The Bigger Meaning of Establishment Hostility Toward Hostile Takeover

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

The Billings Outpost has a solid review up of Hostile Takeover. Also, the New York Times will be reviewing the book this Sunday in its book section this week - the paper had been planning to fully ignore the book and only decided to do a review after the book hit the bestseller list. The Times' op-ed page editor is reviewing it, and I've seen an early copy. I'll have more to say on the review when it comes out, but as a preview, regular readers won't be surprised that the Times' review is very bitter and angry - the paper expresses anger that a blogger would have the nerve to write a book (as if the only qualification I have to write a book is having a blog). And as I predicted in the conclusion of the book, the reviewer actually sinks to slandering me as a "Marxist." I know, I know - what a shocker that another Establishment microphone resorted to more inaccurate epithets, even as the reviewer again ultimately concedes that the factual points and basis of the book are completely sound.

That's an important point: What I've found with almost all of the reviews of the book is that every reviewer concedes that the fundamental points the book makes on the facts are unindictable. What bothers some reviewers - especially Establishment reviewers such as the Times and the Washington Post - is that the book has an energetic, intense and sometimes outraged tone, and that the book names names. I'm not surprised that Establishment insiders don't like that - I wouldn't either if I were them. What they want from books are tomes that worship the status quo and politely address those in power - instead of books that actually challenge the status quo and fully expose the bought-off and the corrupt lawmakers/lobbyists/pundits who are driving this country into the ground. They want to pretend that corruption isn't a big deal - that it's just "business as usual" that we should all just accept. Only when the insiders absolutely have to - such as when someone like Ralph Reed loses his election because of corruption - do they grudgingly acknowledge that voters everywhere are outraged at the corruption and the system of legalized bribery that fuels that corruption.

I made a conscious decision to give Hostile Takeover a real, regular person's voice - not the pre-packaged, poll-tested mealy-mouthed rhetoric we get too much of in America's political debate. The fact is, there are plenty of books out there by people like Tom Friedman and Peter Beinart that kiss Washington, D.C.'s fat rear end of power. Hostile Takeover is different - it is a book that isn't written for the insiders or the reviewers at the Washington Post or the New York Times - it is written for the rest of us who are looked down on by those elites, and I make no apologies for telling it like it is.

There's an important message implicit in the Establishment's hostility toward Hostile Takeover - it is a message that goes far beyond just one book. What the hostility indicates is raw fear. Usually that fear can be cloaked in a supposed disdain for inaccuracy - but because the Establishment has been unable to attack the book on its merits, we can see very clearly that the attacks are really the reflexive, animal-instinct behavior of people who feel threatened. The media elite feel threatened that book writers, bloggers and activists can now circumvent them entirely, and speak truth to power without their approval. And the politicians feel threatened that the truth about their corrupt ways is finally getting out. They have responded by attacking progressive authors, and promoting Establishment books like Beinart's "The Good Fight" - even though progressive books are selling like hotcakes, and the Establishment books are falling flat on their faces.

Writing the book and then going out and talking about it all over the country has, quite honestly, been a grueling and often pride-swallowing experience. But what's kept my spriits up is the feedback not from reviewers (no matter how good some of the reviews have been) , but from regular folks throughout the heartland, and from folks who have worked inside the system and know what Hostile Takeover outlines is dead on. I've been honored, for instance, to have been invited to address groups like (to name just a few) Change for Kentucky and the Bakery Workers union's national convention after their leaders read the book. I was honored that Alternet's huge readership voted Hostile Takeover the best progressive book of the year, and I've been extremely excited by the incredibly positive response the book has gotten from readers/activists at places like DailyKos and the Huffington Post and from organizations like Similarly, it's been a thrill to have heroes like Al Gore endorse the book with such strong praise. And, of couse, I've been gratified that people like former Reps. Les AuCoin (D-OR), Pat Williams (D-MT)Andy Jacobs, Jr. (D-IN) attended book-related events in their areas, and told me how much they've enjoyed the book. Such feedback is especially exciting considering that, as longtime congressional veterans, they are a good measure of whether the book is accurate.

Make no mistake about it - if it had been the other way around, I really would have been upset. If the New York Times and the Washington Post said Hostile Takeover was terrific, and the folks in the trenches fighting the hostile takeover told me my book was B.S., I'd feel like I failed. But that hasn't happened - instead, exactly what I predicted has: the insiders who want to preserve the status quo can't stand that a book has been written that actually goes after them, and thousands and thousands of people across the country who have supported the book are thrilled that I'm trying to tell it like it is. That reality has made it all worth it - and I wouldn't wish it to be any other way.