Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics
a book by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters for America
(our site's book review)
In today’s post-truth political landscape, there is a carefully concealed but ever-growing industry of organized misinformation that exists to create and disseminate lies in the service of political agendas. Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters for America present a revelatory history of this industry—which they’ve dubbed Lies, Incorporated—and show how it has crippled legislative progress on issues including tobacco regulation, public health care, climate change, gun control, immigration, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Eye-opening and indispensable, Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics takes an unflinching look at the powerful network of politicians and special interest groups that have launched coordinated assaults on the truth to shape American politics. Here's what others are saying:
“Ari Rabin-Havt tells the truth, and that’s something rare in Washington, D.C.” —Sen. Harry Reid, U.S. Senate Democratic Leader
“After 30 years in politics, I thought I was beyond the ability to be shocked—until I read Lies, Incorporated. An important book for everyone who is angry—and an essential one for anyone who isn’t angry yet.” —Paul Begala, Democratic Strategist
“This book is a must-read if you want to understand the intentional manipulation of truth that is blocking progressive change.” —Thom Hartmann, Host of The Thom Hartmann Program
“A provocative, powerful expose, shining a bright, penetrating light on the role deliberate lies play in Washington policy-making.” —Nancy Altman, co-author of Social Security Works!
The book is shining a bright, penetrating light on the role deliberate lies play in Washington policy-making
“Required reading for anyone who wants to understand how our policy-making process has been hijacked by special interests.” —Rep. Keith Ellison, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Lies, Incorporated is a damning jeremiad on how modern public policy can be exploited by corporate chicanery, says Journalist and national radio host Rabin-Havt
“A damning jeremiad on how modern public policy can be exploited by corporate chicanery. Journalist and national radio host Rabin-Havt (co-author: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine, 2012, etc.), in conjunction with news watchdog Media Matters for America, digs deep to reveal a consortium of manipulators bent on undermining beneficial organizations and causes with manufactured misinformation. From the initial pages, the author blatantly skewers controversial public relations guru Richard Berman as a smear campaign propagandist.—Kirkus Reviews
Truth — Rest In Peace
The author proceeds to list lying lobbyists, lying propaganda spinners, lying unethical authorities, lying unscrupulous think tanks and more and call them Lies, Incorporated. These people spread misinformation and generated public confusion around the most controversial issues surfacing during the Obama administration. The author provides meticulous research and evidentiary support backing claims of these groups’ corruption dating back to their beginnings in the early 1950s when that shady syndicate of lying tobacco industry titans disseminated purposely and cynically falsified information about cigarette smoking risks. For every controvery that surfaces, some corporation’s reputation seems to be directly threatened by its exposure, so desperate measures are taken by hired-gun spin doctors to distort semantics and twist reality for the sake of profit.
Rabin-Havt demonstrates that—like what happened with Big Tobacco—statistics about global warming and climate change are continually challenged by the oil industry, just as efforts to promote comprehensive immigration reform, affordable health care, gun control laws, abortion rights, and gay marriage have all been continually contradicted by opposing factions propagating critically damaging lies and misinformation. (See The New Know-Nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature and Culture Wars: The Struggle To Control The Family, Art, Education, Law, And Politics In America.) But the author offers remedies to weaponize truth by insisting on transparency from elected leaders as well as the media (lots of luck on that one). His solutions require major but unlikely cultural transformations and these solutions appear to be as complex as the problem itself. It is about time an author exposes this insidious trend in political manipulation.
Tobacco Smoking and Tobacco Smoke Both Kill
Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics takes a look at how special interests come up with a lie and make it look plausible or at least possible. The mainstream media then repeats it over and over again even after they know it's a lie, and then the lie becomes "conventional wisdom," acquiring a sickening amount of power in shaping the USA public discourse. Ever since the scumbag-full morally-challenged days of Newt Gingrich's bomb-throwing, scorched-earth tactics in the mid-1990s, the conservative crazies seems to have decided that if you sling enough dirt onto someone some of it will stick and make that person look "dirty." How could the two political parties have sunk to such depths and, worse, how can the media have sunk to their level and empowered and colluded with such ugliness? The media knows that dirt gets ratings and policy discussions do not. So if it bleeds it leads is their mantra, and they feel no guilt if they ruin some innocent person's reputation in the process of "news reporting."
