by David McGowan
Common Courage Press, 2000
234 pages, $16.95
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A devastating compendium of quotations and statistics culled from a variety of sources, Derailing Democracysets out to expose the sordid underbelly of American society and foreign policy that is seldom revealed in mainstream journalism.
Like media critic and self-proclaimed dissident Noam Chomsky, McGowan alleges that the mainstream media “systematically and deliberately distort reality” by crafting a picture of America as a benign and benevolent power. Creating this image requires that the media filter out any “inconvenient facts” that would shed light on the actual state of affairs.
Covering a spectrum of issues, ranging from the collapse of domestic economic opportunity to America's role as the world's leading jailer, arms supplier, polluter, and human rights abuser, McGowan makes his case well, shattering the commonly held view of the United States.
Critics will note that McGowan relies heavily on a handful of organizations for his data and quotations — Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the Death Penalty Information Center — groups that some accuse of anti-American bias.
On the whole, however, the shocking picture McGowan reveals is one available to any citizen willing to read widely and carefully, and equally willing to set aside patriotic and ideological blinders.
Reviewer Matt Struckmeyer, a teacher, is currently studying politics and philosophy at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.