I tend to go personal even when working on a book review because I don't believe there is such a thing as impersonal truth.
One year or so ago I was writing a book about the fate of my home country to have it published in the U.S. It was out of the question to use a Japanese publisher because the book to have been titled The Unviable Japan was going to delve into the very core of the absolute taboo issues such as illegitimacy of the imperial institution. At the beginning, the American literary agent I was talking to was saying it would become a bestseller. But the moment I gave the agent a preview of the first draft of the synopsis, he changed his mind and started talking me out of further writing on. Over the telephone he subtly turned down my proposal even though the final proposal package had not been submitted yet..
He implied that I would not be accepted in the U.S. before establishing myself in my home country. From the beginning he had known that I would not be accepted on my home turf. So he must have thought it was unfair to decline my proposal on that ground. He tried to reinforce his rationale by saying American publishers and their customers were too preoccupied at the moment with the presidential election and the Iraq quagmire to show interest in Japan's fate - which was also what he had already known when he said my book would become a bestseller.
American people I used know were very direct and straightforward in responding to me, either in the affirmative or in the negative, and giving the reason for that. Most of the time they were confident about what they were talking about. They had not yet developed the American disease symptomized by cynicism and hypocrisy dominating today's America. The literary agent should have saved me a lot of time and money I spent for exchanging nicely worded e-mails and for placing lengthy collect calls for roundabout conversation.
Earlier this month I came across Bernard Goldberg's most recent book titled A Slobbering Love Affair when I was up to my daily routine of video mining on YouTube. I was looking for newest pieces of info about his take on the post-election climate of the United States. Some six years ago, I was quite impressed by the bestselling Bias (2002, Medium Cool) authored by the former star correspondent with CBS News soon after he was fired by Dan Rather because of his op-eds in the Wall Street Journal (1996 and 2001.) In these op-ed pieces he accused the mainstream media of their liberal bias
A Slobbering Love Affair bears a lengthy subtitle that goes: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. One of my American friends warned me that I would learn nothing new from the book, but I went ahead and placed a rush order for my copy with Amazon.com at a price of $17.13 plus $26.98 for shipping and handling. I knew my American friend was right, but I thought I might want to resume working on the once mothballed book if ever I could learn some secret from Goldberg to make my book truthful and salable at the same time. While its subtitle promises the author is telling the true story, the book made the NYT list of bestselling books, albeit temporarily.
As I had predicted, I found out there isn't that much in this book. You might as well read the cover, the front and back flaps, and put it on your bookshelf. I have started writing this book review still leaving a couple of chapters (there are 23 of them) unread or just leafed through because from one chapter to the next, Goldberg repeats one and the same thing that the title and subtitle of the book have already told you.
Yes, Goldberg does tell you a truth, over and over, about how the mainstream media have deified Obama and anointed him to help the American people atone for their original sin. But isn't it a half-truth he claims he is revealing? I have an impression that by deliberately confining his allegedly true story to the fierce battle between the mainstream media (ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NYT, etc.) and the New Media (Fox News Channel, Premiere Radio Networks, etc.), he is trying to get around the other half of the truth - what is going on on the part of the general population of America. This side of the problem is much stickier and more relevant.
To that end, Goldberg adopts the same transparent trick Michael Moore used in his Stupid White Men, or Benjamin Fulford used in his Say Goodbye to Zombies; he just ignores the other side of the issue, which happens to lie on the part of his readers. In fact Moore and Fulford know their readers are predominantly white and stupid themselves, or yellow and as purposeless as zombies. Likewise, Goldberg knows he is talking to slobbery people about the slobbery media.
In a chapter devoted to his conversation with Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host is more explicit about the audience of the mainstream media. When he says, "MSNBC is the official network of left-wing lunatics," he does not forget to add something about its "lunatic audience" whose favorite pastime was to bitch about George W. Bush every night.
And there is the now famous NYT columnist Judith Warner. On February 5, she wrote, "Many women - not too surprisingly - [are] dreaming about sex with the president." If this has something to do with mesmerists in the mainstream media, I don't think they are responsible that much for these women with slobbery mouths.
Actually the author himself sometimes slobbers over the president. In the introductory chapter, he confesses: "I didn't vote for Obama, but like so many others - supporters and detractors - I was moved by his victory speech on election night." (Italicization mine.) In the same chapter, he writes, "I don't believe the media got Obama elected, as explained later in this book." But you will find in Chapter 20 a sentence that does not really explain it. It goes: "The media did work hard to get Obama elected."
At best Goldberg has ambivalent feelings toward this president. But at worst, he deliberately uses two tongues to make his book look truthful, and at the same time to promote it to a big audience. You will stumble on uncharacteristically honest sentences in a chapter titled The Media's Get Out of Jail Free Card which reads: "If you didn't notice the pro-Obama bias during the campaign, you were either dead or in a coma. If you were dead, there's no reason to continue reading." In effect, this means that he wrote this book only for those in a coma.
Despite all these confusing and confused remarks, it's apparent that Goldberg is genuinely unhappy with the Messiah in the White House. Before concluding the book, he gives a throwaway prescription to the problem in a short chapter titled The Fix. "What we desperately need now in America's newsrooms is diversity of opinion." He knows his solution will never work. That's why immediately afterward he writes: "It's not just journalistic ethics are at risk - democracy is." Deep inside the author knows the erosion of moral isn't just a matter of journalistic ethics. The problem facing America today won't be fixed just by forcing the likes of George Stephanopoulos to repent for their crush on the president.
The last sentences of the book go like this: "They will remain arrogant and clueless and blame the media bashers for damaging their standing with the public. But their demise won't come from the outside. It will be an inside job, the result of one too many self-inflicted wounds. When that day comes it will be very bad indeed for the mainstream media. Pray, that their demise doesn't also lead to ours." Even a reader in a coma will notice that his deceitful logic completely falls apart here.
It is true that Obama's America is now being tested at home as well as abroad as every American pundit is saying. So far this president has been tested quite "OK" with foreign countries, especially with such uncivilized nations as North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, Kenya, Indonesia and Japan. But at home, I am sure that it won't take long for the Messiah to prove unable to walk on the water. As Tim Reid, Washington correspondent of Britain's The Times, observed, the porker-loving president is just gambling. For a gamble addict who can raise the ante to trillions of dollars so matter-of-factly, there is nowhere else to go but failure.
More importantly, though, it's not Obama, but each individual citizen of America who is subjected to the testing. As I wrote on February 22, the slobbering America won't be able to reverse its course and get back on the right track unless its people (not the president they have chosen, nor the media they are subscribing to) become ready to go through a thorough soul-searching. As Goldberg quotes Walter Cronkite as having once said, when the press abandons skepticism, the general public is infected with cynicism. And this is exactly what is happening in the U.S. There are only two kinds of people there: slobbering people and cynics.
In all likelihood, the author knows very well that A Slobbering Love Affair would never have achieved commercial success if he had told his audience the whole truth about the erosion of the American value system.
Nonetheless, I could draw an important lesson from the half-truthful and half-fraudulent book: I should write off my book project, finally and for good, as long as the American people aren't ready to face up to the whole reality without cherry-picking for its relatively benign facets. Believe it or not, I don't want to prostitute myself for a single buck by refraining from doing something more than just scratching the surface of the truth. In that, I am a nerd by the Japanese standard, and the American standard for that matter. This is not my sour-grapes story. I might tap other shores, such as Australia, if god grants me some more time to stick around. But that is a different issue.
Only for that reason, I think I made the right decision when I dared to part ways with my hard-earned $44.11 to buy Mr. Goldberg's intriguing book.