Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth

Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth

by Joe Conason

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In Big Lies, Joe Conason rips through the ten most damaging lies perpetrated by the right wing propaganda machine. This scathing, fact-filled analysis debunks it all:

-The myth that Republicans are fiscal geniuses and champions of free enterprise.
-The right's self-proclaimed monopoly on "family values."
-The conservative smearing of liberals as unpatriotic and anti-American.
-And of course, the "compassionate conservatism" of George W. Bush. (It depends on the meaning of "compassionate.")

Big Lies confronts right-wing slander and bias with a long-awaited, badly-needed counterpunch to the deceptions that have plagued American politics for a generation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312315610
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/15/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.71(d)

About the Author

Joe Conason is the national correspondent for the New York Observer and writes a daily online journal for Salon. With Gene Lyons, he is the best-selling author of The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton. His writing and reporting have appeared in many publications, including Harper's, The Guardian, The Nation, and The New Republic. He also appears frequently as a commentator on television and radio.

Table of Contents

1Limousine Liberals and Corporate-Jet Conservatives13
2Peroxide Paradox: The Blonde Misleading the Blind29
3Male Cheerleaders and Chicken Hawks52
4Deja Voodoo, All Over Again74
5Why Dick Armey Joined the ACLU89
6Private Lives and Public Lies109
7Tokens of Their Esteem128
8Crony Capitalism, Infectious Greed, and the Way the World Really Works146
9Faith, Charity, and the Mayberry Machiavellis171
10"Dead or Alive"--Or Maybe Just Forgotten190


An Interview with Joe Conason

Barnes & Big Lies is subtitled "The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth." What is this machine, and how does it operate?

Joe Conason: The "machine" can be pictured as a sprawling Wurlitzer organ with many keys, pedals, and pipes: the phalanx of conservative columnists and pundits featured in the mainstream media; the radio talkers like Limbaugh and Hannity; the big ideological media outlets such as Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Washington Times and the New York Post; the think tanks and advocacy outfits, including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and literally dozens more. Often, if not always, they seem to take their direction from a single fax machine churning day and night at the Republican National Committee.

B& Since your book was written, there've been a few new "big lies news stories" running rampant. First, do you think that President Bush told the truth about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction?

JC: I don't know yet whether he understood the truth or even cared whether his own statements were accurate. He didn't bother to read the report compiled by the CIA on the Iraqi regime's weapons programs. Ultimately I suspect he was less interested in what was true than in what might sell this war to the public.

B& Why is it that many people don't seem to care about WMDs being found or not, considering that Mr. Bush used them as his rationale for launching the attack on Iraq? Isn't this a "big lie" that led to thousands of needless deaths, including those of our military?

JC: Certainly, the evidence discovered so far suggests that the administration's warnings about Iraq's imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons -- the "mushroom cloud" argument -- were false. And so far, nothing resembling the huge arsenal of biological and chemical weapons we were told that Saddam Hussein possessed has been found.

My sense is that many Americans are indeed concerned about the misleading arguments used to justify the war in Iraq, and that their anger is growing in proportion to the continuing loss of lives there. People can't help but notice that the administration's excuses and rationalizations change from week to week, which magnifies their distrust.

B& As these questions are being written, it's been reported that one-third of those asked claimed that WMDs had indeed been found, and 22 percent say Iraq used WMDs against the troops. How do "big lies" become "facts"?

JC: Most big lies win acceptance after that mighty Wurlitzer of conservative propaganda plays them incessantly for a while; sometimes the process takes weeks, and sometimes it takes years. I suppose some people may think that WMDs have been found in Iraq because certain media outlets played a few false "discoveries" big, without giving sufficient attention to the corrections that followed. I can't imagine why anyone believes that Iraq used chemical or biological weapons against our troops -- unless it's a rumor that has spread via the Internet or on talk radio. People come to believe many weird tales that way.

B& There have been an alarmingly high number of military casualties since Bush donned his flight suit and dramatically announced "Mission Accomplished." Have the American people been lied to about the outcome of the war and how difficult it may be to preserve the peace?

