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?