Correcting the Record on My Book

The Murdoch empire’s twisted read of “The Squad.”

This article was originally published as a newsletter from Ryan Grim. Sign up to get the next one in your inbox.

Pushing a book into the world is a disorienting experience. It’s at once exhilarating — years of reporting, writing, and revising finally turned into something real — and terrifying. Will it get shredded by haughty reviewers? Or worse, ignored? 

The place of a book in our ecosystem of knowledge production and distribution remains unique. No other medium can have so much intellectual and cultural influence with so few people actually consuming it. Nobody buys books, and ever fewer people read them, yet they still can shape the way we understand the world. Most people who have their views of the world shaped by a book do so by a form of media osmosis, listening to podcasts, reading reviews, excerpts, or news reports about the book. As an author, you hope that your themes and your message are clear enough that they land with some semblance of their original meaning by the time they’re refracted through so many mediated channels. 

And then, the Murdoch empire steps in. 

This weekend, the Daily Mail published a story based on an early copy of my book — called “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution” — which they somehow acquired. Reading it is a surreal experience, as it misquotes the book, attributes things to me that are said by people I interviewed, and shears it of all context in the pursuit of a wildly sensational and flat-out wrong read. Next, the also-Murdoch-owned New York Post and Fox News followed suit, relying heavily on the faulty Daily Mail article, and then so did the conservative Washington Examiner. Last night, a salacious story on the book was even leading the Post’s website.

Initially, I decided that ignoring it would be smarter than drawing more attention to it. There’s an argument that all press is good press, but I don’t buy that because A) those folks aren’t going to bother to buy or read the book anyway, so the publicity isn’t worth anything and B) the more fake noise injected into the public consciousness there is about the book, the less chance there is that the public will take away a reasonably accurate message. But ignoring it isn’t really an option once a lie starts to pick up major steam, and this one now has. So I figured it was worth sending an email not just to correct the record — those outlets don’t care — but to talk about the way the right-wing media ecosystem is so good at blotting out reality.

In one example, the Daily Mail writes, and the other outlets generally repeat, “Grim claims that AOC’s signature achievement, the Green New Deal, was a ‘total s***show disaster.’” Except I do not at all claim that. In fact, in the book, Sunrise Movement’s political director, Evan Weber, describes one part of the Green New Deal rollout — an FAQ that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office put together — using those words. I also describe the Green New Deal, despite the flaws of the rollout, as an achievement that reshaped the climate debate on a global scale, but that doesn’t get mentioned. 

The articles, and even some headlines, say I call AOC “arrogant,” which I simply don’t. “Grim explains that her arrogance led her to become ‘closed off’ to meeting donors,” the Daily Mail tells its readers. In fact, I celebrate the fact that she was closed off to major donors because she was able to rely on small donors, not because of some arrogance, but because she had confidence that her politics resonated with a broad grassroots base that would continue to power her and the other members of the Squad. Shutting out major donors is a good thing, if that needs to be explained. 

The book is not without criticism of AOC and other members of the Squad, but man did they miss the mark. And yes, I know that “miss the mark” implies they actually tried to get it right and simply made a mistake, which we all know isn’t the case.

What the Murdoch world might not be able to understand is that the book’s criticism isn’t aimed at cynically tearing down a movement that represents one of the few rays of hope we have left in this dark world, but is instead aimed at assessing what lessons can be learned in hindsight from the people who were directly involved in the decision making. 

I write in the book about the 24/7 right-wing media operation that was aimed at making AOC and the Squad toxic, one that gave her higher name recognition among Republicans her first year in office than Democrats, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see my book used as grist for that mill. But it’s still jarring. So I guess all I can say is that you should ignore the right-wing coverage of the book, and if you do actually read it, one way to counter the disinformation is to review it online somewhere. And if you see anybody in your circle getting fooled by it, tell them to read the book itself, or listen to a conversation about it on my podcast, or read an excerpt, or send them this newsletter, or really, do anything but get your news from the ghost of Rupert Murdoch. The book officially launches tomorrow, but you can preorder it now

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