The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901 Message #1480304
Posted By: Amos
07-May-05 - 09:00 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Excerpts from the Times Op-Ed on Laura Bush's mission as Gracy:
"... The Washington press corps' eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounts to an administration promotional video can now be seen as a metaphor for just how much the legitimate press has been co-opted by all manner of fakery in the Bush years.
Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her "interrupting" her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level P.R. but nonetheless bought into the artifice. We were seeing the real Laura Bush, we kept being told. Maybe. While some acknowledged that her script was written by a speechwriter (the genuinely gifted Landon Parvin), very few noted that the routine's most humanizing populist riff, Mrs. Bush's proclaimed affection for the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," was fiction; her press secretary told The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller that the first lady had yet to watch it.
Mrs. Bush's act was a harmless piece of burlesque, but it paid political dividends, upstaging the ho-hum presidential news conference of two days earlier in which few of the same reporters successfully challenged administration spin on Social Security and other matters. (One notable exception: David Gregory of NBC News, whose sharply focused follow-ups pushed Mr. Bush off script and got him to disown some of the faith-based demagoguery of the Family Research Council.) Watching the Washington press not only swoon en masse for Mrs. Bush's show but also sponsor and promote it inevitably recalls its unwitting collaboration in other, far more consequential Bush pageants. From the White House's faux "town hall meetings" to the hiring of Armstrong Williams to shill for its policies in journalistic forums, this administration has been a master of erecting propagandistic virtual realities that the news media have often been either tardy or ineffectual at unmasking."
..."We create our own reality" is how a Bush official put it to Ron Suskind in an article in The Times Magazine during the presidential campaign. That they can get away with it shows the keenness of their cultural antennas. Infotainment has reached a new level of ubiquity in an era in which "reality" television and reality have become so blurred that it's hard to know if ABC News's special investigating "American Idol" last week was real journalism about a fake show or fake journalism about a real show or whether anyone knows the difference - or cares. This is business as usual in a culture in which the Michael Jackson trial is re-enacted daily on cable and the most powerful television news franchises, the morning triumvirate of "Today" and its competitors, now routinely present promotional segments about their respective networks' prime-time hits as if they were news.
No wonder many local TV news operations thought nothing of broadcasting government video news releases in which fake correspondents recruited from P.R. firms pushed administration policies; in some cases, neither the stations' managers nor journalists even figured out these reports were frauds. Now that public broadcasting is being turned over to Republican apparatchiks, such subterfuge could creep into the one broadcast news organization that, whatever its other failings, was thought to be immune to government or commercial interference.
The more the press blurs these lines on its own, the more openings government propagandists have to erect their Potemkin villages with impunity. "Our once noble calling," wrote Philip Meyer in The Columbia Journalism Review last fall, "is increasingly difficult to distinguish from things that look like journalism but are primarily advertising, press agentry or entertainment." You know we're in trouble when Jeff Gannon, asked about his murky past on Bill Maher's show on April 29, moralistically joked that "usually the way it works is people become reporters before they prostitute themselves." No less chastening was the experience of watching Matt Drudge, in conversation with Brian Lamb the same day, sternly criticize Fox for cutting off the final moments of the Bush news conference for Paris Hilton's reality series. When Mr. Drudge is a more sober spokesman for the sanctity of news than his fellow revelers at the correspondents' dinner, pigs just may start to fly.
Much as we all delight in the latest horse-milking joke, the happiest news in comedy last week was the announcement that "The Daily Show" will be spinning off a new half-hour on Comedy Central starring its "senior White House correspondent," Stephen Colbert. Make no mistake about it: the ratings rise of Jon Stewart's fake news has been in direct relation to the show's prowess at blowing the whistle on propaganda when the legitimate press fails to do so. The correspondents' dinner, itself a "Daily Show" target last week, could not have been a more graphic illustration of why, at a time when trust in real news is plummeting, there's a bull market for fake news that can really be trusted to know what is fake."
When do we see the Fourth Estate rise out of its venal, mercantile hypnosis and restore to itself a sense of duty and a desire to cleave to the true?