Friday, June 2

Bush's Propaganda Campaign

Last night Robert Kennedy Jr. appeared on The Situation with Tucker Carlson to discuss his recent Rolling Stone Article (out on the stands today) involving the possible theft of the 2004 Election by Republicans.

During the exchange Tucker asked what seems like an obvious question:

CARLSON: And my question is, why hasn't Congress determined that -- in other words, if the election were thrown and it were obvious to those who looked carefully, it would be a news story. The press is not going to hide something like that. And neither is Congress. So why isn't this common knowledge?

Besides the fact that there actually has been a Congressional Investigation and book into the irregularies in Ohio (which Robert duly pointed out) the broader point about the media needs to be addressed.

Why hasn't the media jumped all over this issue?  Possibly because of Bush's own propoganda operation which has consistently pushed the truth aside.

Via Hume's Ghost on Unclaimed Terrority the FCC has begun an investigation of government generated "news" segments that are supportive of administration policies and corporations that have been regularly broadcast on local news status as if it were genuine news. From the Independant.

   Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

    The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

    "We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group's researchers. "I would say it's pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

A summary of the report (pdf) from the Center for Media and Democracy is here.

   Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases (VNRs)--a small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety.

There have been subsequent reports from the GAO that this is uhconstitutional Propoganda, reports from the New York Times, meanwhile the White House has the audacity to claim that the law simply isn't the law.

   The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

    That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories -- designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing -- violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.

    But Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in memos last week that the administration disagrees with the GAO's ruling. And, in any case, they wrote, the department's Office of Legal Counsel, not the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, provides binding legal interpretations for federal agencies to follow.

    The legal counsel's office "does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert,' regardless of whether the content of the message is 'propaganda,' " Bradbury wrote. "Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency."

Yes, that's right - it was that Joshua Bolten - the one who is now White House Chief of Staff. And his principle claim that what the non-partisan GAO says is illegal is legal is coming from the same group of DOJ government attorneys that the Bush Administration has used to justify it's warrantless NSA wiretaps and other extreme uses of executive authority. It's the portion of the DOJ that brought us Samuel Alito - Mr. Unitary Executive.

This story has been around for quite some time, enough time for Bolten to receive a rather substantial promotion. Hume sums it up.

    This story came out at about the same time that it was revealed that the Bush administration had paid four journalists - Armstrong Williams, Michael McManus, Maggie Gallagher, and Dave Smith - to shill for various policies, and around the same time that it was discovered (by Americablog) that Jeff Gannon, a fake journalist/non-credentialed Republican operative, had been allowed two years of access to White House press briefings without being granted the security clearance which is necessary for such access.

How critical this issue remains is shown by further comments by the GAO.

   Within the last year, the GAO has rapped the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy for distributing such stories about the Medicare drug benefit and the administration's anti-drug campaign, respectively.

    In an interview yesterday, Walker said the administration's approach is both contrary to appropriations law and unethical.

    "This is more than a legal issue. It's also an ethical issue and involves important good government principles, namely the need for openness in connection with government activities and expenditures," Walker said. "We should not just be seeking to do what's arguably legal. We should be doing what's right."

The Bush Administration generated phony news reports about the Prescription Drug Benefit in order to make it's passage of that bill - in the dead of the night - more palatable to the public?

There were also the reports that this doesn't just impact Americans, there were the false Psy-ops reports prior to the attack on Fallajah, where the U.S. Military used U.S. News services in an attempt to "mislead the enemy". Exactly why they chose to also mislead CNN was never made clear. But the practice has not just been limited to attempts to gain strategic advantage, we've also been planting false reports in Iraqi Newspapers. But why stop there, eh?

   The explanation begins inside the White House, where the president's communications advisers devised a strategy after Sept. 11, 2001, to encourage supportive news coverage of the fight against terrorism. The idea, they explained to reporters at the time, was to counter charges of American imperialism by generating accounts that emphasized American efforts to liberate and rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq.

    An important instrument of this strategy was the Office of Broadcasting Services, a State Department unit of 30 or so editors and technicians whose typical duties include distributing video from news conferences. But in early 2002, with close editorial direction from the White House, the unit began producing narrated feature reports, many of them promoting American achievements in Afghanistan and Iraq and reinforcing the administration's rationales for the invasions. These reports were then widely distributed in the United States and around the world for use by local television stations. In all, the State Department has produced 59 such segments.

    United States law contains provisions intended to prevent the domestic dissemination of government propaganda. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, for example, allows Voice of America to broadcast pro-government news to foreign audiences, but not at home. Yet State Department officials said that law does not apply to the Office of Broadcasting Services. In any event, said Richard A. Boucher, a State Department spokesman: "Our goal is to put out facts and the truth. We're not a propaganda agency."

So much for the claim that the media doesn't cover enough "good" news out of Iraq. Why should it when the Administration can simply make it up on the fly, write and film it, then feed it to local newspapers and TV stations as though it were actual news?

The statements by GAO, strongly worded as they are, simply do not express the true gravity of the situation. The media is called the "Fourth Estate" because it is essentially the fourth pillar in our Democracy. The one that seeks to maintain balance between all the other branches, however if a single branch - the executive - is able to upsurp the media indenpendance and objectivity by paying off pundits and generating it's own self-congratulator news reports -- our Democracy grows unbalanced and just might possibly slip away entirely as Mark Crispin Miller has suggested.

This also might explain why a right-wing pundit like Tucker would ask an obvious self-serving question of Kennedy.  He already knows the answer, the media has been bought and paid for and when neccesary replaced by the latest dictates from Bush's Politburo.


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