Book Review – The Republican Noise Machine – David Brock

The Republican Noise Machine : Right Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy was a depressing book. I first noticed it from a post by Jerry Colonna. I had it shipped up to my house in Alaska where I settled in for a long read yesterday after my run.

In some ways, it seemed appropriate to read this over the fourth of July weekend. I read a bunch of mental floss on Friday and decided I needed to chew on something serious. I’m back to mental floss…

Until recently I was very apolitical. For whatever reason, I just didn’t engage – I felt that things worked themselves out over time and – rather than get wrapped up in the endless political debate – I figured I’d focus on issues that I cared about and support them, independent of their political affiliation. As a result, I told whoever asked that my political affiliation was “my own little party of one.”

A couple of years ago, I stuck my toe publicly into the political scene in Colorado. A close friend of mine – Jared Polis – decided to run for the Colorado State Board of Education (he won and is now the chairman). Jared is an unabashed democrat and has become a strong force in the otherwise very conservative state of Colorado. Several friends were running for office in the 2002 election cycle as democrats and I decided to get more actively involved. Everyone (except Jared) lost and – in addition to being bummed out by the candidates that were elected – I was disgusted by the way both parties acted near the end of the election cycle. I remember telling my wife “that’s it – I give up – I’m done with organized politics” (of course, that lasted about a week).

The Republican Noise Machine had me sitting in my chair with my mouth hanging open. Brock – a former right-wing insider – has written an incredibly substantive book that tells the story of how the GOP has systematically co-opted the media over the last few decades – starting wtih Nixon and rolling forward to today. This is not a “balanced book” (“balanced view” being one of the fallacies that Brock does a superb job of demolishing) – Brock is unapologetic as he tells his story.

It’s quite amazing how organized, effective, and ultimately successful the Republican Right has been. I’ve experienced this directly in Colorado. A year ago, JB Holston called me and told me about the Independence Institute, a conservative Colorado “think tank” that I was vaguely familiar with. While the Independence Institute isn’t mentioned in Brock’s book, it’s equivalent to many of the conservative “think tanks” that Brock discusses. JB suggested that Colorado needed a “progressive alternative”. I agreed and helped rally a crew of folks, including Jared and Rollie Heath (who lost his run for governer against the incumbent Bill Ownes in 2002), to help start the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network. It’s a year later and RMPN has done a great job of counterbalancing the Republican Right in Colorado. My experience watching from the background (and learning about the antics – expecially those in the media – by organizations like the Independence Institute) made the story Brock tells even more poignant.

This is a powerful book for anyone that is open minded about the political dynamics in our country. If you are conservative, read it to get an ex-conservative insider’s view on what is going on. If you are progressive or liberal, read it to get a much deeper historical understand of how things played out so that you can be more effective contending with them in the future. If you aren’t open minded, don’t bother – it won’t matter to you anyway.

  • There has been progressive response to the effective strategies of the right in using data and analysis to drive policy. Brad and I are supporters of a Colorado think tank, The Bell Policy Center. The Bell’s mission: “The Bell Policy Center is committed to making Colorado a state of opportunity for all, regardless of race or economic background. We seek to reinvigorate the debate on issues affecting the well-being of Coloradoans and to promote policies that open gateways to opportunity.”
    They have done interesting analysis of the effects of the TABOR amendment on Colorado, as well as tracking data in areas that they have identified as key to economic opportunity in Colorado.

  • And the country’s a better place with a politicized Brad Feld. The stakes are too high.
    David’s a good soul; just imagine the abuse he’s taken from the right for this stuff.

    Check out
    David’s going to give Rush Limbugh a heart-attack if obesity and Oxycontin don’t kill the guy first.

  • FYI: In The Republican Noise Machine there is a mistaken attribution, to the Christian Science Monitor, of a sentence that appeared in the article “Wanted: A Few Good Girls”
    by KAREN HOUPPERT, November 25, 2002 edition of The Nation. The phrase is: “YAF sent Dinesh D’Souza to lecture at [Swarthmore]; in the aftermath …. $37,000 funneled toward the college from the conservative matrix.”

    It is a simple error, understandable in the context of the massive research Brock’s assistents did. I found it on a hunch after failing to find the statement in the CSM archives. The error does not of course detract from the book, although if a right-winger looked up the CSM reference and didn’t find it, he or she would shriek about how Brock “lies.” I sent Brock an e-mail noting the error.


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