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.
I hadn't intended to marathon the books in this series but fortuitously I was able to get my hands on them only weeks apart. Therefore, I decided to lump them all together in one masterpost. You're welcome! Rather than showing the covers for the books, I've opted to give you a glimpse of the illustrations found inside before each book's review. **If you haven't read past the first book then I highly caution you about reading my reviews for the other 2 books. I've tried to stay spoiler free but there's only so much I can omit.**
Wildwood by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis starts off the Wildwood Chronicles series which as far as I can tell consists of 3 books (although some websites confusingly say there are only 2). The first book follows Prue McKeel, an average 12 year old living in Portland...until one day her baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows. She and a semi-friend from school, Curtis Mehlberg, venture into the Impassable Wilderness in search of the baby and stumble across an entirely different world. It turns out that inside the I.W. there exists a magical place full of talking coyotes, magical sorceresses, mystics that commune with trees, and a gang of roving bandits. There is also a postman, a corrupt government, and territory wars. Maybe things aren't so different from what she's used to after all? No, it's completely different and Prue finds out that she's not as normal as she once thought...
Continuing in Under Wildwood, we find our heroes separated and trying to reconcile themselves to their new existences. Prue is having conversations with the local flora and Curtis is trying to become the best bandit he can possibly be. We're introduced to new characters such as Mr. Joffrey Unthank who is the owner and operator of both a machine shop and orphanage (not necessarily mutually exclusive by the way) as well as Carol Grod who sports a pair of wooden eyeballs. The reader continues to learn more about the Periphery Bind which keeps the Impassable Wilderness and all its environs from encroaching on the Outside. There are assassins, Titans of Industry (capitalization very much required), and danger around every corner. This book marks the turning point into a darker tone as the battle between good and evil gets well and truly under way.
All of this brings us to Wildwood Imperium which (from what I can tell) is the final book of the series. To some extent, all of the books have discussed politics in one form or another but this one is almost entirely about the political system (or lack thereof) in Wildwood and its environs. Prue is still on the lookout for the second Maker (the reader knows who this is and it's frustrating seeing the near misses) while the Verdant Empress speaks to the May Queen from a mirror on a nightstand. (You aren't confused you're just behind in the series.) This is the tensest (and longest) book of the lot and a lot of loose ends are tied up (like where all of the bandits went). (I still have a question about the Elder Mystic's whereabouts but maybe that's just me.) It doesn't feel complete to me though. There's still a lot that could be done with the characters in my opinion but based on what I've seen there doesn't seem to be any plans to continue the series. It's a shame because this married pair makes a powerful literary duo. (They're coming out with a new book on October 24th of this year entitled The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid!)
Overall series rating: 9/10
I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.
The openness of American colleges and universities for thought and research is seen by academics as the keystone to higher education. However Daniel Golden writes in Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities this is seen as opportunities to recruit agents and cultivate operatives as well steal technological innovations both by our own intelligence agencies and those across the globe.
Golden divided his book into foreign and domestic intelligence agencies exploitation of American universities. The first focused how foreign agencies, mainly the Chinese, have been exploiting American universities need of prestige and tuition money to gain partnerships between Chinese universities and their American counterparts resulting in an exchange of students and professors. Yet the most important focus of Golden’s investigation was on how the openness and collaboration within American university labs opens up opportunities for individuals to funnel research, including those paid by the U.S. government and American companies, to their home country to be exploit by their own government or to patient and start up a business. The second half was on the complicated relationship between American intelligence agencies and universities, some of who encourage a relationship and those that do not. The aspect of conflict between secrecy and openness is seen throughout the latter half of the book with 9/11 playing a pivotal role in each side’s views. Unlike the first half of the book, this section is seen over the course of 60 years compared to more near 2000 but in a way to show that past is prologue.
As an investigative journalist, Golden uses extensive research and a multitude of interviews in giving a full history and the scale of a front in the global spy game that many in the United States haven’t been aware of. Unfortunately for Golden the timing of this book while on the one hand current and on the other potentially dated. Nearly all his interviews take place no later than 2015, but since the election of Donald Trump with a seemingly nativist groundswell behind him and student demonstrations against conservative speakers might have begun a fundamental shift that could drastically change how both American and foreign intelligence services are seen on American universities especially as a post-9/11 “tolerance” on campus changes to hostility.
Even though the subject Daniel Golden has written about could be in the midst of a sudden sea change, Spy Schools is still a book to read in at least to understand an important part of the global spy game. Although no up-to-date, the recent and long-term history is significant for anyone who is concerned about national security and foreign intervention in American affairs.
