gore made up stuff to toot his own horn -- when he actually didn't -- a fact that gets buried by a lie.

Franken names the right wing media liars throughout the book. Most prominent among them are Bill O'Reilly (lying bully), Sean Hannity (lying idiot), Ann Coulter (lying nutcase), just about everybody at Fox News Network, The Washington Times, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal editorial pages (liars with the money and outlets to spread their lies), and, of course, Rush Limbaugh (lying blow-hard). Through dozens of well-researched examples, Franken traces the origins of their lies back to the facts, then follows the evolution of their lies as they become accepted into the mainstream media.

The American political scene would be bad enough with just these right-wing media hacks poisoning the minds of voters, but Franken shows that that's not where the lying ends. Our own elected officials and their appointees serve up big slices of the dishonesty pie themselves. Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and presidential advisor Karl Rove are unmasked for their manipulations of the truth.

One (sort of) elected official gets special attention for his lies: President George W. Bush himself. Franken exposed Bush's ongoing deceit on issues such as his religious convictions, his past drug and alcohol use, the military, taxes, Clinton's record, and the environment. He even brings up an interesting case where Bush lied about a campaign statement he made indicating he would not put the nation back into deficit spending (which he has) except in the case of a bad economy, war, or emergency. Franken points out that, in fact, Bush never made this statement during the campaign. Actually, Al Gore (the right-wing's example of dishonesty) said it. Then even after Bush's dishonesty was revealed on national television, he continued to tell the same lie.

Examples like these make this book a treasure of information that goes beyond the sound bite. My only complaint with Franken's earlier and somewhat similar book, the hilarious Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, is that it was about 25% informative nonfiction and 75% satirical humor. That ratio is reversed with Lies. While still a very funny book that continues Franken's trademark high-quality satire mixed with a sprinkling of crudeness, Lies is at least 75% fascinating nonfiction. It has enough humor to keep readers looking for the next joke and enough facts to satisfy their intellectual curiosity as well.

You may have heard that Fox News actually sued to stop the release of Franken's book based on their claim that they owned the rights to the phase "fair and balanced" in Franken's subtitle. Of course, a judge quickly called the suit "unworthy," and Fox News dropped it. That should pretty much tell us everything we need to know about the right wing media. Not only are they arrogant enough to claim that they can own a common phrase, but they are shortsighted too. Franken's book became a runaway bestseller almost before it was released. Their lawsuit merely drew attention to it. Arrogance and shortsightedness characterize the liars Franken exposes in his book -- liars who dishonestly smear liberal public servants, alienate well-intentioned moderates and conservatives, and insult the intelligence of the American people in general.

So hats off to Fox News for getting more people interested in reading an excellent and important (not to mention hilarious) book. And hats off to Al Franken for hitting these bent-nail radical right-wing hatchet men and women squarely on their heads. He is an American patriot for holding up to American scrutiny the liars who wish to pollute the American political system.



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