Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 1-2)

The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10




PART ONE Chapter One: Home of the Heartland

“The vapid Pearl Harbor was an essential historical artifact anyway-not of its ostencivle subject but of the tranquil American summer of 2001.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 9

“Patience and humility were not words that came to mind when thinking of Bush.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 16

“Once in Office Bush turned the presidency into an ongoing festival of audiovisual cognitive dissonance.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 19

In the summer of 2001 America was had decided that Robert Blake was too B-list to qualify for a OJ Simpson-like coverage. Instead we focused on the possible affair of Gary Condit and the dissapearance of his intern. In the summer of 2001 we also enjoyed war through the sanitized PG-13 glasses of Pearl Harbor the movie. Raising the questions of Right or Wrong would have hurt the box office sales, so the movie scrupulously avoided any mention of why Japan attacked us or why anyone at all fought in the Asian theatre.

In preparation for the celebration the Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis was set as a stage for revelers. Navy Seals parachuted in to entertain the celebrities. By celebrating the patriotism of our forbearers we were able to practice “virtual patriotism” that made us look noble by association, a virtual patriotism that helped us forget Vietnam, a war cooked up by WWII vets and dodged by both of our boomer presidents.

Bush was on his way to being a forgettable president, a “colossal boob” were the words of David Letterman, the prevailing thought at the time. In the untroubled pre-9/11 world, George Bush as Cheerleader-in-chief was not necessarily miscast. In those months he used the common practice of photo ops, not to highlight his policy initiatives, but to disguise them. His earth-tone photo ops at national parks hid his D-Rating from the National Parks Conservation Association, his photo op with Philadelphia police hid his 17% cut in police pay, and his visits to the Boys and Girls Clubs occurred just before slashing their funding.Those were the last days before 9/11.


PART ONE Chapter Two: Dead or Alive

“Overnight, World War II fetishism was almost ludicrously obsolete.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 22

“Press adulation was not all the White House wanted; it also wanted control.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 30

“The Thrust of a war against terrorism going forward was becoming blurry, however, now that the Taliban had been routed.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 40

Despite there being at most two U.S. shark attacks a year since 1990, in 2001 the media found the Shark threat a good diversion from sex scandals. After 9/11 People magazine dropped their Shark cover to make way for the thousands killed by Al Queda. Anchors didn’t make any of the mistakes they made with the OJ and Monica mediathons that could have caused wide-spread panic. They reverted to pre-Druge, pre-cable news standards sans blather and rumor.

A decade of dreaming was coming to an end. There was a hope that terms like Survivor and Fear Factor would regain their true meanings. Hope that the fear of 9/11 would shock the don’t-worry-be-happy president into growing up and telling Americans that was wasn’t possible to cut taxes and increase spending all without dipping into Social Security cash. Perhaps he’d ask for a generation to sacrifice. Perhaps 9/11 was the day everything changed. Perhaps not.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush disappeared. A story, which would later turn out to be false, was spread that there was intelligence to suggest the White House was a target. So Bush fled from one military base to another with long hours in-between where no one knew where he was. He resurfaced three days after 9/11, where many agree, he finally found his voice in promising to track down those responsible and get them, dead or alive. On September 20th at a joint session of Congress he reiterated those words but this time with more substance setting a distinction between “Islamic extremism” and “Islam”. He asked for patience as his administration prepared a counter-strike and Americans of all type were willing both to go to war to get those responsible and to give him the time he needed.

The Right Wing was ready for war, with pundits calling for America to invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity, and others calling for us to invade Iraq, even if no direct link could be found. Christian evangelicals blamed gays, liberals and the UCLA for the attacks. The turn to religious extremism at home to combat religious extremism overseas went unnoticed by Fox News and the Bush Administration.

94% of Americans approved of the war in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration demanded obedience from the media, and it got it. Press access to U.S. troops was restricted for months and news was spoon fed to the media. The only sacrifice requested of the American people was to take vacations and keep spending. Putting flags on foreign cars burning foreign fuel was “literally the least you can do” in the words of Bill Maher. We leapt at that option.

After the fall of the Taliban we moved on to Iraq. Cheney asserted direct links between Al Queda, 9/11 and Iraq. The media that fell in line behind Afghanistan quickly fell in line behind the new war.


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