Thursday, March 17, 2005

Gimme Some Truth

by Kyle Michaelis
In the on-going battle between fiction and fact in America 2005, fiction and its allies in the Bush Administration are continuing their search for a new level of despicability and show every sign of having gained the upper hand. This just in from the Sunday edition of the New York Times:

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy...

An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with "suggested" lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as "independent" journalism.

OH BRAVE NEW WORLD! If there is a man of our times, surely it is President Bush in his empty suit with all those layers of genial deceit and smiling disdain for everything once held sacred about American democracy, especially the freedoms of the First Amendment.

Between these latest incidents of mass news-feeding, along with the paid columnists and conservative toadie Jeff Gannon defiling the White House press room, truth is taking quite the beating of late. Amazingly, even as these stories continue to break, they show no sign of sticking to Bush and his Decepticons. Have our expectations sunk so low, or do we really just not give a damn?

Makes one wonder if the Office of Strategic Influence isn't alive and well and operating (quite effectively, I must add) on American soil. Are you scared yet?

1 Comments:

Blogger Cornhead said...

Bush and his right-wing Christian freaks won't be happy until the USA is turned into a theocracy with strict Biblical interpretation and rule.

Shall I say it?........God help us.

3/17/2005  

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