Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age

By Sieb, Philip | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age


Sieb, Philip, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


* Hollihan, Thomas A. (2001). Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. 308 pp. Paperback, $36.50.

Addressing a wide range of topics and presenting a good mix of theory and pragmatism, Uncivil Wars is a valuable addition to the literature about media and politics. Hollihan does a fine job of describing how campaign behavior affects voter behavior, and how the news media serve - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - as de facto referees of electoral contests.

Political conditions such as voter apathy and alienation, Hollihan says, "are created by the strategies employed by candidates when they run for office and by the campaign fund-raising process." He adds that the way that many campaigns are conducted "has also influenced, in a profoundly negative fashion, candidates' ability to govern effectively once they assume office." He observes that political and policy duties have become increasingly intermingled in the presidency and other elected offices, sometimes impeding effective governance and often exacerhating problems such as catering to campaign contributors.

Hollihan does a good job of illustrating the symbiotic relationship between politicians and journalists. Looking at candidates' campaign style, he cites John McCain's "ability to project genuineness," which was amplified by an infatuated press corps. In addition to citing academic studies of press and politics, he offers journalists' views, such as Mike Royko's explanation of how Chicago's political machine works. …

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