Solomon came under FBI scrutiny after he picketed for the desegregation of a Maryland apartment complex at age 14. He drew further FBI surveillance for his efforts on behalf of the Montgomery County Student Alliance activist group both while a student and after dropping out of high school. He became aware of their surveillance later, through a Freedom of Information request. According to Solomon's autobiography, a book he titled Made Love, Got War, he chose to drop out of high school near the end of his senior year of high school in Spring 1969.
After high school, Solomon briefly attended Reed College in Oregon but left before graduating. In college, he began a lifelong commitment to peaceful protests against nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Solomon engaged in civil disobedience as part of the anti-nuclear movement, and eventually spent 40 days in jail as a result. He made eight trips to Moscow during the 1980s, including one during which he and a leader of an American group, the Alliance of Atomic Veterans, organized a sit-in at the U.S. Embassy, demanding that the U.S. join the Soviet Union in a halt to tests of nuclear bombs.
As a freelance reporter, Solomon worked for a number of years for Pacific News Service. In 1988, Solomon worked briefly as a spokesperson for the Alliance of Atomic Veterans in Washington, D.C.. He was hired in August 1988 to run the new Washington, D.C., office of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
In 1997, Solomon published The Trouble With Dilbert, in which he charges that the popular comic strip Dilbert is a capitalist tool that promotes the evils of corporate America by pretending to satirize all the inhumane treatment, so employees will purchase Adams' works, thinking that they are supporting their own cause. Dilbert creator/author Scott Adams responded in his 1999 book The Joy of Work, which included an imaginary interview between Norman and Adams' canine character Dogbert. He remarked that Solomon was wrong as most workers in corporate America should simply go capitalist themselves.
A book of Solomon's collected columns, The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media, won the 1999 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. Jonathan Kozol's introduction to the book noted "the tradition of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and I. F. Stone does not get much attention these days in the mainstream press ... but that tradition is alive and well in this collection of courageously irreverent columns on the media by Norman Solomon...."
In 2000, Solomon teamed up with fellow investigative reporter Robert Parry to write a series of investigative reports on George W. Bush's Secretary of State Colin Powell, published on consortiumnews.com.
His book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You (co-authored with Reese Erlich) was published in 2003 and translated into German, Italian, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Korean. War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death appeared in 2005. The Los Angeles Times called the book "a must-read for those who would like greater context with their bitter morning coffee, or to arm themselves for the debates about Iraq that are still to come." A documentary based on the book was released in 2007.
Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, an organization founded in 1997 "as a national consortium of independent public-policy researchers, analysts and activists." According to its web site, the mission of IPA is to increase "the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations (at no cost to them) to address public policy by getting them and their ideas into the mainstream media".
On April 13, 2011, Solomon officially announced his candidacy for the open House seat in the newly created 2nd congressional district of California. Representative Lynn Woolsey—the incumbent from the former 6th congressional district, which was geographically expanded into the new 2nd district via redistricting—announced her retirement later in June, setting up a competitive Democratic primary in one of the more liberal districts in the country.
Observers expected Solomon to position himself to the left of his competitors and as the "philosophical heir" to Rep. Woolsey, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In announcing his campaign Solomon himself argued, "After so many years of progressive leadership from Lynn Woolsey, her successor in the House should have a proven commitment to a wide range of progressive values." Solomon emphasized his strong environmentalist background and particularly his opposition to nuclear power, which he used to differentiate himself from his primary opponent Assemblyman Jared Huffman.
As of late June 2011, Solomon had raised over $100,000 for his campaign. His overall fundraising strategy was patterned after those of Howard Dean and Barack Obama, as he sought to finance his campaign via small but continuous contributions from a large donor pool.
Solomon failed to reach the general election, running third, with 14.9% of ballots cast, in the California state elections, June 2012 behind Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman (37.5%) and Republican Daniel Roberts (15.0%). In California's newly implemented nonpartisan blanket primary, the top two vote recipients, regardless of party, proceed to compete in the general election.
Solomon co-founded the online activist group RootsAction.org in early 2011; six years later, it counted more than 1.5 million active members. With Solomon as RootsAction’s coordinator, the group has addressed a wide range of concerns. In 2012, it generated more than 14,000 individual emails to the government of Ecuador as part of a successful campaign urging asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In August 2013, Solomon delivered a RootsAction petition with more than 100,000 signers to the Nobel Committee in Oslo, urging that then-Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. RootsAction was the first large U.S.-based online group to petition in support of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In early 2014, RootsAction presented petitions (totaling 100,000 signers) to the State Department and Justice Department urging that the U.S. government restore Snowden’s passport and end its efforts to capture him.
On June 4, 2014, Solomon was among the speakers at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., announcing the launch of ExposeFacts.org as an ongoing project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. In tandem with IPA, RootsAction hosted a news conference in Washington on August 14, 2014, announcing a petition with more than 100,000 signatures in support of New York Times reporter James Risen. At issue was the U.S. government’s attempt to force Risen to testify against an alleged source, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. C-SPAN aired the full 70-minute news conference, which was co-sponsored by the Institute for Public Accuracy and RootsAction.org.
The October 27, 2014 edition of The Nation published a cover story by Solomon and investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler on the intertwined cases of Risen and Sterling as well as overall Obama administration policies toward the news media and whistleblowers (“The Government War Against Reporter James Risen”).
Solomon was elected as a pledged Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. As a resident of Marin County, he was elected to represent California's 2nd congressional district. He helped to organize, and was the coordinator of, the Bernie Delegates Network independent from the official Sanders campaign organization. Solomon said, "As much as we love Bernie, we don't take orders from him." The network included 1,250 Sanders delegates, about two-thirds of the total. Sanders urged his delegates not to boo or engage in disruption on the convention floor. According to Solomon, a survey of the Sanders delegates showed that 28% felt no obligation to comply with Sanders' appeal.Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (October 2007)
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (July 2005)
Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You (co-authored with Reese Erlich) (2003) Download at Coldtype as a free PDF download (691kb)
The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media (1999)
Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (co-authored with Jeff Cohen) (1997)
The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh (1997) This Book is Online at the Wayback Machine (archived February 18, 2004)
Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News (with Jeff Cohen) (1995)
False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era (1994)
Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (with Jeff Cohen) (1993)
The Power of Babble: The Politician's Dictionary of Buzzwords and Doubletalk for Every Occasion (1992)
Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (co-authored with Martin A. Lee) (1990)
Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience With Atomic Radiation (co-authored with Harvey Wasserman (1982) This Book is Online
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2007). Based on book by same title; from the Media Education Foundation.
Past Media Beat columns on Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) site.
Archive of Norman Solomon's columns at AlterNet
Coldtype has Solomon's Media Beat columns from 2003-today online as PDFs, plus columns from August to December 2002 collected in PDF form as The Media Marches to War.