Ever since the scumbag-full morally-challenged days of Newt Gingrich's bomb-throwing, scorched-earth tactics in the mid-1990s, the conservative crazies believe that mudslinging works but lie-slinging works better
The media asks "Is it our fault that the public is looking for dirt and sensationalism and has no patience for decent news so we have to play to the lowest common denominator to get good ratings or our advertisers will jump ship?" And "Is it our fault the mudslingers spread misinformation about people and we cannot afford to get scooped so we run the story too, and by the time the lie is discovered and we run a correction or apology, the damage is done and the public believes the lie and pays no attention to our correction or apology so his or her career or reputation is wrecked beyond repair?" And of course the answer is, yes, it IS your fault for getting down in the mud with the scumbags rather than rising above it. It used to be that lies and mud were confined to supermarket tabloids and scandal sheets. But now this excrement has gone mainstream just to sell copy and please advertisers. This, folks, for those of you who don't know it, is the very definition of SELLING OUT. And you in the media hope that if everyone does it, it won't be seen as selling out but as BAU (business as usual). So when the ruined person sues the media outlets, their lawyers sheepishly respond with: "it's not personal—it's just business."
It used to be that lies and mud were confined to supermarket tabloids and scandal sheets, but now this excrement has gone mainstream just to sell copy and please advertisers
News reporting with investigative journalism and decent moral standards has vanished in the mainstream media—now it's only in the alternative press like Alternet.org
But what is the end result of their turning what's supposed to be news reporting with investigative journalism and decent moral standards into infotainment without investigative journalism and without decent moral standards that is happy to spread lies and misinformation in order to get better ratings? Let's look at the facts:
To quote the fictitious character Howard Beal from the 1976 movie Network: "...television is not the truth. Television is a goddamned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom killing business. So if you want the truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves. But man, you're never going to get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We'll lie like hell." (And yet most people continue to "believe" whatever they learn from the boob tube—but, on the other hand, the vast majority do not trust them! See below.)
Howard Beal from the Network movie told us to throw open our windows and holler that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore (lies)
A 2013 Gallup poll found only 23% Americans trust television or newspaper news, meaning that 77% DO NOT TRUST THEM. (Source: Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record) See also Majority of Americans Don't Trust Newspapers and Television News.
"Just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media [i.e., 94% do NOT], putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public's view of other institutions." Readers are looking for balance and transparency. "A majority of people get news from social media, most frequently by far from Facebook. . . . Yet only 12 percent of those who use Facebook say they have a lot of trust in the news and information they see on the site." [I.e., 88% do NOT.] (Source: Poll: Getting facts right key to Americans' trust in media)
Many have realized long ago that our politicians will lie to us at the drop of a hat, but most have no clue that our news media lies and deceives us just as much, if not more so
"The truth is not as you know it. Our faith in the media myth has been our Achilles heel. Many have realized long ago that our politicians will lie to us at the drop of a hat, but most have no clue that our news media lies and deceives us just as much, if not more so. We have been deceived by our media to such an extent, mostly because people are too trusting of our news system. They very naively believe that broadcasters and journalists would never lie to us. This trust has worked against us with devastating consequences which are unknown to most." (Source: Media Deception: You Are Not Getting The Truth)
The world of post-truth politics is the sub-title of the book and this describes the tainted world in which we live. There is manufactured controversy to help maintain the status quo in many political areas, including the opposition to gay marriage, healthcare, doing something about global warming, and gun control. It turns out that the fear, uncertainty, and doubt merchants are really the same groups of people aiming to produce enough confusion, through out-and-out lies, so that nothing is done about the issue or policy or problem, since fixing it will jeopardize the bottom line of one of the megacorporations in the Corporatocracy and that's a serious no-no. Post-truth politics is more than a clever turn of phrase. It's the mother of such phenomena as "truthiness," which can be viewed as the illegitimate love child of post-truth politics and media collusion with their ugly manipulation ploys.
The world of post-truth politics is characterized by manufactured controversy even in areas where there's only one valid side, like global warming
In the groundbreaking exposé in her book Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market, Janine R. Wedel introduces a term Stephen Colbert coined: “truthiness,” which scientists like her would ordinarily avoid since it was spontaneously brainstormed in a comedy stand-up routine. But she couldn't resist it: it fit so poignantly and perfectly in describing disingenuous conning, faking, bluffing, feigning, dissembling mendacity presented as fact or information that is "to the best of my knowledge." It differs from truth. It means presenting events and ideas in the way we'd prefer them to be, but not necessarily in the way they really are. Following through, she says that what appears in the mainstream media and in the words of celebrities is “truthiness.” Many of us knew this, but this is surely a colorful way of saying it! For his part, Colbert explained the origin of his word as: "Truthiness is a word I pulled right out of my keister". It gives one pause about using the word—ever. Nothing good ever came out of Stephen Colbert's keister, and that's the truthiness-uncontaminated truth, also known as the tbutth, defined as anything having any relationship whatever to Colbert's keister (and pronounced "ta-booth"). His mouth, on the other hand, is arguably a different story—plenty of good has emerged! (Like truthiness, for example, which has already become a classic.) See also Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security.
