Brief Review of “Big Lies,” by Joe Conason

“If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a forty-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights – you can thank liberals.  If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable – you can thank liberals; if your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family – you can thank liberals.  If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn’t black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green – you can thank liberals.  If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society – you can thank liberals.  Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power.  What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one on these advances.  The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism – with the support of the American people.”

The above quote is from Big Lies – The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, Joe Conason, St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

This book was presented to me in 2013, fully ten years after its publication, by a friend who I believe is aware that I consider myself a “yellow dog Democrat,” i.e., someone who would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican (even though I have on several occasions voted for Republicans I thought were better candidates).

In any event, it’s worth a read by anyone interested in politics, whether Federalist (think John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) or anti-Federalist (think Thomas Jefferson,  who, despite his anti-Federalism, increased the national debt with the Louisiana Purchase, among other achievements one might think of as Federalist-leaning).

Lying, demonizing one’s opponents, spinning the story, vicious personal attacks, twisting the facts, pouncing on words and actions taken out of context, etc. – these are not new tactics for those who seek to win elections.  However, in the last sixty years or so, with the dizzying advances made in the distribution of “information,” (think TV, cell phones, internet, watching the British Open live, etc.), the opportunities for mischief are so numerous we just can’t keep up any more.

To paraphrase another section of Mr. Conason’s introduction to his book:

Liberals are not unpatriotic, do not despise the work ethic, and have, by the numbers, been the best stewards of the nation’s economy for seventy years.  Liberals defend the Bill of Rights and are just as likely as conservatives to uphold the “family values” that conservatives like to reference so often.

Without setting out that all liberals are saints or accusing all conservatives as spiteful, bigoted, greedy, or stupid, the author nevertheless sets out in great detail how the right-wing propaganda machine is making intelligent, friendly discourse between those with differing views nearly impossible.

He believes the right-wing propaganda is equivalent to bullying, and calls for liberals to do more in the way of fighting back.  “The classic American hero is the underdog who wins respect by fighting back….  Occasionally, the underdog and the bully become best friends.”

Again, bear in mind that this book was published ten years ago.

I can’t help wondering how much more Mr. Conason would about what has transpired in Washington since 2003, especially with our present day leadership – executive and legislative.

I’m going on the Amazon site to see if he’s written more.


One thought on “Brief Review of “Big Lies,” by Joe Conason

  1. Hear, Hear, Einar Joe !!! I’m not ten years late in responding to the post, but I am about a month late because my G-mail hid you post’s from me, under a new heading of: “Social”. I’ll be checking that and another unnecessary heading in the future – for what I merely call “email from friends. Now, back to “Social” to see if there are other lost puppies still lingering under that heading. – Rayburn Metcalfe


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