The Media: Stenographers To Power

Yesterday, the President gave what the White House called, “a major speech,” and all of the national broadcast networks chose to carry it. Despite the fact that the speech was given at Ft. Bragg, before a military audience, with a manufactured backdrop, and only other Republican partisans present, the media concluded that this was not actually a rally to promote the President’s agenda.

What was the message that qualified this speech as a major event?

Let’s take a look at what he said:

“My greatest responsibility as President is to protect the American people. And that’s your calling, as well. I thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice.”
That’s certainly not new. Everyone’s praising the courage and sacrifice of our military. It would be nice if the president exercised his responsibility to protect the American people from global warming, Social Security and pension default, absence of healthcare, and offshoring of jobs.

“The terrorists who attacked us — and the terrorists we face — murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent.”
This is just the president condemning the evil of our enemies and falsely linking 9/11 to Iraq. He does that all the time. He also hates freedom (flag burning amendment), rejects tolerance (10 commandments monument), and despises all dissent (expelling dissidents from tax-payer funded public appearances).

“The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent…”
He just borrowed this from Focus on the Family and other extremist Christian fundamentalists who describe the U.S. in these terms. Again, nothing newsworthy.

“Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: “This Third World War is raging” in Iraq. “The whole world is watching this war.” He says it will end in “victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.”
It might be considered news that the President is adopting Osama Bin Laden’s view of geo-political conflict, but Bin Laden is not being particularly original here either. He’s merely saying that the war that Bush started is going to be won or lost, and that will be either good or bad, depending on where you stand.

Here’s the part that the President himself considers newsworthy:
“To further prepare Iraqi forces to fight the enemy on their own, we are taking three new steps:”

First, we are partnering coalition units with Iraqi units…Second, we are embedding coalition “transition teams” inside Iraqi units…Third, we’re working with the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Defense to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations.
If these are indeed new steps, we are in bigger trouble than I thought. These ought to have been steps taken the day after he declared “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of the aircraft carrier. In fact, the administration has been telling us for months that they have been working hard to get Iraqis ready to take on their own security. What’s newsworthy here is the incompetence and neglect of this president and his team who now announce these as new measures.

“…they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.”
There is also no limit to the hypocracy of an administration that is reponsible for the deaths of up to 100,000 innocent Iraqis, many times more that the insurgency can, or ever will, be able to claim.

“In this time of testing, our troops can know: The American people are behind you.”
Except the liberals who, according to Karl Rove, want to put, “…America’s men and women in uniform in greater danger.”

The substance of this speech offered nothing even remotely newsworthy. The President told us that our military is good and that our enemies are bad. He told us that we can beat up any kid on the block because we’re #1. He repeated the lies connecting Iraq with 9/11. What he didn’t do is provide any coherent explanation for why we are there to a populace that now believes going there was a mistake. He didn’t provide any details on what our goals are or how we recognize success. He left us exactly where we were before the speech: In an open-ended, directionless, adventure in imperialism.

It could not be more obvious that the whole of this speech had a single purpose: To prop up the President as the public’s support for his illegal war plummets and takes down his approval ratings as well. But, sadly, it does need to be more obvious to the national media who scurried to preempt regular programming so that this PR puff piece could be broadcast live. The media has again reinforced its reputation as stenographers to power. They’ve shown neither journalistic discretion nor integrity as they seek only to promote the elites of the leadership and corporatist classes. In their role as flacks for the president, they have proven, once more, that the media is dead.

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Karl Rove – Master Disassembler

Rove Understands
For those who think the President has raised prevarication (that means disassembling) to new heights, today we were witness to a lesson from the President’s Guru.

Karl Rove, in a speech to the Conservative Party of New York State, showed what it takes to make a truly repulsive ass of oneself. With the quote featured here, Rove manages to insult all Americans, including the survivors and families of 9/11, yet still demonstrate how much he and his ilk value ignorance.

First, the record should be clear that all Americans were equally outraged and determined to seek justice for the attacks on 9/11. Rove’s remarks are entirely without foundation and were made deliberatly to create a division within our nation. Adding this rhetorical fuel the divisiveness that already burdens our citizens makes it that much more difficult to resolve the problems we face domestically and internationally, including the war on terrorism. It is a kind of treason that seeks to divide, in order to secure a purely political conquest at the expense of our soldiers, families, and global reputation.

