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Thursday, March 17, 2005


propaganda: defiance

via kos, the washington post takes a stand against the insidious use of tax funds for policy propaganda to the tune of $254 million -- yet more egregiously, in tactless defiance of general accounting office, which has deemed them "covert propaganda".

It's humiliating that local news stations, however short-staffed and desperate for footage, would allow themselves to be used this way. Indeed, as the New York Times reported Sunday, some have even lopped off government attribution when it was included or pretended the government reporter was one of their own. Even so, it's disingenuous for administration officials to blame the stations, given that many releases are crafted precisely to disguise their government origin.

This technique is both illegal and unwise. As a legal matter, the prepackaged news releases run afoul of the prohibition on the use of government funds for domestic "propaganda." The administration's interpretation -- it's okay to hide the source as long as the spot is "purely informational" -- is untenable: Highlighting some "facts" and leaving out others can be even more persuasive than outright advocacy, which is why the administration chose this device. More important, this kind of propaganda masquerading as news is a deceitful way for a democratic government to do business; fake journalists paid by the government to deliver its version of news are as disturbing as real commentators paid by the government to tout its views. White House press secretary Scott McClellan defended the video news releases on Monday as "an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people." Nice sentiment, but why, exactly, wouldn't the administration want to let the people in on one of the most salient facts: who, really, is doing the talking?
it should be apparent to all that news outlets are not non-partisan -- and moreover, that many, such as sinclair broadcasting and fox news, are unabashedly republican. and it certainly affects programming choices, even at the potential expense of shareholders. the local news outlets that have rebroadcast these ploys have often included sinclair-owned television stations, as was reported by the pittsburgh post-gazette regarding a medicare propaganda spot:

In May, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that fake news segments produced to promote the administration's Medicare law violated federal laws against producing propaganda. The video news releases were distributed to local television sessions to be run as part of the stations' news programs. One of the broadcasters that ran these misleading and illegal advertisements was the Sinclair Broadcasting group, owned by David Sinclair, a major Bush donor.
again, this sort of propaganda is both illegal and unethical, regardless of what the justice department has trumped up. (after all, DoJ claims to have legalized both torture and indefinite detention for the convenience of the white house.)

i'd be the first to acknowledge a liberal bias in many outlets of mainstream media. but that can hardly justify the bush adminstration simply, nakedly and shamelessly breaking the law to propagandize the american public with its own tax revenues. this is the kind of atrocious action that sets the bush white house apart from its predecessors in its manipulative and antagonistic approach to the citizenry -- an approach that is entirely consistent with the mass politics of fascism.

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