Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Last Days of Democracy

How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America into a Dictatorship

by Elliot D Cohen and Bruce W Fraser

Paperback, Prometheus Books 2007

Book Description

In this chilling account of an America in political and cultural decline, media critics Elliot D Cohen and Bruce W Fraser show how mainstream media corporations like CNN, Fox, and NBC (General Electric) together with giant telecoms like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have become administration pawns in a well-organized effort to hijack America. Cohen and Fraser show in blunt terms how incredible power, control, and wealth have been amassed in the hands of an elite few while the rest of us have been systematically manipulated, deceived, and divested of our freedom. Calling attention to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a carefully devised plan for international dominion launched by high officials in the Bush administration, this book tells the story of an America quietly being stripped of its democratic way of life on its way to becoming a full-blown authoritarian state.

The authors detail how mainstream media have failed us in covering issues crucial to the survival of American democracy - the Bush administration's domestic spying program; the facts about the September 11 attacks; presidential election fraud; the events leading up to the Iraq war; and the selling out of Internet freedom, to name just some. They reveal how corporate media have systematically attempted to dumb down and distract us from reality with sex and violence; how government has used corporate media to "shock and awe" Americans into surrendering their constitutional rights in the name of the "War on Terrorism"; and how media personalities have been complicit in the mass deception.

The final chapter points out important ways in which Americans can counter the erosion of democracy by relying less on mainstream media and more on independent news sources, through grassroots activism, peaceful assembly, and exercising their free speech, and by using critical thinking to expose the dangers we face.

Elliot Cohen has political x-ray vision that cuts right through the turgid bullshit of corporate media ca-ca. Buy several copies and hand them out on street corners: This book could save America.

-- Greg Palast, author of Armed Madhouse (2006)

The Last Days of Democracy is a compelling and alarming last call to awaken the slumbering promise of our Constitution - or to watch our freedom slither away forever. Corporate media has enabled tyranny to prevail over the truth, because they value profits over patriotism. This book is a wake-up call to save us from the final descent into an Orwellian world from which we will not be able to return.

-- Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher of

How can America survive in the information age without any information? For too long, and at far too great a cost to the country's way of life, America's mainstream media have grasped at higher profits by sinking to disgraceful lows in standards and performance ... Cohen and Fraser reveal the caustically unprincipled impostors of our industry, the owners and managers they shill for - and the damage they have done. Read this book. Get mad as hell and let's make certain we don't take it any more.

-- Arthur Kent,

Review: Are We in the Last Days of Democracy?

by Carol Hoenig

Huffington Post (June 14 2007)

There are those who take umbrage with the suggestion that President Bush's tactics are comparable to Hitler's. Yet, Elliot D Cohen and Bruce W Fraser show the similarities between the two men in their recent book aptly titled, The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America into a Dictatorship. The authors write,

In Nazi Germany, there was a systematic program of indoctrination and brainwashing in place. Radio, newspapers, movies, and all other forms of media were carefully monitored by the government to make sure that the German people read, saw, and listened to only what the Nazis wanted the people to read, see, and hear. There was also an officer of disinformation (a 'minister of propaganda') - not unlike our own Karl Rove - whose job it was to make sure journalists toed the Nazi line.

Cohen and Fraser do not pull any punches: The index cross-references the president with the word dictatorship. Over the top? Well, let's see: If he behaves like a dictator and rules like a dictator, well then ... the cross reference is justified. What is just as culpable, though, is the media allowing the president's actions to go unchecked.

The book is not a liberal attempt to bash a conservative president. Instead, it's a warning for all Americans, and the title says as much. The reader is reminded that the media has "become a docile lapdog of government" while "failing at keeping Americans informed". Unfortunately, it's a matter of preaching to the choir here on the Huffington Post, especially since the appendix includes this site as one of the few independent online news sources. However, one wonders if those who stay tuned to Fox News, CNN or any other corporate-owned news source realize that the bottom line is what determines "newsworthy" without having the public's interest in mind.

Just a few decades ago, how we got our news was radically different. This was all the more apparent when I was watching a recent documentary in honor of Walter Cronkite's ninetieth birthday. One moment in history that the program recalled was when Cronkite reported on CBS Evening News that there wasn't a role for US troops in Vietnam anymore. Former President Lyndon Johnson responded: "That's the end of the war".

Often, Cronkite is praised for his journalistic integrity. How sad that he has to be an anomaly. Yet, reporters today should remember that it wasn't so much the man, but the message he carried that made the difference. After all, "that's the way it is" meant simply that, rather than, "that's the way we want it to be".

Now when the mainstream media reports from Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere around the world, including here in the United States, it is in cooperation with the government. How different it was when Cronkite was reporting to how it is now where reporters kowtow to the administration without questioning its actions. Americans have to work especially hard to get to the truth in order to make informed decisions. We have to educate ourselves to see the difference between propaganda and real news. The question is, are we willing to do so? Or will we surrender, like A J Soprano, because it's just easier?

Many people are still talking about the last episode of The Sopranos. For me, the scene that had the most impact was when A J, who had begun to take a political interest in the world around him, reverted to his apathetic state. Slouched once again on the couch in front of the TV, he laughed at footage of rappin' Rove dancing with David Gregory. Like A J, many Americans find that it's easier being entertained rather than investing ambition.

The Last Days of Democracy is an unsettling albeit informative book. Instead of cowering in hopeless fear of "what if", it provides ways to combat what could be the inevitable. In other words, independent journalists must be relentless in doing the work the mainstream media has abandoned, since the authors caution, "Without a functioning media, there is no stopping government from divesting us of our freedom".

Review by Emma Coleman

Berkeley Public Library, California

School Library Journal

Adult/High School - This book has a lot to offer teens, major consumers of mass media. Its point of view is that the political far right and corporate ownership of the media deeply influence what we see, hear, and, ultimately, know. However, readers are expected to follow the authors' rhetoric without necessarily coming to it equipped with extensive background information. References to the US Constitution, Aristotle, Marx, and so on are thrown in, but with explanations. The authors also provide a valuable service by discussing net neutrality, a subject anyone who uses the Internet needs to understand. The book is at its most timely and chilling when Plato's Cave is introduced and compared with the effects of modern mass media. The hyperbole is heavy and idioms like "tow the line" and "lockstep" are overused, but the book is alarming and informative. Some readers will be put off by the vitriolic language, while others will find their fears and anger confirmed. A list of alternative media outlets is appended.

Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Bill Totten


Post a Comment

<< Home