Saturday, March 05, 2005

Schwarzenegger Follows Bush Admin. Lead; Paid Reporters For Story

Schwarzenegger takes a cue from the federal government's propaganda playbook:
Using taxpayer money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has sent television stations statewide a mock news story extolling a proposal that would benefit political boosters in the business community by ending mandatory lunch breaks for many hourly workers.

The tape looks like a news report and is narrated by a former television reporter who now works for the state. But unlike an actual news report, it does not provide views critical of the proposed changes. Democrats have denounced it as propaganda. Snippets aired on as many as 18 stations earlier this month, the administration said.
Sound familiar?
May 20—When the Bush administration distributed mock news videos to promote its Medicare prescription drug law, it violated federal restrictions against using taxpayer money for propaganda, according to a May 19 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO).

After the prescription drug bill passed last fall, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) distributed video “news releases” to television stations around the country praising the drug program. In the videos, actors portray reporters. The GAO report found because viewers couldn’t tell the message came from the government, the video news releases violated restrictions against using federal funds for publicity or propaganda.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Congresswoman Kaptur Joins the Fray

According to an AP story published on the Toledo, Ohio ABC 13 news site, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur "gets" the significance of Gannon/Guckert:
The Toledo congresswoman calls Gannon a double agent and a phony plant.

The Congresswoman, who Gannon/Guckert blasted during a White House Press conference in March 2003 [CSPAN video, real media, starting at minute 36:35], has joined the call for an investigation of how and why he ended up in the White House Press pool. According to the Toledo Blade:
Miss Kaptur, though, believes there's more to the story, and she's joining calls by fellow Democrats for an investigation into Mr. Gannon's relationship with the White House. She said political opponents - including Mr. Gannon - "twisted" her words published in The Blade in 2003 as part of a well-orchestrated scheme to intimidate her.

Regarding Gannon/Guckert's statement in that press conference, Representative Kaptur had this to say:
"It lit the fuse for the entire network of Bush propagandists around the country and their media affiliates to commit a backlash based on a lie," said Miss Kaptur, who later apologized to those offended, saying she meant to draw an analogy between the motivating forces behind rebellions. "They twisted it and turned it into something I never said."

Fishbowl Blog Granted Access-- Thanks to Pressure, that is

Fishbowl D.C., a D.C. blog, was finally granted access to attend a White House Press Briefing. This after quite a few days of wrangling. Oh, and a good word from the President of the White House Coorespondent's Association, that is. And the foreboding threat of blogosphere blowback if they were denied after Gannon/Guckert, fake reporter extraordinare, was allowed in.

One-Party Government Requires A More Responsible Press

Phil Tajitsu Nash, from, puts things into perspective:
Our nation’s founders wanted the separation of power so that the president, Congress, the Supreme Court, the independent press and state governments could each serve as a brake on the power of the others. Unfortunately, the Republican cover-up of the Gannon/Guckert story is the latest example of the dangers of one-party rule in our federal government and the complicity of our corporate-controlled press in allowing one party to dominate.

The Bush administration already has been proven to have paid reporters to report favorably on its education and social policies. Did it go so far as to use a phony reporter from a phony news agency so that the administration’s press releases could be presented as news stories?

Many Asian Pacific Americans came to this country to escape one-party states where government accountability and press freedom were not strong. Some of us suffered from incarceration behind barbed wires because of our national origin during World War II. We understand how fear of an outside enemy can be used as a reason to limit civil liberties and quell dissent at home.

All of us should be calling for an independent inquiry into the Gannon/Guckert situation. Our most cherished constitutional rights depend on an administration that is accountable to the people and a press that is free of government control.
His entire article is quite good, and it reiterates the critical issue here: accountability. The GOP purports to have a monopoly on the value of personal responsibility and government accountability, yet not a single Republican has stepped forwarded asking how a fake reporter was granted access to the White House to spew forth propaganda. Not a single Republican has stepped forward, on behalf of the American people, and asked the White House to disclose all its ties to Gannon/Guckert. A party of accountability? Yeah. Right. And Guckert was a "real journalist." Read more...

Ignoring Guckert= Dangerous for the Media

John Aravosis at states it perfectly: by allowing Guckert/Gannon to continue to claim he is a "legitimate journalist" debases the entire profession:
And every single one of you journalists out there who has sat back and written nothing about the GannonGuckert story has helped the rightwing further create an environment in which the definition of "journalism" now includes partisan propaganda hacks whose only goal is to corrupt the truth for political (and monetary) gain. GannonGuckert is being depicted as the conservative counterpart, counterweight, to YOU. I.e., he's equal to you in every way, simply that you're a liberal and he's a conservative. And they're getting away with it. He not only diminishes you, he diminishes the entire profession.