JC: There are lies and there are omissions that amount to lying. Obviously the fighting hasn't ended, regardless of Bush's stunt on the USS Lincoln. But the war's proponents have misled the country about its costs and dangers from the beginning, when they underestimated the number of troops that would be needed and told us that it would be a "cakewalk." And they have consistently refused to say how much the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq will ultimately cost us -- although we now know the price is likely to be no less than $50 billion and perhaps much higher.

B& The GOP's anger over Bill Clinton's lies involving his personal life gave birth to countless investigations and, eventually, his impeachment. If Bush did lie about WMDs, what should happen to him politically? What will happen?

JC: Evidently the Republicans care far more about ancient real estate deals and oral sex than they do about the possibility that this president and his top aides lied about an imminent threat to our national security. Their self-congratulatory babble about "restoring honor and integrity" to Washington would sound better if they were willing to spend a small fraction of the money and time we wasted harassing Clinton to discover the truth about Iraq.

B& The Jessica Lynch POW rescue story is being picked apart by the foreign press -- it's entirely possible that the "rescue" may have been staged to buttress flagging support for the invasion. Did the military lie about the Lynch rescue?

JC: Truth is the first casualty of war, as Philip Knightley said. The Pentagon's conduct in the Lynch case seems suspicious at best. But I don't think we will know what really happened unless and until Jessica Lynch recovers her lost memory.

B& Why is it that the Democrats are seemingly afraid to challenge the GOP on these alleged lies?

JC: Many Democrats aren't afraid to challenge the right or this right-wing administration. The Senate Democrats, for example, are standing up against the president's attempt to pack the federal courts with ideological extremists, and they also successfully threatened to filibuster the worst aspects of the energy bill. It's true, however, that the Congressional minority leadership isn't tough enough on many issues -- and certainly isn't as aggressive as the Republicans were when they languished in the minority. But as the Democratic politicians sense the anger in their base, I think that is changing, too.

B& Since you wrote Big Lies, there's been another huge tax cut enacted, with the majority of the benefits going to the rich once again. Are lies being told about the long-term impact of tax cuts for the rich at a time of massive deficits and economic uncertainty?

JC: The Bush administration changes its economic estimates so often that it's almost impossible to keep up with their fictional projections and analyses. They use bogus "average" figures to mislead the public about who will benefit most from the tax cuts -- and they create rosy scenarios to make the gigantic deficits disappear magically at some future date. Meanwhile, states and cities face ruinous budget problems, and the country has lost millions of jobs. It is telling that no matter what economic situation we face, the conservative Republicans always offer the same simple-minded solution: Cut taxes for our biggest campaign contributors.

B& If you had to predict, what "big lies" are coming next, as we approach the 2004 election cycle?

JC: The biggest lies -- like those that distorted the 2000 and 2002 elections -- will be floated against the political opposition. The nastiest lies will be told about whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination. The closer we get to the election, the more we will hear the kind of harsh, personal attacks that were invented to destroy the reputation and character of Al Gore. At the president's press conference the other day, a reporter asked Bush how he could possibly spend the estimated $170 million that he will collect for his campaign war chest. "Just watch," he laughed.

