Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You against the Media/Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows

By Stepp, Carl Sessions | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You against the Media/Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows


Stepp, Carl Sessions, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media. Craig Crawford. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. 182 pp. $22.95.

Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows. Alexandra Pelosi. New York: Free Press, 2005. 304 pp. $25.00.

If you want to make the case for evolution, or at least for adaptation, then all you need do is pay attention to the past two centuries of U.S. politics. The press and the politicians seem engaged in a nonstop rivalry for agenda dominance, in which each group must constantly refine its strategies and techniques, or be consumed by predators. Winners are those who most deftly adjust to an ever-changing hostile environment. Left behind are those poor unfittest ones who cling to outmoded models and fail to develop competitive counterpoints.

Sadly, as these two books illustrate, this ongoing rivalry too often turns campaigning into a cynical game, the goal of which is to outwit the opposition rather than to provide a rational forum for civic debate.

Both of these books are written for popular audiences, and I suspect that few instructors would find either adequate as a stand-alone text. In addition, both are quite anchored in the present, so they may quickly seem stale to students with limited time horizons. Nonetheless, the books may well have value as supplements, and Sneaking into the Flying Circus in particular might be a useful case study and an early look at the age of Internet campaigning and journalism.

Of the two, Attack the Messenger is slimmer and breezier. Craig Crawford is a Washington-based columnist and commentator who sees public life as, at least in part, a contest in which "the pendulum of power now rests with the politicians." His book offers this point, presents evidence and examples to support it, and suggests a few proposals for reform.

"Politicians won the war against the media with a simple rule," he writes. "First, attack the messenger." For Crawford, this campaign began to succeed on the day in 1988 when George H. W. Bush, then vice president, embarrassed CBS anchor Dan Rather during an interview. As Rather tried to ask Bush a tough question, the vice president fired back a preprogrammed zinger about an embarrassment in Rather's own career: a time when Rather had walked away from the anchor desk, angry over a network decision to extend coverage of a tennis match into the news time slot.

From there, Crawford maintains, politicians have increasingly succeeded in placing journalists on the run by harping on press errors, arrogance, and defensiveness. As a result, he contends, the media have become "wimps" who no longer effectively stand up to the lies and spin of the powerful and who have lost public support.

"Public distrust of the news media is one of the most hazardous political challenges now facing Americans," Crawford writes. He praises several news organizations, including C-SPAN, public broadcasting, and the Associated Press. Mostly, however, he sees only two kinds of news media thriving in today's environment: agenda-driven "advocacy media" and profit-hungry "bottom-line media."

Crawford is not the first to make these points, but he does make them clearly and efficiently, with plenty of examples. He also floats some suggestions for change, although many may consider them underdeveloped.

For example, Crawford endorses something he calls "conclusionary journalism," in which journalists are encouraged to offer "reasoned judgments" about issues. He says it is "time for the news media to rethink what objectivity means." These are thoughtful, timely suggestions, but the author doesn't fully develop either of them, either with theoretical support or practical application.

Overall, Attack the Messenger serves as a concise overview and starting point but adds little depth or truly new thinking to the conversation.

Where Attack the Messenger is an essay that tells, Alexandra Pelosi's Sneaking into the Flying Circus is a narrative that shows.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You against the Media/Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.