Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by

7 February 2005

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Lies and the lying liars - Al Franken

ISBN: 0525947647
Not sure if I am the best person to review this book. For one thing it is obviously aimed at a US audience, so that rules me out first off. There is also the fact that it takes a very black and white approach, the Republicans are evil, the Democrats good. Now for all I know that may be the case, but I’d prefer to be convinced rather than have the author assume I agree. I also think there are a hell of a lot of shades of grey

Maybe the title should have alerted me, but although I expected a somewhat irreverant approach, I felt that the tone this book was written in did it absolutely no favours. It is a problem I have also noted in Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men. Jokes and sarcastic statements are wonderful tools, I&’m always in favour of a bit of irony, but authors must be careful when using it throughout a book. It doesn’;t work as well as it does on film or in a speech.

Also in common with Moore, Franken seems to believe that is you follow one element of liberalism then you will follow them all, and vice vearsa. It is this lack of, well real life and the differing, offering contradictory opinions people can hold that really hurts this book. Life is very rarely black and white.

Despite these problems I did enjoy this book. Many of the points raised were very valid and interesting. I especially enjoyed the footnote piece, and Franken explaining how people can use footnotes (and endnotes) to lie and distort the truth.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this book more if I was an American and so familiar with all the people mentioned. But while I recognised many names I wasn’t able to immediately categorise them into “Good” or “Bad”.
In my opinion, the best chapter of this book was the one entitled “This Was Not a Memorial to Paul Wellstone”: A Case Study in Right-Wing Lies. In it Franken tells how a service held for Wellstone, although totally intended as a memorial was transformed, in the media, and because of right-wing stories, into a political rally. Of course, I cant verify that what he said was the truth. Well I suppose if I bothered to check up all thoe references I would, but even if it wasn’t it presented a very good reason to not believe the television. Just because some one on the box, or on the radio, or in a newspaper says something, that does not make it true.

The one other major problem I have with this book comes on page 85 (although it isn’t a major deal at all, and I’d say most people didn’t even notice it, or think of it as a problem), and it is the following sentence;

“I had just finished my first appearance on The Factor to promote Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, and was about to pick up my coat when I was confronted by what appeared to be an angry, Irish ape-man.”

Can you see what my problem was?

Well maybe if I mentioned that one of the ways of putting down the entire Irish race was by describing Irish people as a lower race or species of human, that they weren’t as civilized, intelligent or advanced as the other white races. And the best way of conveying this? Well by showing Irish people (generally men) with simian features in cartoons. The ape-man cartoon was used for generations to say that anti-Irish sentiment was entirely justified. Now, I am not saying that Franken was subscribing to this idea at all, it is more likely that Hannity (the person in question) reminded Franken at that moment, of an ape. But the fact remains that the linking of those two terms together is, in my opinion, ill-judged. Especially when Hannity isn’t even Irish. Irish-American maybe, but that is a whole different thing to being Irish. Maybe I’m just over sensitive? And it is only one line, and Irish-Americans are known for their right-wing tendencies (how they square that with supporting the IRA & Sinn Fein who are socialist, I’m not quite sure).

Maybe I’ve been a little harsh on this book, so I’ll just say again that I did enjoy it. I just feel that there were many small problems. And combined together they undid much of the positive aspects.

Felt the tone hurts this book a little

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