And your wonderful little correspodents' association couldn't care less. If you guys can't define who you are, what you are, what qualifications it takes to become one of you, then why are you even there in the first place? You would be the first profession on the planet that can't - or is afraid to - define what you are and what you do.

Think about that the next time you take a pass on this story.

"Is US Ministry of Propaganda Next?"

Mike Barry at the Washington Dispatch sums it up well. When other nations engage in propaganda, they're labeled undemocratic. When the Bush Administration does it, it's accepted without resistance:
It is needless to say that this is not the first presidential administration to produce news broadcasts extolling its own policies. Governments around the world—Putin’s Russia, North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Cuba, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and others--have also been involved in this unsavory activity, but where those undemocratic governments are concerned the practice is correctly identified as "misleading propaganda."

Furthermore, the Bush-Cheney administration has not been content merely to make up its own bogus news. It has paid off ostensibly legitimate opinion makers who were trusted by many to be truthful in their dissemination of crucial information to the public. As example, earlier this year, it was revealed that agencies connected to the executive branch paid columnists--with taxpayer money--to adopt certain favorable stances on selected issues the Rush-Cheney administration was pushing.


None of the columnists and journalists involved in this scam against the public trust revealed the unethical and corrupt payoffs they received until after the wrongdoing had been brought to light, thereby illuminating their--and their paymasters’--total lack of regard for the canons of ethics legitimate journalists follow to guarantee unswerving veracity and fidelity to the truth.

And by using filthy lucre rather than the truth to make its case, the Bush-Cheney administration strongly suggests to all objective observers that its policies are bankrupt on their face. Why else would such underhanded methods be employed?

The article goes on to discuss Gannon/Guckert and how he is another sad example of media manipulation and public deception. Berry gets it right when he talks about an erosion of journalistic ethics. If Guckert, as he claims, represents the "New Media", then that "New Media" is hollow, cheap, sensationalistic, devoid of integrity, and dedicated more to the dollar than to the truth. Read more...

The Daily Show Uses Comedy To Get Propagannon Message Out

Video available via Crook & Liars.

Founder of News Chairman in Republican Party

In the midst of all the coverage (and non-coverage) of the Gannon/Guckert story, one fact that has gone remarkably unreported by both liberal and conservative news outlets is the ties between, Talon News, and the Republican Party.

We've heard the parties implicated in the scandal repeat time and time again that, despite its name and the fact it spits out GOP talking points on a daily basis, is not connected to the Republican Party.

But how credible does that sound in light of the fact that William Fairbrother, co-founder of (which created Talon News) is a County Chairman for the Republican Party of Texas?

Indeed, Fairbrother has been Chairman of the Williamson County GOP for about the last five years. Which, incidently, is the same amount of time has been in business.
Fairbrother's contact address for official GOP correspondence? Indeed, has its own logo displayed prominently on the Williamson County Republican Party Menu. is where Fairbrother directed his party members to go in order to keep up to date on the Republican National Convention (I wonder if he disclosed that he owned the site?)

When was founded, it had the same mailing address as the Williamson County Republican Party:

2915 Pioneer Way
Round Rock, TX 78664

That address is still listed as's primary place of business.

The Texas Republican County Chairman's Association even links to, snuggling the link between the Texas Legislature and the National Republican Congressional Committee (, by the way, seems oddly out of place on a list?).

So what are to make of the fact that the co-founder of is a Chairman for the Republican Party of Texas? It obviously smacks of something shady...and is certainly worthy of further investigation.

*Image: Bill Fairbrother, left, pictured with Bobby Eberle. Fairbrother and Eberle started to "bring the conservative message to the Internet". Photo from dkos.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Getting No Pass

Starting this past Monday, the folks at Fishbowl decided to follow the steps Jeff Gannon/James Gurkert says he took to get a day pass to the press briefing. The Fishbowl attempts test Scott McClellan's claim that Jeff Gannon received no favoritism.

In the Fishbowl blog, they have filed a daily chronology, at times witty and increasily frustrating, of their efforts. So far, they have endured four days of repeated phone calls with no replies, repeated phone calls in which they got the same non-helpful interns, phone calls where "everyone is in a meeting," an actual trip to the White House with similar non-success, and finally, complete stonewalling and failure to answer ANY calls. So now Fishbowl has written an "Open Letter" beseeching the WH to at least tell them WHY they can't get a reason why they are being stonewalled and effectively denied a daily pass.

