Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Alan Skorski's Life on the D-List

Mark Hyman adds another tome to his library of recommended right wing reading as he uses “The Point” as an infomercial for a book by Alan Skorski that attacks Al Franken’s truthfulness.

The trouble is, Hyman and Skorski simply prove Franken’s thesis in his last two books: a significant percentage of the right wing prattlesphere is dominated by people who replace argument, facts, and reason with ad hominem attack, lies, and demagoguery.

Of course, as Stephen Colbert has said, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

It’s odd that Hyman would put such faith in Skorski as a seeker of truth. His record in this area isn’t exactly a stellar one. The onetime candy salesman who has become an oddball protester-cum-politician-cum writer ran for Congress a few years ago and, in addition to failing to make a showing in the Republican primary, had to
pay fines in excess of ten percent of his total donations because of failure to report campaign finances to the Federal Election Commission. He also had validity of signatures he collected to get on the ballot challenged by his Republican opponents.

And this is the gentleman Hyman tells us is a soldier of truthfulness?

Then there’s the fact that the only publisher who would put his words into print was WorldNetDaily Press, a boutique press for the most reactionary right wingers. By comparison, Franken’s books are published by Dutton, a grown-up publishing house.

In fact, Spinsanity, a website that critiques spin on both the left and right states that “for the most part, Franken gets his facts right” in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Their main criticism is simply that Franken uses satire when making particularly aggressive arguments against conservatives (note to Spinsanity: Jonathan Swift didn’t really want to use Irish babies for food).

Readers familiar with Franken’s work also will know that he employs a team of fact checkers when writing and provides copious footnotes to the original sources of information (real footnotes, not just the nonsense “sources” thrown at the back of a work to make it look impressive, even if the actual sources are unrelated or contradict what is said by the author—a phenomenon familiar to readers of freshman research essays and
any book by Ann Coulter). Then there’s the vox populi; as of yesterday, the rank of Franken’s last book was 1,385. Skorski’s? 479,329.

And speaking of the comparative ethos of Franken and Skorski, Hyman’s attempts to attack Franken are nearly as funny as Franken’s writing. And in a way, Hyman’s comic feat is even more impressive than Franken’s, since he manages to be funny without even trying. Think what he could do if he actually started making a conscious effort to be hilarious!

Hyman calls Franken a “C-list comedian who became C-list political figure.” That’s right; being one of the main writers on perhaps the most influential national comedy show in the last 30 years isn’t much of a comic pedigree, is it?

Politics? How about three best-selling books of political commentary and humor? How about hosting the flagship show on Air America, the talk radio network that has spread by leaps and bounds over the last two years? How about having a legitimate shot at a successful run for the Senate?

Don’t you wonder who’s on Hyman’s A and B lists?

As to Skorski’s specific charges, Hyman doesn’t give us much. He claims (without offering a single example) that Skorski has found hundreds of cases of Franken not telling the truth. The only specific we get is that Skorski charges Franken with plagiarism, since Franken compared Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes” to a combination of “Crossfire” and the Harlem Globetrotters game, and an article by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting made a similar analogy.

Yes, that’s it. No, seriously—that’s the big explosive charge: use of a single parallel simile (one that’s used in a throwaway comic fashion, to boot) is plagiarism.

Now, as regular readers well know
, I couldn’t give a rip about plagiarism; as long as I get my gourmet coffee drinks, I’m a happy guy (although I could point you to a couple of students who, after this semester, would give you quite a different take on my attitudes toward plagiarism). But I don’t think even the most stringent interpreters of plagiarism would argue that we’re dealing with intentional, dishonest copying of anyone else’s words or ideas.

But as we’ve seen in his own commentaries, Hyman doesn’t care about plagiarism. Heck,
he even “borrowed” the exact wording of certain phrases from a right wing blog himself.

It’s perhaps possible that Skorski’s other charges are valid. Campaign finance issues, accusations of bogus signatures, and being published by an inbred little press aside, maybe Skorski has suddenly become a model of upright truthtelling.

