The Smear, Sheryl Atkisson, narrator and author
Very clearly and concisely, the author explains the charade that is masquerading as journalism today. She outlines the events leading to the current dirty tactics used by all sides of the political spectrum. Covering the CIA, Borking, Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton, Saul Alinsky, Hillary Clinton, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broderick, Barak Obama, Eric Holder, James Comey, Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, to name a few, she paints a nasty, cut throat picture of our modern news media. She exposes the corrupt way in which news is presented today, calling it transactional news and details the strong arm methods used to get and present information that benefits one side over another, whether or not the information is credible, or true or false. If news doesn’t have to be sourced or verified, and it does not have to come from a reliable informant, is it news? All someone has to do is feed some salacious fact, some piece of propaganda, to a pundit or a journalist and it will make headlines, especially if it supports the candidate that particular supposed expert favors. Some have a direct line to contacts in the party they support and feed their talking points to the public with abandon showing a distinct bias which they and their readers or listeners continue to ignore.
Atkkisson gets deep into the last election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The picture of the way the news was handled by so-called journalists is shameful. Although much has already been covered, putting it together in one place makes the sins of those campaigns and reporters seem even more egregious. Liars accuse others of lying. Cheaters accuse others of cheating. Up is down and down is up in the new world of media. If someone accuses someone of wrongdoing, you can bet that accuser may be representing wrongdoers trying to deflect their own blame. She completely exposes the bias of the politicians and the media, and those exposed will stand naked before you in their triumph because they have no shame about it and because they succeed in their efforts to often cast unjustified blame on others.
It has been well researched, and there is proof that the media was complicit in making up stories and condemning candidate Trump. Fake news was presented and promoted. It has been proven that they covered Donald Trump far more negatively than his opponents, especially Hillary Clinton, although there was some minimal fake news concerning her, as well. When the truth was revealed about her illicit email use, she angrily objected to the fact that it was exposed by Wikileaks. She had no remorse for her own behavior. The media was complicit and tried hard to portray her as the victim of a conspiracy, a Russian conspiracy that promoted Trump. It continues today. The news slants to the left, and so there seems to be very few journalists or news outlets that are rushing to support Sharyl Atkkisson in putting out the truth or exposing the lies, even when they know that falsehoods are being presented to the public. They are complicit in misrepresenting the truth, and often they spread outright lies. Ethical journalism seems to have died. It is difficult to discern the reality from fiction today.
Public relations firms have sprung up with a singular intent, to smear a person’s reputation and to cast doubt on their credibility and honesty. The Hill staffers used tax dollars for their “opposition research”. Character assassination and smears were responsible for removing Lou Dobbs from CNN. Imus was smeared when he made unnecessary racial remarks. The “smearmongers” follow the money and look for dirt to discredit the person they are targeting. The media is a ready and willing accomplice, forgetting that they are supposed to present the news, not make it up. Their lies are told so often, they are considered the truth and no decent journalist exposes them. Retractions are hidden in the pages of the newspapers or briefly mentioned on television and radio outlets. They all become accessories to the smearing and the spreading of misinformation in a deliberate attempt to favor one person or bring down another. Apparently, the public loves the dirt more than the truth, especially if they bear animus toward someone. Because it is the left that is largely running the smear campaigns, they are getting away with their dishonesty under the guise of innocent reporting. They have their supporters in the right places. Media Matters is one of the worst offenders, using exaggeration, the internet, emails, social media and reporters to spread their fabrications or distorted information.
At times, the book was repetitive as the author discussed the various ways that the news was tainted and disseminated. However, she really did her research well. Concentrating on one smear champion named David Brock, whose tactics are despicable, she makes the reader aware of how these smear groups are manipulating the public. He and the Bonner group have made millions duping the American public by presenting incomplete information with the purpose of destroying a person’s character and career. The organized effort to boycott companies or threaten them with repercussions if they are not compliant with their demands succeeds. Social media has given many people with less than stellar ethical characters, a bully pulpit, and an opportunity to conduct what is essentially blackmail. Brock changed his party affiliation and moved to the far left in what might be an effort to simply make money. He creates “smears” to ruin the people his clients choose to destroy or people he does not support, like Trump. He creates scenarios favorable for those he does support and spins their news positively. He chooses words as weapons. He seems to have no filter when it comes to a code of ethics. He will do anything necessary to accomplish his goal of destruction.
Atkkisson also sheds light on the oblique business arrangements of both George Soros and David Brock. They have multiple businesses and funnel money back and forth from one organization to another with a trail so circuitous it is impossible to follow. They control the output of many news outlets whose only purpose is to smear their enemies. Opposition research has taken on a life of its own. Facts no longer matter, rumors and innuendo rule. She describes the methods that have been used to publicize inaccurate information, spread lies and affect election results, congressional rulings, and the information presented by television journalists. Although the book definitely leans to the right (because it seems that the left is more heavily into the smear effort), it is a non-partisan presentation because, where it is known, she also highlights conservative groups like Richard Mellon Scaife’s, that operate with the same purpose, to assassinate a person’s character because they dislike their politics or methods.
It was left leaning Media Matters that forced Glen Beck off the air. They used their influence and power to make it financially profitable or disadvantageous to Fox. Yet, the same company ignored those who appeared on MSNBC and CNN, or covered them less broadly and far less often because they supported their views. They found ways to reinterpret the ill deeds of those on the left to make them appear less negative. The worst thing is that the people who work for these smear outfits, like Mike Allen of Politico, seem distinctly in the pocket of the left, promoting their talking points. The left outlets do not cover the scandals of the Democrats as vociferously as they do those of the GOP, unless they are forced to by public outrage. Examples of offensive behavior in the Obama White House that were largely ignored by a dishonest media, until they were forced to expose them, were the “Fast and Furious” episode, a gunrunning scandal, the promise that if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor made in the effort to pass Obamacare, the outrageous statement by Nancy Pelosi that you had to pass the bill before you read it, and Hillary Clinton’s email debacle in which many operatives were exposed as liars and cheaters, getting debate questions in advance or actively working against other candidates of their party. This is not to say that the right did not participate in this debacle, but it was far more damaging and prevalent on the left in its outrageousness.
I believe that this book should be required reading in high school civics classes, so that the electorate of the future is more educated about the process and will demand honesty from the fourth estate, not collusion or complicity with the one candidate they personally favor, but with honest representation of both sides of the spectrum.