New Gannon Interview

Same spin, different day.

High School Papers Give Propagannon More Coverage Than National News

What a sad state of affairs when a high school paper devotes more ink to GannonGuckert than the national media: Come Clean About Gannongate

Rove: "Genius" Propagandist

Sylvester Brown of the Post-Dispatch has a must-read column about how Karl Rove, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, has a history of media manipulation, dirty tricks, and is likely a key figure behing the Gannon scandal:

It would take an audacious genius to create fake news and slip it under the radar of seasoned journalists...

No one knows definitively if the [CBS/TANG] documents were forged. We do know, however, that media attention shifted away from Bush's dubious military record to the origination of dubious documents.

Some wonder whether Rove somehow leaked dummied documents to CBS? Hmmmm.

That's old news. New news came to mind as I watched the Rove documentary. Everyone probably knows about the fake reporter allowed to be part of the White House press corps for almost two years. Jeff Gannon (whose real name is James D. Guckert) tossed warm and fuzzy questions when called on by Bush or his press secretary, Scott McClellan. Gannon was later linked to a partisan, phony news organization and (gasp) gay military porn and escort service Web sites.

McClellan, who called on "Jeff" frequently, claims he knew nothing about the man's past. Who has the power to grant White House access to a fake reporter with an alias and "questionable" social habits?


Gannon, who went silent for a while, is back and on the attack. He's emerged to battle the "well-funded liberal attack machine," he writes on his relaunched Web site Gannon vows to fight the fine fight to keep the sexual lives of fellow journalists private. Yes, it may take "many columns and a book deal" but, by golly the "Old Media" will rue the day they picked a fight with Jeff Gannon!

Wow! Forget about a breach of national security. No need for the media to explore the hypocrisy of a gay porn escort who parroted conservative "values" and their anti-gay agenda. I don't know who helped the fake news man flip the script, but Grandpa Pickles again comes to mind:

"Brilliance, sheer brilliance . . ."


Bloggers & Gonzo Journalism

Dotty Lynch has a decent article at about how bloggers should be taken seriously.
Gonzo journalism rules cyberspace. And, as Martha Stewart used to say, that’s a good thing.

The passion, energy, anger, paranoia, obsessive focus, innovation and sophistication of the blogs on the left, right and in between are shaking up the MSM. Frank Mankiewicz has referred to "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," Thompson's book on the McGovern-Nixon presidential race, as "the most accurate and least factual" account of the campaign." That insight also applies, for good and ill, to many of today's blogs.

There has been lots of babble in journalism circles about the war between bloggers and journalists, but what is clear is that change is in the air. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote a paper for a Harvard conference on "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility" in January declaring the war over and suggesting five interesting points for discussion, which I've summarized here:

  • 1. "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one and blogging means that practically anyone can own one. That's why bloggers matter."
  • 2. The issue of trust is paramount in journalism. Credibility and ethics emanate from there. As trust in the msm declines (Pew found the number who said there was "no bias in political reporting" dropping from 58 percent in 1988 to 38 percent in 2004) bloggers are building their reputations from the ground up.
  • 3. "Bloggers partake in a resurgent sprit of amateurism now showing in many fields earlier colonized by professionals."
  • 4. "If news as 'lecture' could yield to news as 'conversation'… it might transform the credibility puzzle and enhance the trust."
  • 5. Blogging isn't just about conveying information – it is about communication. Stand-alone bloggers may be easier to trust than corporate providers.[..]
But, as Rosen says, bloggers are more than information providers. Their anger toward and distrust of the traditional media and the political establishment are palpable. After the Gannon column ran, I received hundreds of e-mails demanding to know why the msm was ignoring the story.

One of the ways the mainstream has dissed the blogs has been to label them as having agendas and not being "objective." But that doesn't make their information wrong or their points of view irrelevant. Many bloggers are people who care passionately about public issues and who are frustrated that their viewpoints aren't expressed in public debate. The frustration became so great on the right that The Washington Times and Fox News were created and found a readymade audience.
The only disappoint ing part of this article is that Lynch spends more time repeated the tired claims of Zephyr Teachout than focusing on the real reason why bloggers have become such a palable force as of late: because the "msm" isn't doing it's job.

