Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Jerome Corsi and Mary Matalin team up for an old-fashioned swift boating

Submitted by meg on Tue, 08/19/2008 - 2:51pm.


One of the favorite adages of journalists was once, "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." Now it seems that we've shifted to "I read it in a best-selling non-fiction book; it must be true... oh, it's not? Well, who cares."

Jerome Corsi's new, widely discredited book The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality sustained its number one spot on The New York Times bestseller list yet again this week. And for some reason, I find myself thinking of the waves of untruths that have passed through the hands of editors of late.

In 2006, James Frey's A Million Little Pieces sat atop the bestseller list for 15 weeks and was a selection for Oprah's Book Club. Thanks to revelations from The Smoking Gun, the book was shown to be a lie. Since Frey didn't have the passion of a political campaign backing him, his book is now printed with author's and publisher's notes. Random House even agreed to compensate some readers for the lies.

There's been a serious rash of discredited memoirs much like Frey's over the last few years. Writers and editors have paid hefty prices, including monetary ones and jail time, for lying in print. In response to the rash of memoirs that have been uncovered lately, I jokingly invented the word "semoir" to refer to the new genre. I haven't heard anything back from William Safire yet, but I'll let you know when I do.

But what we really need is a word for books filled with lies that are known by editors and publishers to be falsehoods, but are never retracted. The historical prevalence and modern popularity of deceptive nonfiction closely mirrors that of the "semoir." However, the shame and punishment don't exist. And that's because they are written, edited, and published by people who don't care about journalistic integrity. They are out to do two things: make money and win elections.

Enter Mary Matalin. She's been a pundit for years, after starting out in Washington serving first the RNC and then President George H.W. Bush. She has served as an aide to both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Now she is the editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster's Threshold Books. Matalin publicly took up the mantle for The Obama Nation, the newest offering from Threshold.

Corsi is perhaps best known for co-authoring the attack book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, which was part of the campaign credited for defeating Kerry in his presidential bid in 2004.

While Unfit for Command was culturally successful (heck, we might not even have the phrase "swift boating" to rely upon were it not for Corsi's libel), the book was widely denounced as fabricated. Still, it worked. And the larger body of evidence shows that Corsi and others are bent upon "swift boating" Obama with this new book.

The Obama Nation has also been largely discredited in the media. Media Matters, a Web site run by one-time right-wing columnist David Brock, deemed the book "unfit to publish" listing pages of lies and misrepresentations as support. Still, there are no plans to print retractions or corrections. Just keep that printer crackin' 'em out as is, says Matalin.

The fact is, the book is marketed as a political attack job. Jerome "I apologized for saying that racist stuff so long ago oh and be sure to catch me on white supremacist radio" Corsi admits that he was inspired by the election. He told The New York Times that he wrote the book for a very specific reason:

"'The goal is to defeat Obama,' Mr. Corsi said in a telephone interview. 'I don't want Obama to be in office.'"

Just today, the political action committee Save Our Republic sent out an e-mail supposedly written by Corsi soliciting contributions to pay for political ads that will "stop Barack Obama and the radicalism he represents from creating an America where the values and philosophies that made America great become just a distant memory to some or dead history to others." Oh, and the postscript of the e-mail notes that anyone who donates $125 or more to the PAC will get a free copy of The Obama Nation.

In addition, the book's cover boasts that, "The Obama Nation is the definitive source for information on why and how Barack Obama must be defeated."

This stands directly in conflict with what editor Mary Matalin told The New York Times about the book:

"Ms. Matalin said in an interview that the book 'was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book,' calling it, rather, 'a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.' She said she was unaware of efforts to link it to any anti-Obama advertising."

But maybe she never read it. Timothy Noah wrote a piece on Slate.com about Matalin and her contribution to the conservative publishing world. He said he received a response from Matalin that explained that "editor" doesn't really mean "editor" anymore:

"I do not deal with any mechanics (like print runs, reprints, financial relationship with authors), or for that matter, editing of the Threshold books. I am more akin to a consultant relative to the issue of potential interest among political readers."

Matalin's very own Web site bio says she "runs" Threshold. How she can do that as a consultant is beyond me (not that I'm the only one to wonder). I guess when you run a business dedicated to peddling lies, it's a lot easier to lie about your job. Those years working for the current administration couldn't have hurt, either.

But, as Noah noted, "conservative imprints aren't required to adhere to the same standards of truth as the grown-up divisions." Noah criticizes the book, but then lets both the writer and the editor off the hook because they are part of a tradition of lies.

Well, what can be done? Not much, I suppose. Those who read such books are much more likely to rely upon FOX News than BuzzFlash, Slate.com, or Media Matters. Readers of Corsi's books might believe every last lie in them, and there's little anyone can do.

But this election year, I would, at the very least, like to see the same amount of outrage that is currently devoted to PACs, lying campaign ads, and 527s be spread out to cover the right-wing lie publishing empire. Just because the people willing to believe these lies probably live in red states anyway doesn't mean we shouldn't care. Obama is
slowly learning from John Kerry's grand mistake in ignoring these liars.

So should the rest of us.


reunionpi said...

Jerome Corsi of Swiftboat fame: His over $150,000 in judgments, his corporations and more


Bill Corcoran said...

Thanks for responding the info.