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Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I realized something. For the first time in years, I was proud to be a Democrat. I¿ve never regretted my political choice, but it had been a long time since I felt this good about it. Joe Conason rebuts ten major conservative myths with solid facts and excellent writing. Some of you may have read my earlier review of ¿Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies¿ The format of ¿Big Lies¿ is similar to that, but this book does a much better job, going in-depth on each myth, why it¿s so prevalent, and why it¿s dead-wrong. Mr. Conason obviously did a lot of research for this book, providing twenty pages of references in support of his points. His research is the cause of my one complaint with the book, however, since he does make some statements without any supporting documents. This is a little annoying, since he obviously understands the importance of backing up his words with evidence. This should be required reading for every Democrat in the country, and is highly recommended for thinking Republicans, too, even if you don¿t agree with most of what he says. A great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Did the person for the June 14, 2004 review BELOW even read the book? Maybe he was just mad because this book actually does a very good job at exposing the methods and manipulations of conservatives. 'Big Lies' makes a fair counter-case to the bashing liberals and democrats take at the hands of conservatives. It shows clearly there are 2 sides to every story and no one ideology is fool proof or 100% correct. If you're familiar with conservative arguments, this book will give you a 'fair and balanced' perspective and teach you mud-slinging goes both ways, not to believe the hype and criticism you read and hear from one group to the next, and that it's best to vote and make decisions on policies based on the issues & good of the whole, not your constituents, and to view things on a grander scale, not on sex offenses. I loved the book, laughed a lot, found it very insightful - taught me a lot I hadn't learned about before regarding Newt Gingrich etc. It's a book for the intelligent person who wants to see both sides.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book, Mr. conason not only describes very well what we all know or suspect, he does it in such a way that keeps you reading for hours. You would think that a book like this might be dry... it's not. It's so good, it really does read like a novel.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First of all, I'd never heard of Joe Conason before I picked up this book,but I think he is one of those political columnists. Apparently one thatisn't carried by any newspaper I ever read. LOL The title of the book iswhat attracted me to it.Since I tend to be more liberal than conservative, I figured I'd enjoy thisbook and I did. I wish he'd have included his sources for the statements he makes. This book doesn't include footnotes or sources so itwould not be very useful as a reference, but I liked the way this guywrites. I lived through most of what he was talking about anyway, and knowhe's right for the most part. It made for interesting reading for me. I'llgive it a 4.
random_skeptic More than 1 year ago
Mr. Conason's book is a refreshing rebuttal to many of the myths propagated by the politcal right. Taking to task conservative claims that they have the monopoly on morality, patriotism and economic know-how, he reveals how conseratives have distorted the truth and warped public perceptions on liberalism and the Democratic party. It is a must read for anyone wanting to gain perspective on the social and political climate in the United States over the past twenty years, but more especially over the last eight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LeapingLissy More than 1 year ago
I concur with the review below. Basically, Conason does a really good job of debunking myths about liberalism....but occasionally he'll try to make a point by saying that something is so obvious, it would be redundant to cite examples. I'm a cynic - I need examples!! But when he does provide examples (which is most of the time, mind you), it is very well researched and written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hillary Clinton was once ridiculed for decrying a 'vast right-wing conspiracy.' But as this book clearly shows, she was 100% correct.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just want to puke my guts out! Yes, that's right! It makes me sick to see how these folk have created a 'The Emperor's New Clothes' scenario. Mr. Conason does a great job of exposing some of the tactics that are BLATANLY used by the 'right' to distort or spin the REAL truth. Most people just tend to 'cow' into the system...brainwashed maybe, but certainly not using their instincts to tell them right from wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally, books are written with truth in them & facts to support the truth. Joe Conason has done a terrific job with this book. I read it in 2 days, couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We finally get a well-thought-out response to the vicious attacks from the conservative right-wingers who threaten to destroy our democracy. if you don't think so, just watch Hannity & Colmes when their girlfriend Anne Coulter is on. these are very dangerous people and finally someone with some intelligence stands up to them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is not written with the purpose of bashing the Republican or the Democratic party, for that matter, but rather to expose a small group of extreme right-wing conservatives whose lies have helped to place our country into a destructive course that it has never seen before. We all have a little liberal and a little conservative beliefs with each of us leaning a little more one way or the other. The people, all of us, need to knwow what is the truth and what is not before we can make good decisions, so Joe is trying to expose some of the lies that have been told and by whom so we can make those decisions. He exposes