Look! It's a tbutth, defined as anything having any relationship whatever to Colbert's keister; as stated, nothing good ever came out of Stephen Colbert's keister
Adolf Hitler said if you repeat a lie enough it becomes a credible fact. Apparently the rightwing liars used Hitler's playbook Mein Kampf as their playbook
Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics is an important book for staunchly pointing out some of the right wing spin. The book does not examine left wing spin very much and some have criticized it accordingly. Adolf Hitler said if you repeat a lie enough it becomes a credible fact. Apparently the rightwing liars used Hitler's playbook Mein Kampf as their playbook. What most of us thought was mere ignorance is calculated disinformation, misinformation, and, yes, lies, is beyond sad. But politicians want you to see things their way, no matter how much they have to roll around in the mud to get you to do so, so the lies won't be stopping anytime soon. Besides, there's a ton of profit in lying! Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics is about the industry of disinformation that now corrupts the public debate on most of the significant political and economic issues in America. No wonder the public seems so confused and nothing ever changes. They're choking on misinformation!
No wonder the public seems so confused and nothing ever changes. They're choking on misinformation!
The authors tell us in this eye-opener of a book that "All my research pointed in a single direction: a growing industry that exists to create and disseminate fictitious public policy ‘facts’ on behalf of businesses and ideological interests willing to pay for them…They undermine our most basic democratic ideals by preventing people in government from effectively acting in the interest of the electorate...lies, along with money and lobbying, constitute three essential elements that distort our public policy process...this industry [is] made up of lobbyists, PR companies, media lackeys, unethical ‘experts’ and unscrupulous think-tanks…" This is all true, but the idea that these misinformation campaigns are "preventing people in government from effectively acting in the interest of the electorate" is a bit of an oversimplification. For the most part, it is the fact that most people in government get most of their financial support from rich donors and the corporatocracy—not the electorate—that keep them "from effectively acting in the interest of the electorate," not misinformation. Most issues about politics can easily be grasped by simply following the money. To see why there are such huge campaigns of lying and misinformation, simply follow the money.
Most issues about politics can easily be grasped by simply following the money; e.g., to see why there are such huge campaigns of lying and misinformation, simply follow the money
If the people in government we are discussing are analogous to football players and the goal line is where they should run if they are trying to effectively act in the interest of the electorate, then the actual, real-life actions of current American politicians are analogous to starting to run down the field, but then swerving over to the sideline where Corporatocracy fatcats are giving away bags of cash. Goal line—and U.S. democracy—be damned!
Corporatocracy fatcat giving away a bag of cash to a player
The book deals in depth with all the following issues including specifically who by name played a major role in creating and spreading the lies:
- The connection between smoking and cancer;
- The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign of climate change denial;
- Government’s role in health care, particularly with respect to the Affordable Care Act;
- Immigration reform;
- Gun violence and gun control;
- Alleged voter and electoral fraud, voter suppression and the motives behind voter ID laws;
- Abortion rights;
- The gay marriage issue;
- The public debt and its effect on our economy.
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo
Big Tobacco cost millions of Americans their lives by lying about the health effects of their products, in addition to hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in health care costs. They simply did not care. Their corporate profits were more important to them than the death and suffering of their fellow citizens. And that is still the case today. What was learned by Lies, Incorporated during the ugly tobacco campaign would later be recycled into the campaigns on climate change denial, health care opposition and gun control, and sometimes by the same people, who make a great living by lying for corporate or conservative clients.
One of the best examples of how conservative right wing P.R. campaigns successfully influenced public opinion is the Gulf War and the WMD farce that supposedly was our motivation for that unprovoked attack by neocon warmongers. Public opinion polls showed people didn't believe the WMD story and didn't want us to attack, but after months of lies planted in the media and P.R. campaigning and talk-show pundits like Cheney lying through their teeth, the public sheep were dumb enough to support the attack as the fearmongering about WMDs had taken its toll on their ability to think clearly.
The public sheep were dumb enough to support the attack on Iraq as the Cheney fearmongering about WMDs had taken its toll on their ability to think clearly
The U.S. military bullies dropping a little 'democracy' on Middle Eastern citizens
One of the great dangers here is the actual subversion of American democracy, as discussed in Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market. The American democratic ideal is based on the idea of the people having the intelligence, interest and accurate knowledge sufficient to guide their government representatives toward decisions in the general good. That becomes increasingly difficult or impossible if liars hidden from public view deliberately poison the discussion environment with explicitly false information, so as to stack the deck in their own favor and achieve outcomes they could not achieve with the truth. When lies become the currency of democracy, democracy itself is weakened—perhaps fatally. The disinformation industry considers the American citizenry to be inattentive fools who have relinquished control over their own democracy, which is now in the hands of a cynical oligarchy that has no allegiance or loyalty to them whatsoever.
When lies become the currency of democracy, democracy itself is weakened—until it dies and the greedy oligarchs happily bury it since it forces annoying regulations on elites
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse