Ministry of Truth Tells Us All We Need to Know

I guess even Fox News couldn’t be trusted not to ask an inconvenient question, so FEMA made sure they had control of the message…

FEMA scheduled an early afternoon news briefing on only 15 minutes notice to reporters here Tuesday to talk about its handling of assistance to victims of wildfires that were ravaging much of Southern California.

But because there was so little advance notice for the event held by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy FEMA administrator, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.

At the news conference itself, some FEMA employees played the role of reporter, asking questions of Johnson– queries described as soft and gratuitous.

“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response,” Johnson said in reply to one query from a person who was an agency employee, not an independent journalist.

Even a small-town radio talk show isn’t afraid to take live questions over the phone. This isn’t crisis mode, this is standard operating procedure. Our government has been using our tax money for years to make commercials for itself — disguised as news. Then we vote them back in because we heard on the news what a great job they’re doing. Pretty circular, huh?

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.

Sometimes the administration uses real people instead of actors, but that can be expensive, as seen here…

U.S. communications regulators cited conservative commentator Armstrong Williams on Thursday for violating a ban on “payola” in promoting the Bush administration’s education plan.

After investigating for more than 2-1/2 years, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that Williams and his firm violated agency rules by promoting President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy on television without disclosing they had been paid to do so…

Williams was not immediately available for comment. He has denied any wrongdoing but has acknowledged that the Education Department’s outside media firm paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind during a television show he owned and hosted.

They haven’t neglected our print media, either. Remember ‘Jeff Gannon’? He was the fake reporter with the fake name who tossed softball questions to the President in the White House press room. And don’t think they’ve failed to take advantage of the propaganda value of our troops.

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours. But many of them are the same form letter.

Religious programs like the 700 Club run segments formatted to look exactly like network news. If you switch the channel to Fox you might find they’re singing from the same hymnal.

I am scared because the fact is, we only catch them when they are inept. Several years ago, when urban legends were going around like the common cold, I learned to recognize them by the rhythm of the narrative. Lies are nice and neat, truth is messy. Do we have the patience to hear the whole story?

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5 thoughts on “Ministry of Truth Tells Us All We Need to Know

  1. The use of media by government in all its multi-department vastness, political parties, special interest groups by the thousands, churches, charities, book clubs and the Prevent Animal Cruelty Society, or the Dismembered Souls of Sears-Roebuck, Inc., is as time honored (or dishonored) as the first realization that the media reaches lots of people and gets your message out. Even Osama, lurking in a cave somewhere in Pakistan, trying to get the cave fleas out of his newly dyed beard, relies on the mass message abilities of Al Jazera. Of course, despite Mr. Romney’s claim to the contray, Osama is not Obama, and there is no resemblace between the messages of Osama and Obama, unless you are Anne Coulter, who of course has her own message machine. There is som etruth to the mesage that Ms Coulter attempts to scare people as much as does Osama, but Ms. Coulter does not share the same cave in Pakistan. I think she lives in New York.

    All of this. I think it falls under the rubric of mass communication. I also suggest that as the number of people in this or any other country continues to increase, and as the number of groups with a message increases, how to get a message across assumes increased importance. We are now a nation of approximately 330,000,000 people, about twice the population we were only fifty years ago. Population growth must be a marketing company’s dream; all those people to reach and so little time to get to them, if only because any “message” has a time/date stamp embedded that makes it short lived. So what is left but “form” responses–fill in the blanks; or television or the wonderful bit of internet life, SPAM (pass the mayo). I am afraid that we are so into this deluge of messages, that we will never be extricated–perhaps what is needed is a “no message please” agency we can all call and forever be liberated.

  2. Saturday Night Live could not have done better!! I now understand Congress: they are all actors and the real elected members are in the Bahamas.

    Thank you for the offer of sanctuary by the way. It may be needed and then I can also get to see the Newport Tower.

  3. Old Media Ablaze Over Staged FEMA Presser

    Liberal activists and the Old Media are aghast and outraged over a press conference conducted last Tuesday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Reporters were only able to listen to a department spokesman respond to questions about relief efforts for the California wildfires posed by other members of the FEMA staff. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appropriately chastised the sham press conference and promised an investigation and disciplinary action and the White House expressed its displeasure with the incident.

    Surely no one at FEMA believed that the staged event would not immediately be discovered and criticized. What could the motivation have been for such a stunt? Perhaps FEMA wanted an opportunity to present its version of events before the Old Media created its own reality about the fires and the actions of the agency. News consumers had already listened to reporters making comparisons to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and attempting to find fault with the handling of relief efforts. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had to take ABC’s Claire Shipman by the hand to convince her that everything possible was being done and that she should stop trying to invent mistakes and shortcomings. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other environuts demagogued the tragedy as evidence of the effect of global warming, while California Democrats like Sen. Barbara Boxer and Lt. Governor John Garamendi incorrectly claimed that relief efforts were impeded by having troops and equipment in Iraq.

    One of the lessons learned in the wake of Katrina is how the unaccountable Old Media are able to create a false impression that their ideological soul mates in the Democratic Party use for political advantage. In my book, “The Great Media War: A Battlefield Report�, I detail the flawed coverage of one of the greatest natural disasters in American history – a record that has yet to be corrected.

    When I learned of the fake news conference, I expected that the characterization of Jeff Gannon as a “phony reporter� would be revived. Liberal media activist Keith Olbermann noted it on his nightly train wreck of a talk show and the lefties of the blogosphere dutifully repeated it ad nauseum. This is a classic case of how a lie becomes reality, since the record proves otherwise. I was as real as a reporter gets, writing over 500 articles as a White House correspondent, a job that Secret Service records indicate I actually showed up for more than 200 times over the course of two years. The veracity of my work as a reporter has never been successfully challenged.

    Further, in 2006 – a year after my supposed exposure as a “phony reporterâ€? – my peers accepted me into the National Press Club, the most prestigious association of professional journalists in the world. My book about the media will be featured at the National Press Club’s 30th annual book fair on November 1. Not bad for a “fake, fraud and phony.â€?

  4. Wow! Jeff Gannon! The real Jeff Gannon! This is the first time this site is visited by someone with celebrity, or is notoriety the word?
    Anyway, great defense of virtual news from someone who should know. I never heard the phrase ‘old media’ before, but it’s probably fair to say that our major news outlets are kind of old. So we don’t need to take them very seriously. It’s much more efficient to just let the government interview itself.

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