James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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A book review, history, and media myths

Posted by James McPherson on July 18, 2010

This review of my latest book is positive over all, and I generally agree with the quibbles. I also sincerely appreciate the efforts of reviewer William Gillis. Reviewing books isn’t easy–I’ve done three or four, and I rely heavily on reviews to decide what to read and possibly use for classes. Faculty and students all over the country benefit from those who take the job as seriously as Gillis obviously does.

One funny note about one of his comments–the fact that I, like most everyone else for decades, called Spiro Agnew’s “nabobs of negativity” quote a shot at the media. Just after the book came out, I was asked to be a blind reviewer for the very good Norman Lewis article, cited by Gillis, that corrects that myth. And thanks to Lewis, I knew before most people–though  of course too late to make any difference–that I had it wrong in the book, though of course it was too late.

That’s one more example of why, despite the views of such “historians” as Lynne Cheney and Liz Cheney, we need to keep looking at even the history we think  we know. Another great example arrived at my house yesterday in the form of the latest book from myth debunker and media historian (and friend) W. Joseph Campbell.

Joe’s book, Getting it Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, takes on myths that include Watergate, feminism, Hurricane Katrina, and at least three wars (more if you count alien attacks, the Cold War and the “war on drugs.”)

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2 Responses to “A book review, history, and media myths”

  1. kent gritke said

    I support your right do dissent, you freedom of speech et al. I think however, you spend too much effort debunking , dissecting and destroying the little people who are lashing out in their anguish for the direction this country is headed. You are missing ht e forest for the trees. Why are so many millions of people calling for impeachment or even military coup style intervention?
    The great Uniter has pushed America to the brink of violent turmoil and seems hell bent on this course as he prepares to prevail in unthinkable ways. Obviously, You don’t believe this, but Millions do. WHY? Figure that out and you will begin to see that things are dire and out of control indeed.

  2. James McPherson said

    Thanks for the comment, Kent, but I think you’re giving me far too much credit if you think I have the power to destroy “the little people” (of whom I think I happen to be one.
    I’d also disagree with the claim that “so-many millions” are “calling for impeachment or even military coup style intervention.” Admittedly there are many reasons to be unhappy with Obama–I’ve mentioned several of my own in other posts–and for some, those reasons may warrant voting against him in 2012.
    As for the limited minority who ARE calling for impeachment or a coup, I’d argue that their reasons include–but are not limited to–ignorance of the Constitution, little understanding of real-world politics, racism, fear promoted by right-wing media, frustration about feeling impotent in the overall scheme of things, and anger at being on the losing side. (To those folks: Welcome to how progressives felt during the Bush years.)
    “The great Uniter has pushed America to the brink of violent turmoil …”
    As opposed to Bush, who actually pushed us over that brink? After all, 9/11 and two wars all happened under his watch.
    “as he prepares to prevail in unthinkable ways”
    Such as?
    “Obviously, You don’t believe this, but Millions do.”
    You’re right about the first part, probably wrong about the second.
    “you will begin to see that things are dire and out of control indeed”
    As a historian, I think you’re probably wrong. But if Glenn Beck has his way, chances are we’ll get there.
    Thanks again for the comment, and especially for the all-too-uncommon willingness to back your views with your name. I admire that, even if I disagree with your conclusions.

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