Today's media politics is all about saying the same few things over and over until they come to seem inevitable, even if -- especially if -- they're not true. Naturally, such systematic lying is hardly new. Nor is the media's ingrained habit of regurgitating these lies as news, then getting huffy when Stephen Colbert points it out during your cozy banquet with liars. But in an age when manufactured myths flood the increasingly corporatized airwaves -- and the hardest-hitting newscaster, Keith Olbermann, made his name cracking wise on ESPN -- it seems ever harder to tell the public something real.
This struggle to do so lies at the heart of two very different new books. One was written by a comfortably situated liberal columnist, the New York Times's Frank Rich; the other, Myra MacPherson's biography of the radical investigative journalist I.F. Stone, tells the still-heartening tale of a self-described Jeffersonian Marxist whose own not inconsiderable taste for punditry ultimately required him to build his own soapbox. The two journalists embody different approaches to telling truth to power.