Maybe. I haven’t read his book, so I can’t say myself. What I can do is refer you to some people who have read his book and/or heard his charges from his own mouth.

After a Skorski appearance on MSNBC,
Media Matters for America took apart all of his specific examples of Franken’s “distortions” (all two of them). By the way, much of the information I've culled about Skorski originated in what I found in the MMFA article.

I looked long and hard for a review of Skorski’s book by a legitimate book reviewer, but couldn’t find any. I guess if you publish a book and no one reads it, it doesn’t make a sound (or at least not the pages of Publishers Weekly).

I did find some interesting remarks by readers on, however. The following are some comments culled from the reader reviews of Skorski’s book. I tried to avoid those that were rabidly right or left wing and focus on those that seemed to be written by people who were legitimately interested in hearing both sides of the debate. Here are some of the greatest hits:

Don't waste your time on this book. Being a conservative who finds
Al Franken very annoying, this book is full of mistakes, errors and lies. I was
hoping this book would shut Franken up but unfortunately after reading it you
realize what a waste of time and money it is.

I just
finished reading Al's latest book "The Truth (with jokes)" and was looking for
something to balance it out. This book doesn't even come

I read this recently, and after seeing Skorski on
CSPAN, I was reminded to write this review. Skorski argues that Franken isn't
just dishonest, and a hypocrite, he is evil. I'd recommend skimming through this
before shelling out, because he comes up way short.

have read this book. I tried to give Mr. Skorski the benefit of the doubt. I
could not. It is so poorly written, so unbelievably biased, that one only winces
in embarassment for poor Mr. Skorski. I expect this book to be sold in the
"remainder" piles for a fraction of it's published price. Even then, don't waste
your money. Unless, of course, you like to laugh at the misfortune of some
people who call themselves "authors".

i heard about this book
yesterday so i went to barnes and noble to-day and read it for about an hour. i
was laughing out loud as i went through it. Skorski misses the point of what
franken says and missrepresents what he is saying everywhere. He claims that
franken is contradicting himself when really it is only Skorski's incorrect
interpretation of what Franken is saying that is being contradicted. I reccomend
this book to anyone who has read Al Franken before just because the points are
laughable. Any thinking individual should be able to turn to a page and chuckle
at the off target text.

Having read a couple of Franken's
books, I have come to the conclusion that not only is he boring to read, he's
even more boring to read about. With all due respect to the author, this book
will change no one's mind, either negative or positive, about Franken. Relax,
take another sip of kool-aid and move on to other material more suitable to your
political persuasion.

Whatever happened to
intellectual conservatism? This is just another fuzzy-minded, angry "expose"
that only seems to show how effective Franken's radio program is

When I heard about this book, I was extremely
curious. I had read and enjoyed Franken's "Liars" book and wondered if I had
been hoodwinked. Then I saw Mr. Skorski on Tucker Carlson on which he stated
concerning Robert Reno's March 8th 2001 Newsday column criticizing Bill O'Reilly
that, "after I saw the article, I said, this doesn't say anything that Franken
claimed it did." So I bought the article myself on Newsday's website. And I
looked over that chapter of Franken's book. Reno's article says just what
Franken said it says in his book. Buy the article yourself if you don't believe
me (it's on Newsday's website). Don't buy this

I consider myself a politcal independent,
so I'm not necessarily drawn to any one party line. I've read Al franken's book
"Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" and found it amusing, but also
sometimes over the top and annoying at some points. Unlike most people who
review political books, I actually rsearched Franken's claims and found that he
was trutful for the most part. (There were a few instance where you could accuse
him of presenting facts in an unfair light, but what political commentator
doesn't do that?) When Mr. Skorski's book came out, I immediately picked it up
to try and balance out the playing field. Unfortunately for all you partisan
conservatives out there, I found that the book contained multiple errors,
factual inacuracies, and what may be downright lies. It's important to note that
many political sites, such as, have all studied Franken's book
and proclaimed it to be the truth. Hopefull the right wing will one day write a
book that responds to all of Franken's claims without using decptive tactics,
because books like this one don't help them politcally.

And those are The Counterpoints.

Hyman Index: 4.24


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