I need to preface this review by telling you that I am a _crazy_ Tal Bauer fan. My love of his writing began when the bff texted me: “Oh. My. GOD. You _have_ to read this series called The Executive Office!” Okay, I may have paraphrased a little, but that’s essentially what she said. And so I did. And… Oh. My. GAWD! You _have_ to read his Executive Office series, but this review isn’t about those books so I won’t gush about them overmuch.
I recently found out that Mr. Bauer has only been writing professionally for 18 months. Whaaat? Shut the front door, not possible, and yet he’s the one who said it so it must be true.
Tal’s attention to detail and fact floor me. The massive amount time he has spent researching is what breathes life into Hush and his other books. His knowledge on a wide array of the subjects he writes about is truly impressive. And knowing that he does a deep dive into those areas he’s unsure about, in order to make the stories he writes authentic, only make the books that much more real. Both The Executive Office series and Hush could be ripped out of multiple headlines in today’s media. He tackles politics, prejudice, racism, climate change, intolerance and persecution head on in a thoughtful and factual manner.
Take Hush, the book this review is about, it came out on July 13, 2017 and the story captivates you from the very first sentence.
The book is about Tom Brewer, a _deeply_ closeted 40-something year old US Federal court judge who is a recent appointment to the Washington bench. Tom’s closet was built from past events that impacted him profoundly and caused him to lock that part of himself away for the past twenty-five years. He has channeled all his passion into law, cutting himself off from his community and isolating himself from everyone but his beloved basset hound, Etta Mae, in the process.
But the changing social landscape of the world and an unexpected friendship with co-worker U.S. Marshal Mike Lucciano, as well as a supernova heat of attraction, slowly coax him out of his closet one terrifying and painful step at a time. And you do _feel_ his pain, his fear, and his anxiety with every word Tal puts to paper. But it will make you hurt sooo good. Tom and Mike will rip your heart out, toss it into a wood chipper, gather up the shredded pieces, and then make you whole again.
Mr. Bauer not only lets you see one of the most terrifying chapters in LGBTQ history through Tom’s eyes but he makes you realize how profoundly, and rapidly, the world has changed as he shows you the same world through slightly younger man Mike’s eyes. He makes you see how much just a few short years can impact and change the world. Tom and Mike come from different places in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and somehow manage find common ground in the slow burn of mutual attraction and flared passion; they celebrate together the joy and colours of Pride as Tom takes his first brave steps into outing himself to the world and then…
Tom’s world turns on its axis, and he and Mike are thrust headlong into events that neither of them could have dreamed of in their worst nightmares, an assassination attempt on American soil in Tom's judicial district. Their newly formed romance is threatened by events beyond their control; but not just their love is in danger of being destroyed, Tom’s life may be on the line as well as he is thrust into the international spotlight and forced into a role that he never thought he’d find himself in, trial judge for the most important case of his career, one that could have global reprecussions.
How far will Mike go to keep the man he loves safe? Will Tom allow his newly found courage to wither and die before it had chance to flourish, chasing him into his Narnian-deep closet once again? Will the world, which teeters on the knife edge of war, tip over to chaos or back into peace? If the first half of the book was a slow seduction, the second half is a nail-biting car chase that leaves you breathless and constantly second guessing yourself, and the author, with all the twists and turns that come at you.
Tal Bauer compliments the main characters with fully fleshed-out secondary characters (and Etta Mae) who will make you fall in love with them, sympathize with their plights or hate and despise them completely. They fill out the book, add more life and vibrancy to it's pages and play pivotal roles in the story of Tom and Mike. From cover to cover, Hush will leave you feeling punch-drunk, like you’ve survived the most amazing thrill ride you could possibly imagine; breathless, shaken, exhilarated and wanting more.
And yet, despite the political and legal backdrop and all the thriller aspects of this story, at the very heart of it, this book is about relationships; about accepting oneself, opening up to love, to the possibility of happily ever after and being unafraid and proud to live one's life. THAT message is what makes it such a profound read. Everything else? Icing on the delicious cake.
I cannot recommend Hush enough. Go, buy and read it ASAP! You’ll thank me.
(I also suggest you have a fresh box of tissues next to you because this book hits you right in the feels. All the feels!)
5/5 hearts from me!
Also, I want to thank Jamie from Alpha Book Club (https://www.facebook.com/Alphabookclub/) for running the Advanced Reader Copy contest that let me start the book 2 days early! I needed the extra reading time :D