Ann Coulter and her lies and immoral actions. He names many of the politicians who went after Clinton for his association with Lewinsky, and describes immoral actions far worse in many cases than he was accused but they acted like they were avenging angels. He also exposed the racial and predjudicial beliefs that many of these politicians try to hide from the public. He exposes Bush's lies to the people when he tells them how good a tax break they are getting when in fact it is the rich that are getting the best deal. He tells about how the Bushes tried to dissassociate themselves from Enron when, in fact, they were close associates for years. He tells of when George W. tells the people on Jan.11, 2002 that Ann Richards was helped by Ken Lay and Enron in her bid for Governor. She did receive a campaign donation of $12,500 versus $146,500 that went to Bush. This is the kind of tactics he uses. Want to know more about Bush, read the book he tried to get suppressed (he and his family were threatened if he published it-they even knew the baby's name), 'Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President'.You Californians might want to read and find out how he helped Enron rip you off on the energy prices. You might want to think about your recall election and what that could mean if the Republicans take your state over-another Florida? Learn how the media has been manipulative and who is behind some of it. This book is an eye-opener, a lot of it isn't pleasant reading, but is necessary reading. We, and I mean every single person, regardless of party, needs to take a good look at what is going on and act soon or it may be too late. We need to repeal the Patriots Act and get our country back on track. Get out and vote!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reason I say this is for both the Republicans and the Democrats is that, the author himself says so. It is not meant to criticize conservatives as a whole, but to reveal the far right wingers and their lies and a few others also. All of us have a little liberal and conservative feelings in us with some having a little more of one or the other. He reveals the lies that Bush spews forth about how the middle class and poor people are getting such a wonderful tax break while in truth it is the opposite. He reveals a lot of the lies about Bush, Enron, Cheney, etc. and their business dealings and how they hurt the people, (Californians might like to read about the dirty dealing they got during the energy crisis). He exposed Ann Coulter for her lies and hipocratical moral actions and names the immoral acts of many of the people that were out to get Clinton. Absolutely astonishing that many of these same people were guilty of even worse acts! He reveals the lying hipocrats who are predjudiced towards blacks, Jews, etc. There is so much more that it is worth getting this book and reading it. It is about time that we got a more clear and truthful look at what is happening in this country. This book is important for everyone because our country is in serious trouble and the people need to get together and do something about it. We cannot sit around and think it will get straightened out by others, because that is just what they want you to do. We need to get the Patriot Act repealed and you need to get out and vote. Check out the candidates yourself, don't always listen to the negative stories you hear from the opposing candidates because you will find that they are deliberately misleading at times as this book will show you. Thank you Joe for getting the truth out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joe Conason has performed an important public service with the publication of his book Big Lies. Beyond destroying the myth of 'liberal bias' in the media, Conason also exposes the disinformation campaign and the duplicity/hypocricy of the talking heads (writers, too) on the right. For too long progressive voices have either been voluntarily silent or their views have not reached the mainstream audiences that this book will. In many cases the reader will find this book to be a primer on how ideology, wealth, a political agenda, and a disregard for truth and integrity can co-opt and compromise an independent press and mislead the American people. Joe Conason has illuminated the inner workings of those on the right. If we fail to see this -- then shame on us!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Conason's book kicks right wing butt, but thankfully is based on those 'stuborn little things' called facts . . . not a bunch of hateful half truths and fallacious rhetoric so skillfully employed by GOP hate-mongers like Limbaugh and Coulter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only up to chapter three in this book and already I'm so blown away that I was compelled to jump on here and sing its many praises. Just like in 'The Hunting of the President,' Conason not only presents compelling arguments, but backs them up with hard facts. He carefully dissects the myth of the liberal media bias without resorting to wild character assassinations or hysterical vitriol. This is a well-written and intelligent book, and a must-read for anyone who wants to hear the other side, presented in a rational and thought-provoking manner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
while each title either way is half truth to prove a point, this book follows in that genre. a quote or sentence does not explore all the options and therefore misleads. for once I would like to see a book written that tries to show both points and let the reader decide instead of pushing to the right or left
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is just another example of liberals complaining that conservatives have any voice at all. Sure, CNN, the New York Times, U.S. News, Newsweek, Time, and virtually every other media outlet in the nation is liberal, but the fact that Fox News presents a balanced perspective (one that is labeled as conservative) is unacceptable to the left. The author's arguments are weak and paper-thin, and the book is also horribly written. Congratulations to all of the people who enjoyed this book; you are idiots.