Second, putting aside the nausia-inducing insult, the substance of his comments are nothing short of numbingly stupid. They reek of a schoolyard bullyism that seeks only a heated revenge. A lashing out blindly without really caring what you hit. Understanding an enemy does not mean embracing them in a warm and comforting hug. It is a necessity in order to outflank, outsmart, and, ultimately, prevail over them. Understanding an enemy is as aggressive an act as bombing them, and it makes all the other aggressive actions you undertake more effective. Understanding an enemy is the core mission of intelligence gathering.

This administration has proven, once again, that intelligence is not its strong suit. But this time they did it by disparaging a broad swath of America’s populace. This time they demonstrated conclusively that they care more about partisanship than unity. This time Rove goes beyond impugning the motives of his political opponents:

Rove Motives

This is his clear statement that he believes the motives of liberals are to put “America’s men and women in uniform in greater danger.” No more needs to be said about the motives of Karl Rove.

The past week saw a virtual firestorm from the press as it fluttered excitedly about Senator Durbin for having, accurately, recounted FBI reports of torture being inflicted by interragators at Guantanamo. Will the press apply the same standard to the White House? I wish I could say I was optimistic, but…..oh, come on.


Corporation For Propaganda Broadcasting: Part II

gopbsAs if having longtime Republican Kenneth Tomlinson chairing the CPB and pushing for former RNC chairwoman Pat Harrison for CEO wasn’t bad enough, now we have fiscal impropriety and more politics.

Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are examining $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists last year that were not disclosed to the corporation’s board, people involved in the inquiry said on Wednesday…..One of the lobbyists was retained at the direction of the corporation’s Republican chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, they said, and the other at the suggestion of his Republican predecessor…..The investigators, in the corporation’s inspector general’s office, are also examining $14,170 in payments made under contracts – which Mr. Tomlinson took the unusual step of signing personally, also without the knowledge of board members…

One of the lobbyists, Brian Darling, who was paid $10,000, is the former aide to Senator Mel Martinez of Florida. He resigned after he was identified as the author of a memorandum describing how to exploit politically the Terri Schiavo affair. The other lobbyist was Mark Buse, a former top aide to Senator John McCain.

On the political front…
Item: Senator Byron L. Dorgan, (D-ND), requested the lobbyist’s reports about Bill Moyer’s “Now” program, but Tomlinson provided him instead with the raw data used to produce the reports. The data described Senator Chuck Hagel, R-NE), as a “liberal” due to his appearance on a segment that questioned the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq. Hagel, of course, is a reliable conservative with an occassional maverick streak. Another segment about financial waste at the Pentagon was classified as “anti-Defense,” These reports represent a clear misuse of taxpayer money for partisan political purposes. Dorgan, along with Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Lautenberg (D-NJ) sent Tomlinson a letter asking that he suspend his efforts on behalf of Patricia Harrison, the former RNC co-chair he favors as the corporation’s next president.

Item: E-mail messages show that Tomlinson directed Kathleen Cox, then president of the corporation, to send material to Mary C. Andrews, the White House director of global communications. They show that Ms. Andrews worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll. A month later, Mr. Tomlinson said in an interview that he did not think he had instructed a anyone to send material on the ombudsman project to Ms. Andrews, a political appointee. Copies of the e-mail messages were given to the New York Times, under an agreement of anonymity, by a senior CPB executive who is concerned about Tomlinson’s stewardship. The e-mails show a clear violation of the CPB’s charter to act as a buffer to prevent political influence over PBS.

Item: The White House has nominated Dina Powell, currently the White House personnel director, to the post of deputy under secretary of state for public diplomacy, reporting to former Bush advisor, Karen P. Hughes. Senator Joe Biden has held up the nomination because of the White House’s attempt to remove Norman J. Pattiz, a major figure on the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees American international broadcasting efforts.

“When I called the White House and asked why my name wasn’t sent forward, they said that it was under review,” Mr. Pattiz said. “It was under review because my name had appeared in a Kerry campaign ad last year. That’s the explanation I got.”

