Al Franken: not just a comedian

Some people are under the false impression that Franken is just in it for laughs.

Lest we cut Franken any slack because he was a professional comedian, let us remember he was elected to the United States Senate in 2008. No joke. Franken clearly wants us to take him seriously, and we should.

With his uncanny ability to convince others that things are true- even when they are not- ‘Senator Franken’ is a serious threat to honesty.

Book reviews can be a good indicator of how convincing a writer is when making their point. When most critics unanimously sing the praises of a writer, it’s a sure thing we have a masterful communicator on our hands. Such is the case with Al Franken. In his #1 New York Times bestseller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Franken accuses many conservatives of being dishonest to the extent of making a career of dishonesty.

With his sense of humor, Franken quickly gains the reader’s trust. His writing is intelligent, easily understood, and feels like the gentle guidance of a friend. It is fun, it is clever, it is unassuming, yet brass. He appears completely sincere. On the other hand, he makes his targets look so blatantly dishonest that one wonders how he can maintain composure in the face of their supposed lies. The Philadelphia City Paper eloquently summed Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them up as “a masterpiece of controlled rage”.

The book is so well written, in fact, that people don’t bother questioning what Franken writes.  Edward Nawotka of PW Daily interviewed Franken, asking this question:“You fact-checked Ann Coulter’s book and found a lot of inconsistencies, outright lies, and quotes that are taken out of context. Who is responsible for those kinds of errors, the author or the editors?”

Why did Nawotka believe Franken had legitimately fact-checked Coulter’s book? Without verifying his own facts, Nowatka’s blunder gave unintended credence to Franken’s assertions. If Franken can deceive a journalist, the layperson has no chance of discerning fact from fable.  Indeed, Franken’s book has influenced the thinking of millions. His fans universally accept the idea that he has done a lot of hard work to get his facts straight. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that, “Underneath the humor… there is genuine anger at the right, and a lot of fact-checking.”

Here is a larger sampling of the praise he cites in the opening pages of his paperback:

Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A serious and riotous retort… provocative reading for everyone… wry commentary… Franken has built his finger-pointing book to be sturdy and interesting no matter which side of the capital-gains tax break you butter your bread on.

The Washington Post:

Franken uncovers countless lies, and he does it with brio.

Pioneer Press (St. Paul):

The ample data in the book is balanced with biting, laugh-out-loud humor… Franken does what many in my profession haven’t done– present the truth and expose the lying liars.

The Los Angeles Times:

He provides facts, often drawn from official sources, that don’t get in the way of the laughs.

The Sunday Oregonian:

Franken is simply the most effective spokesman for the Democratic Party in America today.

The Associated Press:

It presents well-substantiated arguments and damning examples of false accusations that conservatives have effectively used against Democrats.

Businessweek Online:

A compelling, fact-laden slam of the positions and posturing of conservatives… Exhilarating.

Likewise, reader reviews are packed with adoration.  It may be difficult to imagine stronger recommendations without crossing over into worship.  Still, when it comes to praise for Franken, he leads the way himself.

Telling the truth is something I take seriously, and I try to hold myself to an impossibly high standard.

Franken often reminds the reader how much he supposedly cares about facts:

If you think you’ve found something that rings untrue, you’ve probably just missed a hilarious joke…

I could do something my targets seem incapable of doing–get my facts straight.

We have to fight them with the truth.