The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction
Glenn W. Smith. John Wiley & Sons, $24.95 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-471-66763-6
Smartly written and provocative, Smith's book draws on colorful and historical anecdotes to depict a degraded state of democracy in the U.S., at one point comparing, in detail, the country's de facto mechanisms of ideological control to those of Cold War-era communist regimes. A long chapter on""some of the deficiencies of the news media"" touches on familiar gripes about the banalization and commercialization of news, but includes a useful history of how corporate consolidation happened. A related discussion on the psychology of politics and imagery (""I see someone shake Bugs Bunny's hand; I shake Bugs' hand. Bush rattles a sabre; I draw my sword"") draws out real consequences from virtual presidential appearances, whether ad- or soundbite-based. In terms of assessing what the electoral consequences have been, Smith, director of DriveDemocracy.org, essentially accuses Bush of being a consummate politician (relying on political advertising, manipulative slogans, flashy and often substance-light appearances), but it's clear that he believes Bush is more an expression of the current system than its creator. Smith recommends increasing public involvement in the political process by using the Internet to encourage grassroots participation and to decrease reliance on large financial contributions. Those propositions are familiar, as is much of the analysis, but Smith's clarity and ingenuity set his book apart.
Reviewed on: 07/26/2004