Ever wonder how politics turned into a take-no-prisoners blood sport? The New York Times bestselling author of Stonewalled pulls back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research and reveals the dirty tricks those in power use to influence your opinions.
Behind most major political stories in the modern era, there is an agenda; an effort by opposition researchers, spin doctors, and outside interests to destroy an idea or a person. The tactic they use is the Smear. Every day, Americans are influenced by the Smear without knowing it. Paid forces cleverly shape virtually every image you cross. Maybe you read that Donald Trump is a racist misogynist, or saw someone on the news mocking the Bernie Sanders campaign. The trick of the Smear is that it is often based on some shred of truth, but these media-driven "hit pieces" are designed to obscure the truth. Success hinges on the Smear artist’s ability to remain invisible; to make it seem as if their work is neither calculated nor scripted. It must appear to be precisely what it is not.
Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson has witnessed this practice firsthand. After years of being pitched hit jobs and puff pieces, she’s an expert at detecting Smear campaigns. Now, the hard-hitting investigative reporter shares her inside knowledge, revealing how the Smear takes shape and who its perpetrators are—including Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal and, most influential of all, "right-wing assassin turned left-wing assassin" (National Review) political operative David Brock and his Media Matters for America empire.
Attkisson exposes the diabolical tactics of Smear artists, and their outrageous access to the biggest names in political media—operatives who are corrupting the political process, and discouraging widespread citizen involvement in our democracy.
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About the Author
Sharyl Attkisson has been a working journalist for more than thirty-five years and is host and managing editor of the nonpartisan Sunday morning TV program "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." She has covered controversies under the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, emerging with a reputation, as the Washington Post put it, as a “persistent voice of news-media skepticism about the government’s story.” She is the recipient of five Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. She has worked at CBS News, PBS, and CNN and is a fifth degree blackbelt master in Taekwondo.
Table of Contents
Author's Note vii
Chapter 1 Birth of the Modern Smear: Spies, Bork, and the Clintons 9
Chapter 2 David Brock's Smear Frontier 35
Chapter 3 The Smear Industrial Complex: Smear Merchants and Scandalmongers 67
Chapter 4 Media Matters (but Money Matters More) 94
Chapter 5 Plausible Deniability: Conjuring an Astroturf Reality 119
Chapter 6 Transactional Journalism: The Black Market Information Trade 140
Chapter 7 The Anti-Smear Candidate (and the Disloyal Opposition) 166
Chapter 8 The Road to the Conventions 195
Chapter 9 General Election 214
Chapter 10 Brave New World of #FakeNews (and Chilling Efforts to Censor It) 249
Epilogue: The Smear Gone Global 275