The Broadcast Board of Governors is, by law, made up of four Republicans and four Democrats. So the White House is seeking to punish a board member for his political affiliation when such affiliation is a de facto condition of board membership. Should Pattiz not be renominated, his replacement would also have to be a Democrat. Also, sources in the Senate said Mr. Pattiz had tangled with Tomlinson [him again] over Tomlinson’s interference in staff decisions that were within Pattiz’ jurisdiction. Think that has anything to do with his stalled renomination?

As I’ve said before, the CPB is history. Who’s up for creating a new public broadcasting funding institution?

Update:
The latest bad news for Tomlinson is that 16 senators signed a letter to President Bush calling for Tomlinson to be fired. The article describing this development also contains this gem:

In a letter to Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, on May 24, Mr. Tomlinson said he saw no need to consult with the board about the contract with the researcher, Fred Mann, because it was “approved and signed by then CPB President, Kathleen Cox.” But a copy of the contract provided by a person unhappy with Mr. Tomlinson’s leadership shows that Mr. Tomlinson signed it on Feb. 3, 2004, five months before Ms. Cox became president.

The sleaze goes on…..


The Corporation For Propaganda Broadcasting

Can the propaganda machine get any more obvious?

A former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee is the leading candidate to take over the agency that funds public broadcasting, sparking new concerns among broadcasters about conservative influence over National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service programming.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a high-ranking official at the State Department, is one of two candidates for the top job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is the favored candidate of the CPB’s chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson…

Tomlinson, a longtime Republican, is the current chairman of CPB and has already taken overtly partisan steps to remake the organization as a publicly financed Fox News. He recruited conservative pundit, Tucker Carlson, and Wall Street Journal editorial page editor, Paul Gigot to host their own shows. He also engaged in ethically-questionable tactics to discredit Bill Moyers, former host of PBS’ Now.

As for Harrison, she has worked as a fund raiser for Republican candidates, including Bush. She also praised the work of the State Department’s Office of Broadcasting Services, which was behind the production of the kind of video news releases that the General Accounting office ruled was illegal propaganda.

Aside from Tomlinson, the CPB board is now dominated by Republicans, and the possibility of averting a complete meltdown to right-wing hackery is frighteningly remote. In addition to the NeoCon coup at CPB, a House subcommittee voted yesterday to reduce funding for PBS by 25%. The strategy is clear: Starve the beast to weaken it, then put a yoke around its neck.

It may be time for the 41% of Americans who rank PBS as the most trusted source for news to cease to rely on the CPB as a funding source for PBS. Perhaps its time for public funding that is actually accountable to the public. If we value free expression and principled journalism, maybe we need to set up our own mechanism for providing it.

I propose we explore the formation of a public/private partnership to raise funds for PBS programming that is untainted by political bias. This group would have clearly defined bylaws that would prevent any mischief by partisans. If it were successful enough, it could free PBS from the control of those who recently tried to censor such dangerous programs as The Teletubbies and Postcards From Buster.

The downside to this is that its success would fuel further attempts by the GOP to eliminate CPB funding entirely. They would point to this effort as evidence that tax money isn’t needed to pay for PBS. I submit that they are going down that road anyway. To the extent that they do not, they will muscle in their own philosophical imprint, which would result in more harm than good. Consequently, I don’t believe we have anything to lose. There may even be a long-shot benefit as a result of publicity that would motivate the public to demand a return to unmediated public funding.

Previous attempts were made to castrate PBS by arguing that cable would obviate the need for tax-payer funding, citing networks like Bravo and Discovery. These networks are now better known for Queer Eye and American Chopper than for true quality, public interest programming.There is no alternative to public television and the loss of it would be incalculable. We need to take it into our own hands to save it, and we need to start now.


Deadline News

Papers Reach Iraq Boiling Point
Many of the nation’s newspaper editorialists have roused themselves from seeming acceptance of the continuing slaughter in Iraq to voice outright condemnation of the war.

The Russert Watch
During his ‘Meet the Press’ appearance, RNC chair Ken Mehlman was allowed to distort, twist, manipulate and obfuscate his way through every stop on the disinformation highway.

‘USA Today’ Defends Lack of Coverage for Downing Street Memo
In a report on President Bush’s joint press conference late yesterday afternoon with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, USA Today for the first time mentioned the so-called Downing Street Memo, first reported in London’s Sunday Times on May 1.

A State Run News Service?
After years of trying to destroy public broadcasting from without, right-wing Republicans are now trying to do so from within, by planting aggressive conservatives on the board and staff.

