“It’s fake news,” the politicians scream, but it might just be something more sophisticated: a smear. Sharyl Attkisson’s latest book, The Smear: The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote is a must-read for every young politico or citizen who just wants to be more informed. Does that news bite sound a little too good to be true for one political party? It probably is. In these three hundred pages, Attkisson takes you inside the world of the smear and exposes the players and partisan actors that are spreading lies about your favorite candidates.
Attkisson, as an experienced and respected journalist, has seen the rise of the smear firsthand. She takes the reader step by step through the art of the smear. Attkisson starts with some simple and famous examples, including the firing of Don Imus for his racially insensitive comments and the attack on Glenn Beck that led to his ousting from Fox News over a decade ago. She takes you through the digging for dirty, the detailed campaigns that target advertisers, and the so-called calls for action that pretend to be coming from normal citizens but are actually coming straight from a PR firm paid good money to do so.
One of the most detailed and eye-opening people that Attkisson explores is David Brock, a Democratic political strategist who has become the king of the smear. He’s also the leader of a plethora of PACs and non-profits that share money among themselves to hide their donors. They spend millions of dollars attacking candidates and positions they don’t agree with. Attkisson does a deep dive into Brock’s history. She traces the money in a way that is almost too good to be true! Her detailed research is amazing and should serve as an inspiration to aspiring journalists.
The 2016 election seems like it was a decade ago, but Attkisson’s employment of the present tense makes you feel like you’re in the very moment of the Access Hollywood tape leaks or the Comey announcement. She takes you inside of the smears against Hillary Clinton’s health, the allegations that the New York Times ran against Donald Trump that no reputable journalist would run without the proper vetting, and more. In the final chapter, Attkisson goes abroad, to Russia of all places, and takes a look at how the smear has gone global, and how our own government is the only one attacking its adversaries and the journalists that dare expose the truth.