...a bracing piece of media analysis ... Taibbi’s writing will be studied by scholars, superfans, and deranged Internet commenters for probably the next hundred years, or however long it takes the sea to claim our bodies ... What makes Taibbi’s book different from every other Very Concerned media pundit? Three features ... Taibbi is irreverent ... Second, Taibbi is honest, intelligent, and observant enough to see class interest, including his own. He understands the craven and managerial character of modern American journalism. He’s willing to spend page upon page admitting its problems. Third, on any subject, Taibbi is a delight to read. He’s a figure of large courage and considerable brio. Except with one notable exception, he never sends up a mainstream idea but to puncture it a few paragraphs later ... His insights on media complicity will become the gold standard.
Taibbi aims a cannon, blasting an American media industry he accuses of taking sides and manipulating the audience for profit—'different news' elevated to a business model ... Few are spared, including the author, who admits to a reporting career catering to liberal readers ... Taibbi is right to sound the alarm about the temptations that have tarnished news reports since Donald Trump’s election, resulting in more programming that appears designed to ratify an audience’s political beliefs. But he overreaches ... saddling journalism with blame for the nation’s current state of animus lets an awful lot of suspects walk free. Taibbi, an experienced campaign reporter, is more effective in his autopsy of the conventional wisdom that plagued coverage of the 2016 election. His sharp analysis of the media obsession with 'electability'—a maxim Trump’s victory should have vanquished but that persists “as journalism’s version of junk forensics'—sounds an important and worrisome note for 2020 ... Taibbi favors a cynical style evenly applied across the universe of real and perceived journalistic trespasses, challenging a reader to sort mortal from venial. The author laments a growing elitism in journalism and the loss of blue-collar voices like that of Mike Royko, the late Chicago newspaper columnist. I wish he had remembered Royko’s famous admonition against peeling a grape with an ax.
Taibbi’s angriest chapter is his best. He calls it 'Why Russiagate Is This Generation’s WMD.' He means that the exorbitant claims regarding Trump’s status as a 'Russian agent'...have proved to be a symptom of group thinking as misleading as the disinformation sown by Cheney, Bush, and Tony Blair to support the bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003 ... Taibbi gets into much sharper focus...the prototype for Trump’s brags and threats in the occupational skills he learned from World Wrestling Entertainment ... Rather disarmingly, Taibbi confesses that he is implicated in the bad habits he deplores in Trump and his journalistic haters ... one comes to rely on Taibbi to point out the way, for example, the studio sets of TV news programs like Meet the Press now resemble the pre-game shows for NFL football ... The media today occupy the same world as politicians, and that is a problem. At any given moment, it may be a puzzle to decide who is calling the tune.
One of his primary arguments—that TV news is a vast wasteland of stories that are at best trivial and at worst fuel anger about 'someone else'—is powerfully and cogently rendered ... Despite occasionally veering off his main thesis into less focused complaints, Taibbi incisively details how herd mentality led to media acceptance of the WMD narrative behind the Iraq War in 2003, and calls to task such reputable editors as Judith Miller from the New York Times, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt, and the New Yorker’s David Remnick. The result is a smart dissection of a grim media landscape.
First published in online installments, this book—which ends with a spirited interview with Chomsky—is less polished than recent works by Taibbi that arrived by a more traditional path. But his mordant wit is intact, and his message to journalists is apt and timely ... An invigorating polemic against tactics the news media use to manipulate and divide their audiences.