Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News

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 by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

(Common Courage Press, $11.95)

"Isn't . . .a subtle abuse of the truth, and of language, the real beginning... of the misery of the world we live in?" -- Vaclav Havel

It's not difficult to lay blame for society's ills at the feet of the media: politicians and pundits do it all the time. But addressing the way that distortions and omissions of the truth can affect our collective psyche is a much more complicated project.

With Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News, media critics Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, have assembled an amusing and alarming chronicle of the myriad ways the value of the truth is eroded by popular media. A collection of the authors' syndicated weekly media columns, THROUGH THE MEDIA LOOKING GLASS takes on broad targets -- media concentration, talk radio, violence on television, environmental coverage -- and takes a whack at the pillars of commonly held beliefs behind each one.

For instance, why is it that blacks with extremist views are the media's most infamous bigots, while blatantly racist white media personalities not only escape media scrutiny, but are rewarded with fatter contracts? Or ever wonder why the TV news magazine 20/20 has failed to cover nuclear issues? It might have something to do with the fact that the show's executive producer is married to a prominent publicist for the nuclear and chemical industries. TV newsrooms live by the credo of "if it bleeds, it leads," yet as Cohen and Solomon note: "Crime is bad in our country...but the Justice Department's crime victimization statistics show there is no more violent crime per capita today that 20 years ago...What has soared is crime coverage."