After the war in Iraq, as it became clear that the Bush administration had rigged its rationale for war, it was funny to watch TV. "False statements" have been made, was one popular euphemism. Anchors appeared terrified to utter the word "lie." So right there in the title to his book, Al Franken names the evil he is exhorting his followers to fight. And that's a big step.
Franken has his prey dead to rights -- these are all confirmed lies told by people who knew better. (In fact, Franken employs a crack team of fact-checkers, Team Franken, made up of 14 Harvard students.)
At the New York Times, a single liar practically brings down the house. At Fox "News," if you're a good liar, you get your own show. Fox's Bill O'Reilly is taken to task not only for the lies he tells, but also for manufacturing a bogus persona as an independent, up-by-the-bootstraps everyman. Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter get the Team Franken treatment, too.
Ultimately, however, this is more of an indictment of the mainstream media. Through its own laziness, CNN and others have been manipulated into parroting extremely damaging lies. Franken points out Cheney's lie in 2000 vice presidential debate that the government had nothing to do with Halliburton's success. (Truth: Halliburton's government contracts exploded under Cheney's leadership.) Of course, the mainstream media never followed up Cheney's statement.
By not following up, George W. Bush is allowed to pass off tax cuts for the rich as targeted to the lower classes, Paul Wellstone's funeral can be twisted into a hammer to bludgeon Democrats with and Al Gore can be hounded for saying he invented the Internet. These things are dreamed up by Republican operatives, Fox News or the Wall Street Journal, which then broadcast the lie and, within a day or two, the mainstream liberal media swallow it hook, line and sinker.
The humor helps the medicine go down, but there's no sugar-coating it: This is about a political system overrun by lying liars. For now, the cheaters are prospering. The good news for those unpatriotic types who don't like record deficits, preemptive war and public business conducted in secret is that this book is filled with tons of the the kind of fodder they'll need to make a case for change in 2004. "[Republicans] fight with lies," Franken concludes. "We can't do that. We have to fight them with the truth."
Publication date: 09/18/03