Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review: The Powers That Be - Conclusions

David Halberstam's conclusion, or what I draw as his conclusion from his 736 pages of The Powers That Be, is: The changes in the media from the 1930s to the 1970s changed politics, and especially the presidency.

Duh. Did he really need 736 tedious pages to come to this conclusion? As I said or implied in my previous posts about this book (here and here), I had a tough time getting though this book. The writing style, the length of chapters, the flood of names, all worked against easy reading. But Halberstam's main point was obvious throughout, and he makes a fair case. Of course, that seems somewhat obvious. How could politics and the presidency not be changed when the main way news is disseminated changes from twice daily newspapers to sound-bite television? It has to change.

One interesting aspect of the narrative is how the four media highlighted in the book (CBS, Washington Post, Time Inc., and the Los Angeles Times) shifted from conservative-Republican outlets--or in the case of CBS a non-ideological outlet--to become liberal, Democratic-leaning outlets. I'd have to do some more study to necessarily agree with this conclusion, but I won't dismiss it outright. Maybe these media outlets were conservative once. Interesting concept.

I cannot recommend this book to others. Oh, if you are a media junkie who loves history and easily retains names and facts repeated or updated on widely separated pages, this book may be for you. This will go immediately to the "books for sale box" in the garage, not to a shelf of books being kept. And, to keep from repeating what I feel was Halberstam's primary error, I will cut this review short.

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