The Gonzo journalism, the spirit of Woodward & Bernstein, that loyalty to the truth rather to ratings has slowly faded away from the national scene. Thus, bloggers had to step in to fill the void. Someone had to keep talking about Abu Ghraib, long after the morning shows stopped covering it. There's been no mention of Rumsfeld being sued for war crimes, so yeah, the blogs have to step in and report it.

But perhaps the most compelling argument for why blogs have become such a force is because they not only step in and hold the government accountable, as the Fourth Estate should be doing, but they also hold the Fourth Estate itself accountable. Not only do we do the research which exposes government propaganda, but we challenge the media to report on it. And when they don't...well, that just further proves that it may be the blogs, rather than the media, which have the true interests of the American people at heart.


NY Times: Guckert/Gannon an "Airhead", Would Send Thompson Spinning In His Grave

Frank Rich has a spot-on article in the NY Times, highlighting the low points of the Propagannon saga--Guckert's inistance on remaining a spectacle, even though he has embarassed journalists across the nation, his hypocritical self-martydom, and more:
Though a few remain on the case - Eric Boehlert of Salon,, Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher - the Gannon story is fast receding. In some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, it never surfaced at all. Yet even as Mr. Gannon has quit his "job" as a reporter and his "news organization" has closed up shop, the plot thickens. His own Web site - which only recently shut down with the self-martyring message "The voice goes silent" - has now restarted as a blog with Gonzo pretensions. The title alone of his first entry, "Fear and Loathing in the Press Room," would send Thompson spinning in his grave had he not asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon.

As a blogger, Mr. Gannon's new tactic is to encourage fellow right-wing bloggers to portray him as the victim of a homophobic left-wing witch hunt that destroyed his privacy. Given that it was Mr. Gannon himself who voluntarily exhibited his own private life by appearing on Web sites advertising his services as a $200-per-hour escort, that's a hard case to make. But it is a clever way to deflect attention from an actual sexual witch hunt conducted by his own fake news organization in early 2004. It was none other than Talon News that advanced the fictional story that a young woman "taped an interview with one of the major television networks" substantiating a rumor on the Drudge Report that John F. Kerry had had an extramarital affair with an intern. (Mr. Kerry had to publicly deny the story just as his campaign came out of the gate.) This is the kind of dirty trick only G. Gordon Liddy could dream up. Or maybe did. Mr. Gannon's Texan boss, Bobby Eberle, posted effusive thanks (for "their assistance, guidance and friendship") to both Mr. Liddy and Karl Rove on Talon News's sister site, GOPUSA, last Christmas.

Mr. Gannon, a self-promoting airhead, may well be a pawn of larger forces as the vainglorious Mr. Liddy once was. But to what end? That Kerry "intern" wasn't the only "news" Mr. Gannon helped stuff in the pipeline during an election year. A close reading of the transcripts of televised White House press conferences reveals that at uncannily crucial moments he was called on by the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to stanch tough questioning on such topics as Abu Ghraib and Mr. Rove's possible involvement in the outing of the C.I.A. spy Valerie Plame. We still don't know how this Zelig, using a false name, was given a daily White House pass every day for two years. Last weekend, Jim Pinkerton, a former official in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, said on "Fox News Watch," no less, that such a feat "takes an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House," that it had to be "conscious" and that "some investigation should proceed and they should find that out."


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Democrats may force Republicans Go On Record About Propagannon

Via Rawstory:

House Democrats will force a vote in four House committees to put the Republican majority on the record with regards to investigating a discredited White House correspondent who allegedly had access to confidential information, including a memorandum naming CIA operative Valerie Plame, RAW STORY has learned.

The procedure, called a Resolution of Inquiry, enjoins the Intelligence, Judiciary, Armed Services and International Relations Committees fourteen legislative days to decide whether to authorize the request for records or refuse to do so.

Democrats expect Republicans to vote down the measure, but feel it might provide leverage in future Congressional elections, as it will force members to go on the record as to whether they support the investigation and its relation to the outed CIA operative.

Kincaid: You kick out Guckert, you may kick out FOX

Cliff Kincaid has yet another article defending Guckert (um, doesn't he get lonely being pratically the ONLY person willing to support a fake reporter who plagerized his articles?). It's nothing new really, just the usual propaganda about how "fake names" are common (but are they used in conjuction with fake reporting, Kincaid? are they?) how liberals are intolerant against gays (whoa, someone get Kincaid his ACLU card! he actually cares about how gays are treated!), and how Guckert's propaganda and infiltration of the Press Corps should be forgiven because Helen Thomas happens to *gasp* ask questions that hold the President accountable for his actions.

