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Posted June 27, 2002
Robert Jensen¿s recent book Writing Dissent is terse, pleasantly readable, enlightening and practical. The book is a `how to¿ of the kind radicals are awfully in need of. Spearheaded by intellectuals and academicians, the radicals lack works like Jensen¿s. Jensen shows that smart use of the mainstream media is not a proprietary enterprise of the chauvinistic Right. Radicals too can, believe it or not, use the same media to advance their cause of reason, fairness and justice. The Right invests immense resources in preparing its warriors to exploit the media and blunt the academia through the likes of the Leadership Institute, the Pioneer Fund, the Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia, etc. Their focus is not critical thinking, profound scholarship or honest dialog, but simple exploitation of jargon, redundancy, spincraft and other tricks to win the battle. Mainstream journalism has been a major alibi in this process. Jensen combines the rare insight of an ex-journalist, an activist and an academician to tell the inside story of mainstream journalism. What Chomsky and Herman tell us on a macroscopic scale in their propaganda model finds real world microscopic explanation in Jensen¿s work. Yet, the book is not big on theory, its primary focus remains actual dos and don¿ts and how-tos of journalism. Several examples of journalistic pieces Jensen has written and gotten published add to the utility and power of the book. The book is useful for anyone, though the reader is assumed to be a radical throughout. Whether you are a burgeoning activist looking for practical guidance on whether, how and where to write and publish, or an experienced intellectual looking for ways to write in simple, clear and comprehensible journalistic style, this is the book for you. A pleasant aspect of the book is Jensen¿s candid style that is a reflection perhaps of his radical ideology. He forcefully claims that `any one can write¿ and that his success as a journalist is not due to a special gift. Journalism is a craft, and anyone can learn it.
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