Tragedy and Farce

How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy

How American media are failing our democracy, by the authors Bill Moyers calls “the Paul Revere and Tom Paine of our time”

“As this book makes clear, the problem is deeper than the administration or the right-wing echo chamber . . . the very structure of our conglomerated media system conspires against real journalism and, hence, against truth.” —from Tim Robbins’s foreword to Tragedy and Farce

Thomas Frank called Tragedy and Farce “an appeal to reason in a dark time.” Including the sharpest analysis of 2004 election coverage yet and the first detailed look at the burgeoning media reform movement, this book is both an exposé and a call to action. In it John Nichols and Robert McChesney—two of the country’s leading media analysts—argue that during the 2004 election and throughout the Iraq war and occupation, Americans have been starved of democracy’s oxygen: accurate information. More than anything John Kerry, George Bush, or even Karl Rove did, the media’s miscoverage of the campaign and war decided the election. Most disturbingly, the flawed coverage reflects new, structural problems within U.S. journalism.

Tragedy and Farce dissects the media failures of recent years and shows how they expose the decline in resources and standards for political journalism—as well as the methodical campaign by the political right to control the news cycle. In our highly concentrated media system it has become commercially and politically irrational to do the kind of journalism a self-governing society requires.


“We need McChesney and Nichols desperately. Their book is a lifeboat for surviving the burst dam of bullshit called ‘American media.’”
—Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
“Good fuel for progressive responses to the Fox cabal.”
Kirkus Reviews
“If we want a media that matters again, we have to build it from the ground up. Nichols and McChesney point the way. Let’s act.”
—Jim Hightower

Books by these authors

Rich Media, Poor Democracy
Communication Politics in Dubious Times

Robert W. McChesney

Digital Disconnect
How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

Robert W. McChesney

Communication Revolution
Critical Junctures and the Future of Media

Robert W. McChesney

Our Unfree Press
100 Years of Radical Media Criticism

Robert W. McChesney, Ben Scott

Goodreads Reviews