Front-Runner for Public Broadcast Agency Job Is Former GOP Chair
Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a high-ranking official at the State Department, is one of two candidates for the top job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is the favored candidate of the CPB’s chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson.

Remixing the blogosphere
Bloggers may have sparked a media revolution by democratising journalism, but there are early signs that a new breed of website will take the idea further. Online independent media hubs are letting people collaborate in new ways.

Media companies look for ownership resolution
Merger activity among U.S. media companies is likely to remain on “pause” while federal regulators and courts try to resolve a long-running debate on the industry’s ownership rules.


President Bush Enlightens the RTNDA

In a speech before the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the President displayed more of the insightful wisdom that has become a hallmark of his administration. The media professionals that comprised the audience held the President to the same standards they employ when shilling for him at their day jobs. So sit back, put on your thinking caps, and get ready to absorb some topical ruminations of wondorous depth.

On Deep Throat
I really haven’t digested it. I frankly was taken aback…I frankly haven’t that much time to reflect on it. I don’t know enough about the FBI guy. I don’t know what he’s done, and what he didn’t do.

On Federal Shield Law for Reporters
Don’t know enough about the law… I don’t know what the right balance is. On the other hand, I don’t know what the law says, so I can’t tell you if I’m for it or against it.

On Press Relations
I have done enough East Room press conferences; I kind of write that off for people wanting to show off for folks at home. Want a little more exposure, with the right color tie when they get up there. I would characterize my relationship with the press as good. Not hostile in the least bit.

On Iraq War Troops
The hardest thing I have to do is sit down as the President with loved ones who’ve either lost a soul or have a wounded person, severely wounded. I try to do a lot of it. It’s my obligation as the President. It’s an amazing experience. First of all, I’m a crier, and I weep a lot. On the other hand, when it’s all over, I feel incredibly strengthened by the strength of the parents or the wife or the kids.

On Social Security
This is such an important issue we get right. And I will stay on it. And frankly, I’ve got enough of my mother in me to enjoy it. Enjoy the battle.

Personal Concerns
I’d say I’d spend most of my time worrying about right now people losing their life in Iraq. Both Americans and Iraqis. I worry about my girls. I used to worry about my wife, until she hit an 85% popularity figure. Now she’s worried about me….I’m sleeping pretty good. Seriously. I get asked that. There’s times when I hadn’t been. I’ve got peace of mind. Thanks.

On The First Amendment
I’m a First Amendment guy. Anyone running for President is a First Amendment person. You gotta honor that. How can you not be a First Amendment guy? I was out there raising heck as a challenger.

Inspiring, isn’t it?

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Radio Free Ohio: Clear Channel Attacks Themselves


As part of a promotion for a new progressive talk station in Akron, Ohio, Clear Channel has embarked on an unconventional advertising campaign to woo the wild liberals from their sanctuary.

At the Web site for Radio Free Ohio (since replaced by just a logo), they posted a manifesto that railed against corporate-controlled music playlists and merrily lambasted several other local Clear Channel stations. They failed, however to identify themselves as the folks behind Radio Free Ohio. Here’s a piece of their screed:

Radio in Ohio sucks. We know, we’ve listened….gone are the days of multiple viewpoints and opinions. Instead we get corporate mandated opinions from talking heads, corporate controlled music playlists, and so on.

A clear Channel VP shamelessly admits to this campaign of self-flagellation:

“Once we determined we were going to change the format, we tried to get into the mindset of people who would listen to this new station,” said Dan Lankford, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel in Akron. That mindset may involve a suspicion of Clear Channel itself, which has used loosened rules on media ownership to build a radio empire.

Clear Channel’s marketing geniouses are clearly channeling the firm’s well-deserved reputation as a megalithic corporate abuser of the public’s interest in an effort to expand its monopoly ever further. This is kind of like McDonalds opening up a health food restaurant and imploring people not to poison themselves on the crap at those golden-arched fast-food joints.

I suppose I can’t complain about Clear Channel broadening the ideological scope of its stations (actually, I can, but that’s for another rant), but the idea of them characterizing themselves as anti-corporate crusaders for free thought, media diversity and local access, is way beyond the pale. When they lobby to reverse the trends in consolidation, station ownership, vertical integration, and local origination, I’ll be happy to revisit their status as rebels. Until then, the sheep masks on those wolves aren’t fooling anyone.