But the most (only) important part of Kincaid's article comes at the end, as he reaches his frantic crescendo of fighting for plagerists and fake news agencies:

Host Chris Wallace piped in, saying that a line had to be drawn in terms of who is a legitimate journalist. He said that if too many on-line journalists get into these White House press briefings, the "real reporters" there wouldn't be able to get any work done. Wallace should rethink his position. That's a slippery slope that will play into the hands of the "real reporters" from the liberal media who want to dominate the White House press corps and exclude from their ranks those with a different political orientation. If they had their way and could get away with it without a controversy, they would probably vote to exclude Fox News.

You think that's far-fetched? Last year, Geneva Overholser, former ombudsman of The Washington Post, resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation because it planned to honor Brit Hume at its annual dinner. As reported by USA Today, she said that Hume didn't deserve the award because he and Fox are guilty of "ideologically connected journalism," Overholser said, "Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is 'fair and balanced.' That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity."

So there you have it, Chris Wallace. Be careful what you wish for. Once the White House Correspondents Association starts excluding the likes of Jeff Gannon, don't think that Fox News will still be guaranteed a seat at White House briefings and presidential press conferences.

The mere fact that Guckert is placed in the same category as FOX news speaks volumes.

The "liberal Press Corps" line is getting old. Kincaid and Guckert and the rest of those defending unethical practices use it as their rallying cry, as if it is their patriotic duty to rise up and spin, spin, spin against the dying right. The only patriotic duty is loyalty to the truth. The only duty of every "journalist", whether in the Press Corps or online, is allegiance to the truth, and not a partisan agenda.

Here is a reminder to Guckert and Kincaid and everyone else as to the true purpose of the Press Corps. It's not to throw softballs, it's not to ignore facts, it's not to let the President treat the media as lapdogs for his partisan agenda. The true purpose, as stated way back in 1923, is this:

Washington correspondents are a specialized group whose profession is not without its public responsibilities. To them public officials say more than can be judiciously printed in order that what is printed may not lead the public astray. They must keep faith with the public and with men in official places.

This Admistration has colluded with the press to "lead the public astray", and the White House Correspondents should have called him on it.

Are you a member of the media? Ask these questions!

Guckert has offered to give out interviews to both liberal and conservative bloggers. Members at have compiled a list of questions for Talon News' #1 Correspondent.

Here is the list:

Questions Posed To James D. Guckert by ePluribus Media volunteers

1. Is James D. Guckert your real name or is it, like "Jeff Gannon," another pseudonym? Have you used other pseudonyms in any of your other business ventures?

2. Were you paid for any of your work for Talon News or GOPUSA? If so, who paid you?

3. How did you begin your association with Bobby Eberle or GOPUSA? Did anyone contact you, or did you volunteer?

4. Have you ever been associated with GOPUSA in any capacity other than as a reporter?

5. In what capacity did you entertain Tony Blair during his visit on July 17, 2003?

6. How did you learn about

7. At one point, you claimed you saw Talon News, liked it and began submitting articles to them. However, Talon News didn't exist until after you were put in the White House by GOPUSA. Do you wish to clarify this contradiction?

8. You claim in your bio that you served in the military. Which branch? Where and when did you serve? Have you worked for the government in any other capacity?

9. Have you ever been a member of a GOP activist group? If so, which one(s)?

10. Were you politically active as a college student or young adult?

11. When did you attend the Leadership Institute's Seminar for Broadcast Journalists?

12. The minutes of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which accredits journalists to the Senate Press Gallery, makes reference to the fact that you are or were the Executive Director of the "Free Speech Foundation." Registration information for the Free Speech Foundation's web site reveals that the domain is owned by one "J. Daniels," though that information was later changed to list the owner as "I. Christian." Given that your close involvement with the Foundation was something you had no reason to hide from the Standing Committee, why did you use a pseudonym to register the domain name, since "Jeff Gannon," the name by which you were best-known and which would have generated the most positive publicity for the Foundation among your readers and listeners, was itself a pseudonym, thus protecting whatever privacy you used to enjoy?

13. Given the limited number of publications you had been affiliated with (and both publications boast a decidedly conservative slant), coupled with your fairly unknown status among the press corps, how did you arrange the interview with former Ambassador Wilson?

14. As a novice reporter, how did you learn the procedure for obtaining a day pass to the White House?

15. When did you first apply for a hard pass with the White House Press Corps? Did you apply for it or was it arranged through Bobby Eberle/

16. When did you first apply for a daily pass with the White House Press Corps? Did you apply for it or was it arranged through Bobby Eberle/

17. Did any members of the press question you on how it was that you were showing up regularly, but on a day pass rather than on a permanent pass?

