14 March 2005

A paid shill for the Bush administration

"Reporter" Karen Ryan admits it, as she details her role as a government propagandist serving up prepacked news manufactured by the Bush administration. It's part of a troublesome trend on the increase, and worse, the media players like her see nothing wrong with their Pravda like behavoir.
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.

Phony news from a phony administration. And a half a billion of your tax dollars to secretly propagandize you!

3 March 2005

Rush Limbaugh Lies

Again. This time, by twisting a news story into a divisive message about how Americans don't support the troops during his trip to Afghanistan.
Most entertainers visit Iraq to send the message to our men and women in uniform that Americans are united in their support for them. Not Rush. Rush Limbaugh has been making clear on his show that, on his trip to Afghanistan, he lied in order to mislead our troops into thinking that many Americans don’t support them.

Basically, Limbaugh framed a story about how medical advances were saving the lives of wounded soldiers more often than had been possible in previous wars, and in a despicable fashion, framed it as news that people are upset because they are actually hoping for more battlefield fatalities.

Mentioned this in Kandahar; you could have heard a pin drop. They did not know this story. I repeated the story to them about this Reuters dispatch that we got that found problems with the news that battlefield fatalities were down and lower per capita than ever before in the history of American warfare. Battlefield fatalities are down. And, I said, “Folks, this news was presented as a problem. We couldn’t figure why in the world is the fact that battlefield fatalities are at an all-time low a problem. Why are some people upset? And, we finally figured out that they are actually hoping for more battlefield fatalities because that will help them gin up anti-war support from their mirroring number of supporters in this country.”

I said, “That is going on back home."

If you read the article, it's clear this is another slimy Limbaugh tactic to distort the truth and launch ad hominem assaults on those in the anti-war camp.

The Reuters story in question, “U.S. Medical Advances May Mask Wars’ Human Cost,” cited a study by Harvard’s Atul Gawande and pointed out that medical advances were saving the lives of wounded soldiers more often than had been possible in previous wars--clearly a good thing. However, the article noted, this meant that simply looking at the number of deaths would give a deceptive impression about the scope of the war.