Arnold, Inc

Leave it to Hollywood’s pre-eminent aging action hero to bring Madison Avenue to the statehouse in new and exciting ways.

After taking over $279,000.00 in campaign contributions from consumer grocery giants Pepsi and Nestle, their products have started to pop up in his television advertising.

“The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for 1/3 of the ad…The practice, known as “product placement,” is unheard of in political advertising. In fact, political ads typically avoid using logos because companies may not want to be associated with a particular candidate or issue. However, studios receive significant payments for featuring a product in a film or television show.”

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on Schwarzenegger to return the quarter-million dollars he received from the companies, and for them to pay the market value of the advertising to the state because it is improper for the governor to use public office to sell corporate products. I’m holding my breath.

Ad agencies, however, must be hyperventilating at the thought of this new marketing opportunity. Campaign contributions used to to be considered just a way to buy favorable legislative and regulatory treatment. Now, it can actually promote their products, pay for their candidate’s media presence, and still retain all the benefits of a traditional bribe.


Deadline News

ABC plans new ‘Nightline’ tribute to U.S. war dead
As he did last year, “Nightline” host Ted Koppel will recite the names of more than 900 American servicemen and women killed in Iraq or Afghanistan during the past year as a photograph of each one is shown on the screen.

FCC Panelist Wants Probe Of Product ‘Payola’

A member of the Federal Communications Commission called yesterday for an investigation of experts who tout products on television without disclosing payments from the manufacturers.

Mad Ave.’s Rush to Podcasts
A new medium means only one thing to advertisers: A new opportunity to sell

Podcasts catch on at NBC, ABC news divisions
ABC News and NBC News announced plans Tuesday to offer podcasts, the rapidly growing mobile technology.

Rupert Murdoch First Inductee in The Big Media Hall Of Shame

A Charge of Media Bias, From the Left This Time
The American media has drifted toward tabloid journalism and has been cowtailed by the Bush administration over its coverage of events such as the war in Iraq

The Tillman Scandal: ‘Newsweek’ Error Bad, Pentagon Lying OK?

Where, in the week after the Great Newsweek Error, is the comparable outrage in the press, in the blogosphere, and at the White House over the military’s outright lying in the coverup of the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman?


The American Idolization of America

What is it about life in America today that makes it so easy to feel overwhelmed by societal events yet so securely oblivious to all but the most innocuous? It’s like we are protectively shrink-wrapped in a miracle fabric that lets light in, but keeps heat out. In searching for a parable to explain the current American zeitgeist, there is one story whose web of plots and sub-plots lends itself almost too perfectly.

American IdleAs reported with the customary lascivious glee of the Corporate Media, American Idol judge, Paula Abdul, has been engulfed in a scandal that mirrors the scandalous state of our nation. By engaging in a sexual affair with a contestant whose fate her vote would influence, Miss Abdul has given us the opportunity to understand ourselves more fully and satiate our hunger for controversy. What other recipe gives us all of these tasty ingredients?

• Activist judges
• Voting irregularities
• Partisan favoritism
• Clandestine operations
• And, of course, sex

Moreover, American Idol itself is an allegory for war. It pits opponents (contestants) and their allies (audience) against one another. And the principle over which this war is fought (talent) is as ethereal as that which inspires many actual wars (religion). As in all wars, the winners write the history, and we are expected to behave in accordance with the outcome. The winner of this televised karaoke is not just the prevailing contestant, but someone we are now required to Idolize. This is the same kind of jingoistic thought control that will get you thrown out of a taxpayer funded presidential forum for flashing a peace sign.

There is an intentional duality of meaning in the title of this article.

    • The American Idolization of America refers to America taking on the confrontational, black or white, right or wrong, characteristics of the television program.
    • The American Idolization of America refers to the blind loyalty that many Americans feel toward our government or leaders, even when it is contrary to our principles and laws.

Has American Idealism been supplanted by American Idolism? I think so. Contemporary culture in America has just found the perfect combination of nationalism and celebrity worship. Now you know why Fox News is the number one cable news network. Now you know why Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were all elected to positions of power. Now you know why Clinton’s lies about sex got him impeached, while Bush’s lies about weapons of mass destruction got him reelected.

Now, don’t get me started on the Apprenticization of America.