18. You posted on an online discussion group that you have been subpoenaed to testify in the Valerie Plame case. In the same online discussion, you posted that you had seen the memo regarding Valerie Plame. Recently, however, you have suggested that you found out about this matter through the WSJ and that you were interviewed but not subpoenaed regarding the Plame case. Why have your recent responses not been consistent with your past statements? What is the truth?

19. Did anyone in the administration ever give you advanced information on any subject? Did they show you with a copy of the CIA Plame document?

20. Have you ever met Karl Rove? When? Where? How many times?

21. How did you come to find out about the Mary Mapes scoop with respect to the CBS/TANG documents?

22. What other parts of the White House have you seen or been in, other than the White House press briefing room? Who was your host on these occasions and what were the purposes of these visits?

23. Have you ever been to the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas and, if so, on what occasion and for what purpose?

24. You've used fabricated quotes, reprinted press releases and extensively cribbed from writers for other news publications such as the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan,, and Newsquest, all beneath your own byline. Did your training in journalism include any coursework on ethics?

25. Legitimate journalists subscribe to a code of ethics, what do you think about those who violate or ignore that code?

26. Do you think working journalists should take money from anyone other than the professional news organization or publication that employs them for pieces they write? Did you?

27. Which falsehoods have been spread about you that you would like to dispell right now? For example, will you go on record saying that you were not running an escort service? We feel that this is relevant because of your past articles accusing others of behavior that you now consider "private, personal" information.

28. Since you've begun your own blog, do you think of yourself as a "blogger" or a "journalist"? Do you think of yourself as a "professional?" Since most people accept that a professional is someone who earns his living functioning in a known career field, how are you earning your living as a professional? Could you characterize how much monetary income constitutes "a living" in your opinion?

Let's hope we don't hear the sound of *birds chirping* for much longer.

Oh, and if you are a member of the media, feel free to ask these questions, add your own. There's enough muckraking to go around for all of us.

Kerry Blasts Media for atmosphere of "fear" and "lies"

At the JFK library, John Kerry calls it as he sees it:
Kerry criticized the mainstream media for contributing to an atmosphere of fear and lies.

"There is something wrong with who is arbitrating the truth," he said. "When fear is dominating the discussion, we have a problem."

Kerry said news conglomerates -- particularly of broadcast news -- were a large part of the problem.

"The corporatization of the media has taken away some of the muckraking," he said.
We can think of a few issues that were in desparate need of some old school muckraking: the bogus claim about WMDs, the torture approved by the Bush administration, the bribes given to journalists, allowng a fake reporter in the White House to spit GOP talking points...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Arab World Reacts to Coulter, American Propaganda

On Arab News' front page, the MidEast's "leading English news daily" there is a link to a story by Barbara Ferguson entitled "Arab Bashing Reaches New Low With Thomas Slur."

WASHINGTON, 2 March 2005 — Arab bashing reached a new low in Washington last week when Ann Coulter, a loudmouthed, mean-spirited, pro-Bush columnist, decided to defend the White House press pass controversy over faux-reporter James Guckert (a.k.a. Jeff Gannon) by writing in her syndicated column: “Press passes can’t be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president.”


Coulter was, perhaps, taking a cue from the White House, which has slighted Thomas several times since 2003. During a televised news conference, President George W. Bush deliberately snubbed several reporters he ordinarily calls upon, including journalists from the Washington Post, Newsweek, and USA Today. But the most conspicuous recipient of the Bush freeze-out was Thomas, who has barbed and grilled every president since Kennedy and almost always gets to ask a question. Bush pointedly ignored her.


There has been disappointingly little reaction in defense of their colleague by White House journalists.

In an article entitled “Lipstick Fascism,” James Wolcott, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, writes: ... “Arabs of course are fair game on talk radio and the trash punditry, of which Ann Coulter is stringbean queen,” says Wolcott. “Presumably Helen Thomas’s very ancestry, about which I know nothing, makes her an incipient terrorist threat, though presumably commando call boy Jeff Gannon would have been coiled to pounce into action if the octogenarian made any sudden violent moves. Coulter’s typically crass wisecrack is the cartoonish version of the hostile profiling of Arabs and Muslims being conducted all over the neoconservative right, as typified by Michelle Malkin’s pioneer work to excuse the Japanese internment in order to justify the preemptive incarceration of Muslims and other suspicious elements.

