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294 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Birth of the modern smear: spies, Bork, and the Clintons -- David Brock's smear frontier -- The smear industrial complex: Smear merchants and scandalmongers -- Media matters (but money matters more) -- Plausible deniability: Conjuring an Astroturf reality -- Transactional journalism: The black market information trade -- The anti-smear candidate (and the disloyal opposition) -- The road to the conventions -- General election -- Brave new world of #FakeNews (and chilling efforts to censor it) -- Epilogue: The smear gone global.
The veteran journalist exposes the practices of opposition research to reveal how political leaders use their influence to shape public opinion, connecting popular misconceptions to strategic smear campaigns that have influenced voters.
Behind most major political stories there is an agenda: To destroy an idea or the people advancing it. Maybe you watched someone on the news report that Donald Trump is a racist misogynist, read that Hillary Clinton used a body double, or heard that Bernie Sanders cheated in the primary. Regardless of accuracy, the themes get repeated until they become accepted by many as the truth. It's called "the smear." Sophisticated operatives work behind the scenes to establish narratives, manipulate journalists, and shape the images you see every day. Nothing is by accident. Now investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson takes you behind the scenes of the modern smear machine, exploring how operatives from corporations and both sides of the political aisle have manipulated a complicit mainstream media to make disinformation, rumor, and dirty tricks defining traits of our democracy. Pulling back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research, she reveals how those in power create well-funded, organized attack campaigns to take down their enemies and influence your opinions, offering an examination of the think tanks, super PACS, LLCs, and nonprofits that have become the hidden backers of some of the biggest smears in American politics. And she doesn't just tell stories -- she names names, sharing her account of how smears take shape and who their perpetrators are -- from Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal to liberal political operative David Brock, who, along with his expansive Media Matters for America empire, has been rewriting the rules of the smear game for decades while raking in millions of dollars in generous compensation. In addition, Attkisson reveals transactional journalism and exposes scandalous emails behind the smear industrial complex, showing how Campaign 2016 became the exclamation point on the thirty-year evolution of the smear machine. Dissecting the most divisive, partisan election in American history, she explores how both sides used every smear tactic as a political weapon, culminating in Donald Trump's hard-fought victory, even as his detractors have continued their smears against him into the Oval Office. What emerges is an assault on the mainstream media's willingness to sacrifice ethics for clicks, and the cynical politicians and high-paid consultants who exploit this reality. A critical discussion for this perilous moment, The Smear is a look at how the black market serving professional propagandists really works.