The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in Mainstream News


Media critic Norman Solomon offers a collection of columns humorously detailing the most recent excesses and failures of America's self-censoring mainstream media.
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Media critic Norman Solomon offers a collection of columns humorously detailing the most recent excesses and failures of America's self-censoring mainstream media.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Populist excoriation of the US media that amuses but never quite enlightens. In this collection of short pieces culled from his synducated weekly column "Media Beat" and other sources, Solomon gathers together just about all the complaints and criticisms of the-media the left has to make. Concentration of ownership has skewed coverage so that interests of a corporate few are well represented, but stories of working people and the poor are hard to find. White males dominate a "punditocracy" while the voices of people of color and of women are only infrequently heard. Stories of scandal, à la Clinton and Lewinsky, keep us amused while the real scandals of corporate downsizing and layoffs and government collusion in such actions remain virtually invisible. These are all important topics, worthy of perusal and consideration, yet here they are mostly reduced to slogans and one-liners. The trouble may lie in the format; a collection of columns is perhaps bound to be superficial. Each piece is no longer than two or three pages, so Solomon can tell us what is wrong but not why. Repetition abounds; we are told the media are "Orwellian" at least seven times. Jokes are repeated, facts are repeated. It's not that Solomon doesn't provide us at times with useful information, and he certainly writes with flair and humor—his pundit bashing of such media figures as George Will is telling and hilarious. The political cartoons provided by Matt Wuerker and others are biting, as well. Still, there is a lack of analysis, of explanation, of in-depth investigation. True believers may nod in agreement., but others may simply become bored. Readers would be better served investigating the far superiorthree-volume study of the media Solomon co-authored with Jeff Cohen: Wizards of Media Oz; Through the Media Looking Glass; Adventures in Medialand (not reviewed). While skewering the media, Solomon commits the same sins of which he finds them guilty: sensationalism, superficiality, banality.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567511543
  • Publisher: Common Courage Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Interviews & Essays

From the Author

I wrote this book to challenge the conventional media wisdom. As the author of The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media I expect that my book will spark some condemnations from people who are comfortable with the media status quo -- but I'm already starting to hear strong positive responses from longsuffering media consumers. This book makes no effort to adhere to the niceties of what usually passes for media criticism. While writing this book, I didn't tiptoe around the revered icons of American journalism and the massive firms that cast such a huge shadow over the media terrain. In short, I didn't pull any punches. So, the book doesn't adhere to the traditional styles of media criticism that remain in fashion -- styles that Jonathan Kozol aptly derides in the book's introduction as 'familiarly incestuous arrangements' in which tepid media critics subdue their dissent 'just enough to hold onto the favor of the powerful.' This book has plenty of humor -- including some very deft cartoons by such wonderful artists as Matt Wuerker and Tom Tomorrow -- but at the same time there's a tight focus on very serious concerns. The concentration of media ownership in fewer and fewer corporate hands has enormous effects on what we see, hear and read -- and what we DON'T see, hear and read -- every day in mass media. The media scenery is so familiar that we tend to accept it as the way things need to be. Yet the media terrain is shaped by big money and maintained by precedents based on undemocratic power that persists every day. Constant commercial intrusions and corporate sensibilities are apt to seem normal and acceptable because they're so routine in a wide array ofmedia outlets. No wonder a lot of news reports are more like product promotion than journalism. It's an uphill battle to challenge the dominant assumptions of mass media. The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media pursues the battle because it's worth struggling for independent journalism and genuine free expression in our society. One of the themes of my book is that cyberspace and other advances in media technology do not necessarily bring us more democratic discourse. Media commentators love to speculate about technical progress and fierce battles for market share. But key questions get short shrift. Here are some of the issues that I address:

  • In the future, will media coverage be diverse?
  • Who will have access to the glut of media programming?
  • Who will control the huge institutions running the mass-media show?
  • Who will decide what news is important and what information should be widely disseminated?
  • In the media nation on the horizon, what's democracy got to do with it?

These are some of the key questions I explore in The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.Candid answers are disturbing -- but necessary. We can create a better media future -- but only if we're willing to fight for it.
— Norman Solomon (, the Author
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