Perhaps the most interesting thing in David Brock’s Blinded By the Right was the revelation that conservative publishers gamed The New York Times bestseller list. They would buy their own books as a kind of loss leader. Getting on the bestseller list would generate talk and interviews and, most important of all, credibility. Regardless, the whole thing paid for itself. It was, put simply, a kind of guerrilla marketing. What was shocking to me was that The Times didn’t do something to shut it down. It makes the list a joke — even more of a joke than the idea of basing opinions of books on the number of sales — much less the number of sales in one city.
And it is this thing that just the right wing does. For one thing, there isn’t much of a “liberal press” — and what exists doesn’t have much money. (Conservatives would laughably claim that all non-conservative publishers are liberal.) I remember reading in an Eric Alterman’s book What Liberal Media? that when someone looked into this gaming of the bestseller list, the only liberal book they found that used this strategy was conservative apostate David Brock’s Blinded By the Right. Old habits die hard, I guess.
Regardless, at some point The New York Times decided to do something about how the conservative press was gaming the system. And thus we come to the news late last week that Ted Cruz’s new book, A Time For Truth, was not put on the bestseller list despite selling very well. Attack of the liberal media? Not really. According to The Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy, “In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases.” Apparently, The Times isn’t messing around anymore.
Of course, the truth is that the conservatives have a built in system for pushing books to the top of the bestseller list. There are conservative book clubs. There is conservative media. It isn’t like normal commercial outlets. These groups are pushing this dreck for ideological purposes. And to keep their consumers hungry for the next dopamine injection from fear and outrage. Oh! My! God! Have you heard about the liberal fascists? What about the crazies to the left of me and the wimps to the right? Or why you should never trust a liberal over three — especially a Republican?! Essential readers, my friends. It is at least if you don’t want to get duped by the lamestream media.
Conservatives are all over the Ted Cruz thing. There is nothing that makes conservatives happier than a bit of news that allows them to feel as though they are being persecuted. And Ted Cruz has to be pleased as punch. This story is getting him more press than getting on the bestseller list ever would. His book is, after all, just yet another campaign book. I’m sure it’s dreadful. But as I write this, it is the #17 best selling book at Amazon. Looking over the reviews there (good and bad), I don’t think anyone has done more than scan it — if that. It’s all a bunch of people talking about politics. It has 80 total reviews, 73 5-star, one 2-star, and 6 1-star. And the one 2-star reviews was at first a 5-star review. It’s just bizarre. But I’m sure it will make Ted Cruz — and Amazon — a lot of money.