“I’m sure this sort of thing doesn’t fluster them in the slightest. Conservatism and sadism have become indivisible,” writes Wolcott.

Note to Ann Coulter: Please, keep your mouth shut and stop embarassing us throughout the world.

Reporters fail their duty to investigate Guckert

Matt Hutaff at The Simon eloquently expresses what all of us are--or should--be thinking: Where is the media on this? Why aren't they investigating? Are they failing us, the American Public, by not performing their duty as the Fourth Estate?

Stop and really think about this for a minute. The Bush Administration has already confessed to counterfeiting news by planting columnists and reporters with party rhetoric and a fat paycheck. The response from the media? A half-assed question: "Do you think it's a proper use of government funds [emphasis mine] to pay commentators to promote your policies?"

That reporter was well rewarded with an equally half-assed reply: "I expect my cabinet secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn’t go forward. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

Janus-esque doubletalk, meet propaganda proponents.

With Guckert's outing by weblogs around the world, one would think that the White House would finally have to eat some crow over its relentless bending of the Fourth Estate to its will. After all, the scandal has all the prime elements of a television movie – gay sex, deceit, treachery and politics. It couldn't have come bundled in a better package. And yet once again, this disturbing story of media manipulation has been tucked away with all the mouth-frothing over Iraqi weapons and terror alerts. No indictment for perjury. No ramifications of any kind.

Instead, we're treated to a softball "investigation" into Bush's drug use. Who cares one iota over whether or not Bush did lines or smoked weed or drank himself silly? It doesn't affect me, it doesn't affect you, it's none of our business. All I care about with regards to the President is how he serves his role as leader of the people of the United States. In that, he's a miserable failure and a criminal.

Doctoring press conferences so that "trusted" stooges can spoon-feed ideological questions to a stuttering boob does everyone a disservice. First, it gives the impression that people actually think key Democrats are "divorced from reality." Second, it removes the possibility of a question with real substance. Since press conferences are so few and far between with this administration, and since Bush is such a "handled" individual, catching him unscripted is the public's only chance to see what a dunderhead he really is.

One would think that American journalists would be up in arms over the routine trashing their profession gets from unbiased and international sources. That's why I'm constantly baffled at the prone position they take, bending over and accepting whatever form of denigration Bush and friends pound into them on a daily basis. ..

Making George W. Bush look good isn't the responsibility of a reporter. I've come to expect lies from the government – I shouldn't come to rely on the mainstream press to prop it up.

There are many questions left unanswered about Propagannon. How many passes was Guckert issued? When was the first one issued? Has any other reporter received daily passes for over two years? What connection does Karl Rove and the GOP have to Why was Talon News set up as a fake news agency? And why hasn't anyone, from Bobby Eberle to Scott McClellan to President Bush himself, apologized for the fraud perpetrated on the American Public?

Unfortunately, unliked Guckert, we won't get a fake"journalism" certificate, write for a fake news aganecy, and get the green light to bypass security in order to ask these critical questions of the White House. It is the responsibilty of the press to ask these questions for us.

So why, by their inaction, are they intent on silencing us?

Ari Fleischer Spins Away In New Book

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has a book out today, titled "Taking Heat". Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post give us a glimpse inside:
Fleischer's book, "Taking Heat," is out today, and while his style isn't to smack people around, he is the first Bush administration insider to offer a sustained indictment of the media. White House correspondents, he says, are mostly liberal. Mostly negative. Mostly opposed to tax cuts. Mostly unwilling to give his president a break. Mostly interested in whipping up conflict.

He portrays journalists as good human beings who, sad to say, are biased and defensive. Even when ripping Hearst columnist Helen Thomas -- "I don't care for her politics one little bit" -- Fleischer hastens to add: "Helen and I could go at each other in the briefing room but in private we really like each other."
Reading Fleisher's description of the "liberal" media interested in "whipping up conflict" sounds eerily Guckert-ish. Fleischer whining about the media "unwilling to give his President a break" is shocking, considering the pass the President was given leading this nation into war. Fleischer played an integral role in shelling out rationale after failed rationale, and the media licked it all up without even second-guessing the President. Only a few journalists has the hutzpa to apologize. Rick Mercier was one of them:
"The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there's one thing they forgot to say: We're sorry...."Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered....Maybe we'll do a better job next war."
The NY Times, part of the media Fleischer says should have given the Admistration a break, wrote in May 2004 that it had given the President one break too many:
But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge.
Fleischer goes on to include Thomas' questions in his book. Heaven forbid a President should be held accountable for his actions, and Thomas says as much in the Kurtz article:
"The questions I asked should have been asked by 10 more reporters in the run-up to war, which proved that everything they said was not true." She says Fleischer was not only a spokesman for the president but "owed credibility to the American people. I'm sure he got mad at me. He had to defend what was indefensible, in my opinion."
Of course Fleischer got mad. The entire Bush Adminsitration gets frustrated when presented with facts and reality, rather than the likes of Talon News. Fleischer will likely make quite a bit of money dishing out disclosures in his book. What a shame he couldn't be as "honest" when he was in the Briefing Room.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Oh, the sweet irony: FOX criticized for covering Propagannon

