Monday, January 10, 2005

If you can create reality, you can also create news

This has been in the news lately, so I haven't bothered to talk about it. But it just struck me how well it relates to the Bush notion that if you are an empire you can create reality. Here are segments from the American Progress Action Fund's commentary. (The American Progress Action Fund web page includes embedded links to documentation of its claims.)
The White House paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams more than $240,000 of taxpayers' money to 'promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind law' on his syndicated television program 'and to other African-Americans in the news media.' His public commentary on the law likely violated Section 317 of the Communications Act, which stipulates broadcasters must disclose when they are paid to include program matter in a broadcast. Over the weekend, Chicago-based Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's column, 'saying he violated his contract,' and CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said Williams failed to disclose his government contract before he praised the law during a segment in October. The Williams Contract is just the latest of the administration's repeated efforts to pass off government propaganda as news. …

MORE FAKE NEWS: NCLB is not the only domestic policy the Bush administration has promoted covertly to the public. Last January, local news stations across the country aired a story by "reporter" Mike Morris, "describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse." Viewers were not informed that Morris was not a journalist, nor that his "report" was produced by the government. On Friday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, "scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports," which included a "'suggested live intro' for anchors to read, interviews with Washington officials and a closing that mimics a typical broadcast news sign off."

ACTING LIKE JOURNALISTS: The GAO's rebuke is the second of its kind. The Office chided the White House last year for distributing fake news segments promoting its Medicare legislation. One segment featured paid actress Karen Ryan posing as a "reporter." Another video, intended for Hispanic viewers, showed a government official being interviewed in Spanish by an actor posing as a reporter named "Alberto Garcia." The GAO said the segments "violated federal law" and were a form of "covert propaganda" because "the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets."
This notion of a reality-based community as the counterpart to the Bush's notion that he can create reality as he sees fit seems like a very fertile idea.

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