Tuesday, May 30, 2006

God Bless Eric Boehlert and "Lapdogs"

I have always enjoyed Eric Boehlert's media criticism, first at Salon.com and, later, the Huffington Post. So I was eager to get a copy of Eric Boehlert's "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over Bush", which came out earlier this month.

A masterful work, Boehlert's book focuses on how the Washington press corps, and journalism as a whole, have let down the public in their civic duty. Looking at the media narratives and memes that permeated the last five years, including the Swift Boat lies, the attack on public broadcasting and the Downing Street Memo -- among other areas -- Boehlert has pulled together an amazingly cogent argument here that he is able to back up with statistics and after-the-fact analysis. It kept me entranced throughout.

While I hate to admit it -- and Boehlert's book bears this out, in part -- the Republican 'noise machine' is amazingly effective; a good offense by conservatives on the media has put the press on constant defense. One thought constantly reverberated through my head while reading Boehlert's work: Could you imagine the effects if this President were actually competent and every move wasn't a mis-step, the power that would be in play with this machinery? The press would be chiseling a spot for Bush themselves on Mount Rushmore.

For myself (and apparently others), the stand-out chapter focuses on the coverage found in ABC's "The Note", an influential news summary that the authors describe as "what you need to know about politics at that critical moment in the news cycle." I haven't looked at that site myself all that much and Boehlert does a great job in deconstructing its coverage and its Republican lens of focus.

My only quibble is that, and it's a major one, is that a great deal of the book should not be news to those who have read some of the progressive news sites out there already (like Media Matters for America and the Daily Howler, who he credits in the introduction) or the aggregator media sites like Romenesko that often linked to Boehlert's media criticism (as well as his peer group on both sides of the political fence). This is a great starter book for those interested in politics and the intricacies of the Washington press; my great-uncle, who borrowed my copy and hasn't even really read on this area before, was amazed at the book. But I was hoping for more from Boehlert, something that hadn't yet been covered, something new that would blow my mind-- rather than a collection of disparate strings.

But I digress, as thes quibble are only because I have been a fan of his work for so long. And it's good to get his 1,000-foot view on subjects that he wrote at in his column earlier, just after they happened. This is a powerful compendium of media mis-steps the last 5 years-- here's to book #2 from Boehlert.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Story of the Month

This has to be one of the best cover articles I've read lately: "Mind Games", from the latest edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. There, Daniel Schulman dissects the Bush administration’s very aggressive 'information strategy' in Iraq and the risks it poses for the credibility of both the military and the press. The article also asks the important question of whether the U.S. win the 'information'/propoganda war in Iraq, as it’s being waged.

Although it prints out to 20+ pages, this is an important and great read-- be sure to do so.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dateline: Bahamas; Re-igniting the Fire

Last year, I was reading at the fairly steady clip of about a book a week (as I wrote about here). I was pretty proud of myself, although such a feat also had the implications of my having to sell some of the lesser favorites on my bookshelf.

But then January came, when my progress slowed considerably. In fact, I was down to about a book a month so far this year; my reading had become sluggish and sporadic. Not good. It’s like all these bloggers suddenly throwing in the towel, all blogged out, or someone who starts finding a steady stream of excuses to not go to the gym. That was how I felt. And I was still buying books, so I had an extremely large pile (ie. ‘back inventory’) begging to be read.

But I’m back now. I’m not sure if it was the selections I had on my night stand, the lengths or subject matter of those I was tackling or just being too utterly tired from work to take on something more. Maybe all, or maybe something else altogether.

This past week, I was in the Bahamas (I have something akin to a tan!). There, I devoured Nelson DeMille’s “Night Fall” – among 2 other books – and it suddenly felt good to be back in the game. This was a novel I’d been eyeing on my nightstand for a while now, licking my chops in anticipation of. I’ve read each of his 11 other novels and this is probably his finest to date, although the ending comes very suddenly—which is the point. If you haven’t tried any of his works, I would definitely recommend picking up one of the books in his canon.

But I’m still trying to find the right words on DeMille’s book. Let me see if I can tackle that in my next post (or not-- I'm itching to talk about Eric Boehlert's "Lapdogs").

Friday, May 05, 2006


Traveling here and there and everywhere, be back in a bit.

A funny little nugget from my trip to Chicago this past week:
The lady I’m sharing a cab with, from the airport: “I think that’s Comiskey Park!”
Me, dryly: “I believe that’s a parking lot.”

And it turned out I was right.