"Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them"
by Al Franken
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 17th April 2009In spite of the title this is actually quite a measured and reasonable response to much of the right-wing media in the US. I'm not sure that the comedian Al Franken is particularly well known here in the UK - I don't think that I'd heard of him (or many of his targets, particularly the bombastic Fox pundit Bill O'Reilly) until I'd spent some time in America. But I really enjoyed it.
His approach is to take the statements that people like O'Reilly are wont to make (for example, that there is liberal - i.e. left-wing - bias in the mainstream US media) and apply some rigorous fact-checking to them to see if they stand up. Of course Franken is a self-confessed liberal so he has his own biases which he freely admits, but nonetheless it seems like much of what is being said is basically untrue. And it's not just the media - for example, many of the arguments made by the Bush administration as the case for going to war in Iraq were simply untrue.
Really this sort of thing should make you feel quite angry, but Franken has a light touch and so this is a very funny book. He chooses various ways to make his point and doesn't seem afraid to go toe to toe with these people on TV or in person (one memorable episode at the White House press correspondents dinner where he manages to annoy not only Fox News but also various people from the Bush administration).
So sometimes I felt that I was laughing out loud when I suppose should have been crying inside, and this is possibly reveals a failing with presenting this kind of material within a humourous framework; but on the other hand one of the defining characteristics of many of his targets is that they don't appear to have a sense of humour, and laughter is good. I thoroughly enjoyed this - and thanks to my friend Martyn for giving it to me in the first place.