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The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spins and Lies in Mainstream News.

Norman Solomon. The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spins and Lies in Mainstream News. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.

This book contains seventy-five articles by Norman Solomon who, in the muckraking tradition of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and I.F. Stone, takes on media deceptions involving selectivity of sources, information imbalances, subtle shadings in the use of words, the preferential use of favorable modifiers, and the hypocritical pandering to corporations and powerful individuals that is practiced by many members of the fourth estate. The articles are presented in a variety of forms -- straight essays, lists with questions, make-believe journalism awards, and pop quizzes -- which helps the author get his points across in a non-pedantic fashion. For example, one of the questions presented in a pop quiz is the following:

The death of Princess Diana was the American media story of the season. That's because:

a) No other event in the world was more important.

b) She was extraordinarily nice and helped a lot of children.

c) She was a glamorous mega-celebrity with stylish clothes who boosted TV ratings and magazine sales as soon as she died.

In an article titled "Dream Team for a Media All Star Game" Solomon assigns media stars to baseball positions and skewers them. Here is how he describes Cokie Roberts, who is assigned the role of starting pitcher, "Tossing a classic mix of curveballs and changeups, Roberts can baffle anyone with more than a superficial knowledge of American history. Her delivery, like her wisdom, is utterly conventional."

On a more serious note, Solomon shows how the media ignores the poor, shrugs off the plight of working-class Americans, and defers to the interests of corporate and political elites. He also writes about how the news media in this country serve as a megaphone for government policy by using terms such as "national security," "western values," "the world community," "war against terrorism," and "collateral damage." This is considered responsible journalism. When foreign media acts as a megaphone for their governments we call it "propaganda."

Political commentator Molly Ivins has said of this book, "Some of the best press-bashing, honest sleuthing, news consumer tips and happy hell-raising with the powers-that-be to be found anywhere." I agree.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Institute of General Semantics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:LEVINSON, MARTIN H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1999
Words:370
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