Herschensohn, a documentary movie producer who became USIA director of motion picture and television services in Nixon's first term and a White House staff member in his second, seems a bit out of his depth coping with the printed word. His familiar but well-founded thesis is that the news media (most blatantly the major TV networks) distort events through a vast array of techniques for rearranging data. The big news teams magnify or trivialize stories by clever juxtaposition, read copy with discreet but devastating modulations, create or annihilate ""facts"" through nightly repetition or exclusion. True and deplorable; but Herschensohn's method of argument rests on a few heavy-handed reportorial gimmicks that suggest a snappy ""special report"" script rather than anything so pedestrian as a book. Even more wearying is his petulant partisanship. His chief article of faith is a ""New York-Washington media cabal"" dedicated to harassing GOP administrations with manufactured crises--like the one they created over that ""nonsensical escapade in pursuit of trifles,"" the Watergate bugging. The networks, he says, used John Dean's Senate testimony as a smokescreen to deflect attention from passage of the 1973 War Powers Act over Nixon's veto, ensuring that hereafter ""Decisions relating to the keeping of America's pledges would be in the hands of a faceless Congress."" And the final media-abetted collapse of liberty-loving South Vietnam was watched with shame by those hapless patriots ""who felt it was clear that we should never have abandoned our world."" Our world? Just who is complaining about self-appointed gods?