Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington

Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington

‘STONEWALLED: MY FIGHT FOR TRUTH AGAINST THE FORCES OF OBSTRUCTION, INTIMIDATION, AND HARASSMENT IN OBAMA’S WASHINGTON’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

If you are looking for a book that does nothing but bash President Obama and his ideology, then ‘Stonewalled’ is not for you. If you want a book that is unafraid to ask some tough questions or challenge anyone’s ideology, then keep reading.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

Seasoned CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson reveals how she has been electronically surveilled while digging deep into the Obama Administration and its scandals, and offers an incisive critique of her industry and the shrinking role of investigative journalism in today’s media.
Americans are at the mercy of powerful figures in business and government who are virtually unaccountable. The Obama Administration in particular has broken new ground in its monitoring of journalists, intimidation and harassment of opposition groups, and surveillance of private citizens.
Sharyl Attkisson has been a journalist for more than thirty years. During that time she has exposed scandals and covered controversies under both Republican and Democratic administrations. She has also seen the opponents of transparency go to ever greater lengths to discourage and obstruct legitimate reporting.
Attkisson herself has been subjected to “opposition research” efforts and spin campaigns. These tactics increased their intensity as she relentlessly pursued stories that the Obama Administration dismissed. Stonewalled is the story of how her news reports were met with a barrage of PR warfare tactics, including online criticism, as well as emails and phone calls up the network chain of command in an effort to intimidate and discourage the next story. In Stonewalled, Attkisson recounts her personal tale, setting it against the larger story of the decline of investigative journalism and unbiased truth-telling in America today.
©2014 Sharyl Attkisson (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.


THE PLOT:

‘Stonewalled’ is a fascinating book for its look inside the business of journalism. Told through the first hand experiences of former CBS Investigative Journalist Sharyl Attkisson, ‘Stonewalled’ takes a close look at the challenges that are sometimes created to keep stories from seeing the light of day. It also looks at what public relations employed by politicians and corporations alike will do to discredit a story.
Yes, the book goes into some of the scandals that have surrounded the administration of President Barack Obama. However, the book could just as easily have come from a different time and place. Perhaps the fact that Attkisson was being spied on by the Obama administration is unique, but if that is indeed what happened, it isn’t hard to imagine future presidential administrations employing the same tactics or going to even further lengths to do the same thing.
The specific scandals are talked about in some detail for the benefit of those people who might not be well informed on them. But it is less about the scandals themselves and more about the reporting of those scandals and the obstacles she was forced to encounter to get those stories on the air.
Perhaps the most interesting part of ‘Stonewalled’ is when Attkisson talks about how certain groups might try to discredit a story or make sure that their own spin is the accepted version of events. Things like a blog that is being funded by a special interest group posting a story and then having that same story with a link to the blog post written up by a second blog funded by that same special interest group is one example. Having multiple twitter feeds sending out the same information to make it appear as there is a groundswell of interest. Attkisson even makes the claim that Wikipedia can be taken over by special interest groups and corporations.
Attkisson lays out her arguments in a way that is pretty easy to follow. One thing she asks her readers to do is to play a substitution game. One example of what the substitution game is all about compares the media’s treatments of verbal gaffs made by President Obama to those made by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
As for the discovery that the government was monitoring her computer, it almost felt like a science fiction novel. She goes into detail regarding some of the software that was discovered on her computer and what it was intended to do. The technology that is out there that could potentially be used inappropriately to spy on an average citizen is amazing. One method that is only touched upon briefly is the ability for someone to potentially hack into your car and control it remotely. If it sounds far-fetched, it really shouldn’t. Anything connected to the Internet or involving a computer at all is at risk of something like that.
If I have any criticisms of the book, it would be these: The first is that Attkisson relies too much on the phrase “your tax dollars” in an attempt to foster outrage. She reminds us several times that “your tax dollars” are being spent by politicians on PR staff that are working to withhold the truth from the American people. Yes, that is a troubling bit of information, but the problem is that I don’t know of a single American tax payer that thinks their tax dollars are being spent in a responsible manner. I think most people will come to that phrase, shrug their shoulders and say “what else is new?”
My other criticism is that sometimes Attkisson detaches herself from the story a little too much. I know more about what she did in response to finding out that she was being spied on than I do about how she felt. Was she scared? Did she think that this could go beyond her and touch other members of her family? It is not accurate to say that some of these things are left unaddressed, but her desire to make the story as little about her as possible means that we are not always being told what she was thinking or feeling.
Most of the anger and bad feelings she expresses in ‘Stonewalled’ are directed at her employers at CBS. She talks about being frustrated because a story was killed or altered by a superior. She talks about her disappointment that her employer didn’t seem to take a stand with her when it was discovered that her computers, both personal and work, had been compromised.
All in all, ‘Stonewalled’ is a compelling look inside the media machine. Some people may still believe that the media is able to remain independent of both government and corporate interests but as more and more time passes, reality will set in. When you read ‘Stonewalled’, it is not hard to understand why the media fares so poorly in polls when it comes to the matter of trustworthiness. People do not trust the media because the media gives them plenty of reasons not to trust it.


