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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

We're with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics

We're with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics - Alan Huffman, Michael Rejebian The other I saw some "shocking revelation" on CNN saying something about how while Wendy Davis had been single, a mother, attended school, and lived in a trailer park in front of which she was pictured for a commercial, she only lived in that trailer park for two weeks before she was re-married, and blah blah blah... I don't remember the specifics because all I could think of was who bothers to figure this sh*t out?!? The answer to that question is: these guys.

Turns out they're called oppo researchers:
We're opposition political researchers, which means we're hired by campaigns to compile potentially damning profiles of candidates.

And it's not as sexy as it sounds - if anything they're clerical gangsters on the hunt for paper trails involving tax liens, child support payments and voting records.

What they do isn't as dastardly as it might sound. The authors (who alternate chapters) take great pains to explain why their work is very different from baseless mudslinging accusations that are flung about in the internet age.
We're deeply vexed by what Colbert calls the "fact-free zone" and are, of necessity, relentlessly objective, because there's no need for sycophants in the realm of opposition research.

This phenomenon is something they call dazzle camouflage. Turns out, this tactic predated the advent of the hand-held bedazzler. In my favorite chapter (which only amounted to seven pages), Michael takes us on a historical journey of negative political campaigns. Turns out Cicero was pretty vocal about the shortcomings of his opponent, Cateline, who he called a scoundrel, accused of murdering his wife and marrying his daughter and of seeking to "destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter."

My favorite character assassination attempt of yore, however, definitely has to be Thomas Jefferson's accusations that the incumbent John Adams had a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility or a woman." Yowzer.

So why only two stars? Frankly, they just didn't need a whole book to tell their story. It clocked in under 200 pages and was a quick read, but was probably better suited to the format of a Times Magazine article. By the end they're heaping on the tangential life lessons they've acquired through a variety of experiences (including working in a mannequin repair factory) and drawing parallels to the political world. Also, they try to weave in something about following the trail of the outlaw Jesse James, which would have been interesting if they hadn't just plucked that storyline from thin air midway through never to be examined again.

In the end, it was worth it just so that I can weave "dazzle camouflage" into casual conversation.