The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote

Image of The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
June 26, 2017
Publisher/Imprint: 
Harper
Pages: 
288
Reviewed by: 

“the sorry state of contemporary media in our country.”

The Smear is not an encouraging read. Indeed, Sharyl Attkisson’s exposé of the corrupt American news media may be the most depressing read of the year. Attkisson ends her book by saying: “For now, one thing you can count on is that most every image that crosses your path has been put there for a reason. Nothing happens by accident. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much Is it true, but Who wants me to believe it—and why?

The Smear provides more than enough evidence to prove that the mainstream media is totally “fake news.” Attkisson’s book begins by detailing the history of the “smear,” or the politically motivated lie, in American politics. While Jefferson, Adams, Jackson, and Lincoln all smeared their opponents with various sins, Attkisson’s narrative seems to place the 1990s as the beginning of the modern smear era in American politics.

During the presidency of Bill Clinton, independent journalists unwittingly gave ammunition to smear artists when they began reporting about the various scandals swarming around the Clinton family. Attkisson relays how Hillary Clinton, a devote of Saul Alinsky’s Stalinist Rules for Radicals, used words like “slut” and “crazy” to demean those women who accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting them. Many of these women still blame Mrs. Clinton for ruining their reputations and for covering up the crimes of a sexual predator.

Elsewhere, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist named Jeff Gerth had his career squashed by the Clinton smear machine after he had the audacity to report on their involvement in shady real estate schemes back in Arkansas (see: Whitewater scandal). Even during the 2016 election, the Clinton camp brought back some old gems about Gerth whenever pro-Trump writers brought up his accurate reporting on Whitewater.

Oddly enough, the greatest smear artist of them all, David Brock, migrated from the right wing smear machine to the far left smear industry. Here is where Attkisson’s story takes a frightening turn. Through various nonprofits, including Media Matters, Brock has successfully turned the American news industry into a Democratic monopoly. Thanks to politically-motivated journalists (Attkisson admits that almost all American media personalities are Leftists), Brock’s hyper-partisan Media Matters has been accepted as a “non-partisan” source, while other avowedly political actors, such as Donna Brazile, have landed cushy jobs are supposedly independent contributors or anchors on channels like CNN, NBC, and Fox News.

In the The Smear, the entire new industry has been co-opted by the Democratic Party or big business interests. Nothing that you read is truly factual—it is processed information expertly disseminated by smear artists. The only figure that has successfully put a wrench into this conspiracy is Donald Trump, whom Attkisson calls a “wild card.”

Trump’s unpredictability, plus the relentless attacks lobbed at him from both the partisan media and well-heeled Republican donors, has turned him into a one-man revolution. Each attack by the media makes Trump stronger simply because each attack proves that our media is unfair, unbalanced, and in bed with certain financial interests. It is not a “conspiracy” if it’s avowedly true.

Attkisson, who used to work for CBS as an investigative journalist, has impeccable credentials. She has filed stories not only about how demonstrably false intelligence got the U.S. into a pointless war in Iraq, but also how Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton lied to the American people and the families of the slain at Benghazi about an obscure, anti-Islam video. That lie cost one Egyptian Christian immigrant his freedom.

Despite chronicling how most news sources are thoroughly “fake,” Attkisson warns against renewed pushes to “curate” or otherwise control the news. After all, companies like Facebook and Google are not unbiased parties. The very same people supposedly fighting back against the scourge of mostly right wing “fake news” are the very same people who for decades have been lying to the American public on behalf of the Democratic Party.

That is the sorry state of contemporary media in our country.