THE AUTHOR:

Sharyl Attkisson is an award-winning investigative journalist several times over. She describes herself as a political agnostic in the book, and by pointing out scandals involving both republicans and democrats, she goes to considerable lengths to prove it.
I would say that her idealism is reserved for how she feels the media should conduct business. Be more concerned with the truth than with corporate or government interests. I did find it interesting that she didn’t really go into the pressure that journalists, producers and news executives might face to increase television ratings.


THE NARRATION:

This is the first book I’ve heard narrated by Laural Merlington. She was a good choice for this book because she has a voice that carries a certain level of experience. I would not be surprised at all to learn that Merlington and Attkisson are close to the same age. There is not a lot of acting in the performance, but I thought that Merlington did a good job in her vocal performance of the frustration that Attkisson conveyed on the page.


THE PRODUCTION:

There is some music to open and close the track. It sounds vaguely like music you might hear to open a TV news broadcast, and I sense that is what they were going for. The track contains 13 chapter stops with most of the book’s lengthy chapters being divided in half. There are no other sound effects, and that’s a good thing since they would be wildly inappropriate. Everything came through clearly, and there were no noticeable glitches to be found.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

In my review of ‘Freakonomics’, I made the statement that sometimes the best arguments are the ones that make everyone angry. Obviously, I believe that to be true to a degree or I wouldn’t have made the statement at all. So in that vein I give ‘Stonewalled’ a very high recommendation.
Nobody is immune from being criticized in this book. Criticism is leveled at both the Obama and Bush administrations, the Democratic and Republican parties, the tactics used by partisans to discredit stories that harm their agenda. But the most stinging criticism in the book is actually leveled at the news media itself.
It is hard to come away from reading ‘Stonewalled’ with good feelings. If you are suspicious that the news industry will kill stories that could hurt the company’s bottom line, you will have those suspicions more or less confirmed. If you are suspicious that executives tend to favor certain political groups or ideologies more than others, you will walk away with that kind of confirmation. So basically, nobody leaves happy.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, as unpleasant as it might be, exposure to the cold reality of life is exactly what society needs to experience. Attkisson does offer some solid advice to those honestly looking for truth. Do your own research, consult people you trust, come to your own conclusion and think for yourself. Unfortunately, most people aren’t willing to invest the time required to determine if the website they’re getting their articles from is funded by a presidential administrator or other political group. Most people aren’t going to bother finding out if a particular Wikipedia article is being edited by someone from a drug company looking to suppress information that might harm his business.
I enjoyed reading ‘Stonewalled’ and would recommend it to anyone that doesn’t mind having their own personal bias challenged from time to time.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington Sharyl Attkisson Laural Merlington Brilliance Audio Journalism & Media 12/23/2014 15 hours, 19 minutes 9.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘STONEWALLED: MY FIGHT FOR TRUTH AGAINST THE FORCES OF OBSTRUCTION, INTIMIDATION, AND HARASSMENT IN OBAMA’S WASHINGTON’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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