Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy

Claire Bond Potter. Basic, $32 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5416-4499-1
New School history professor Potter debuts with an illuminating rundown of historical trends in political journalism, from New Deal–era consensus building to today’s super-partisan echo chambers. During the Eisenhower administration, Potter writes, progressive journals such as I.F. Stone’s Weekly offered an insider’s perspective not found on major TV networks and in daily newspapers. Though McCarthyism purged “the left establishment” of many prominent voices, by the mid-1970s, Stone and rival “right-wing stars” such as radio broadcaster Carl McIntyre had given rise to a highly invested readership for both liberal and conservative publications, and a viewership for TV programs such as the MacNeil/Lehrer Report. Hooked on politics by the Watergate hearings, advances in polling technology, and the rise of cable news, “political junkies” (a termed coined by Hunter S. Thompson) were increasingly drawn to progressive and conservative populist outlets in the 1980s and 1990s, including the online news aggregator Drudge Report, which broke the story of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Donald Trump’s 2016 election, Potter contends, can be attributed to his comfort with the “hyper-partisan populist atmosphere that digital alternative media promoted.” Potter’s brisk and well-informed account suggests that alternative media, by refocusing on truth-seeking and informed debate, can help solve many of the threats to American democracy that it has produced. Newshounds on both the right and the left will be encouraged. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/03/2020
Release date: 07/07/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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