Sunday, February 20, 2005

Grand Old Payola Party

The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'

Frank Rick looks at at how much money the Bush administration paid for PR/propaganda. Based on the numbers, the fake journalism scandal may be quite large. A quarter of a billion dollars would pay for a several thousand mouthpieces. Lawyers are doubtles looking for ways to open up the Ketchum budget, and tell us what portion of that fortune was paying for illegal propaganda.
... The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?

... The inability of real journalists to penetrate this White House is not all the White House's fault. The errors of real news organizations have played perfectly into the administration's insidious efforts to blur the boundaries between the fake and the real and thereby demolish the whole notion that there could possibly be an objective and accurate free press...
The Bush policy wouldn't work if we had an aggressive and active free press left. I don't see any evidence of that -- outside of a few old pros like Frank Rich and the under financed and unread blogosphere. We, the American people, just aren't interested any more. We'll get the nation we deserve.

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