You know you have a story on your hands when even right-wingers are complaining about how FOX news is handling Propagannon.

From today's inaccurate Mens News Daily, we see Cliff Kincaid lamenting Fox News Watch as "one of the most disappointing programs airing on the Fox News Channel." Why? Because the panelists actually thought there is something fishy about a "reporter" with a fake news organization working with the GOP partisan group who was granted access on a daily basis to sneak propaganda questions to the Press Secretary and the President.

Now, we here at Propagannon are pleasantly surprised that FOX would dedicate some program time to the issue, and even address it in a decent manner.

Kincaid, who keeps insisting on calling Guckert a "reporter", attempts to defend Guckert's action in a manner highly reminiscent of a fish flailing out of water. Case in point:
He was forced to resign from Talon News, an on-line conservative-backed news operation, when his personal life came under scrutiny and he was linked to homosexual activity. The far left, which claims to respect peoples' privacy, just won't let go of this story.
There are five, count them FIVE lies in these two sentences. That has to be a record, even for Mens News Daily: (1) Guckert was not "forced" to resign, he resigned willingly after he was exposed; (2) Talon News is not a "news" operation. It was more like an Office Depot crossbred with Pravda; (3) he was forced to resign because he wasn't a reporter, not because his "personal life" was scrutinzed; (4) he wasn't "linked to homosexual activity"...he was linked to prostitution & internet porn; and (5) the "far left" didn't invade his privacy...Guckert allegedly advertised his services on public websites (see Tom Tomorrow below--"can't a guy post naked pictures of himself on the internet anymore?!?").

Kincaid is right about one thing. We won't let go of this story(by the way, we're not the "far" left...we're just citizens demanding accountability) . Because this is the last straw in a shocking string of bribes, payoffs, manipulation, and other media control measures perpetrated by this Administration.
In contrast to Gannon, who went through a journalism training program at the Leadership Institute, Mokhiber has never taken a journalism class.
"Journalism training program." Yeah. A weekend seminar. It costs $50, "for which attendees receive 'two days of instruction, meals on Saturday and Sunday and all course materials.'" So let's say there's 48 hours. Take away 16 for sleep (assuming Guckert wasn't busy at night)...a few for eating, getting ready, etc. and Guckert has what, maybe 16 hours of "training"? And what type of "training" is the Leadership Institute known for? Quality training like this:
"In an eight-hour session that bore little resemblance to a traditional journalism class, the students were taught how to start their own conservative newspapers and opinion journals. And how to pick fights with lefty bogeymen on the faculty and in student government."
Meanwhile, Mr. "I'm returning to private life" Guckert couldn't bare being a week out of the spotlight, and has started a blog where he links to various stories about the scandal. But trust us, our site is much cooler. And we write our own stuff. We promise.

Gannon "symptomatic of a broader White House strategy to undermine the traditional media "

Dick Polman gets it:

But the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert saga is far from over. It remains unclear how a graduate of a conservative training program, someone with no previous journalism experience, someone whose writings were often lifted directly from White House press releases, still managed to gain access to the White House press room, where he spent two years lobbing gentle questions at the press secretary and the President.

And some political analysts who monitor President Bush's relations with the media insist that Gannon (who, referring to Democrats, recently asked Bush, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?") should not be viewed as an isolated case. Rather, they contend that Gannon is symptomatic of a broader White House strategy to undermine the traditional media by disseminating the Bush message in creative new ways.

Every president has sought to manipulate the media. But historians say that Bush, unhappy with what he calls "the filter," is courting controversy in his quest for innovative formats. Several conservative commentators have been paid to trumpet Bush policies in their work; one recipient, Armstrong Williams, is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission. And two agencies have disseminated pro-Bush videos that look like TV newscasts, without disclosing the Bush sponsorship - a breach of federal law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The White House has stated that these media decisions were made independently by the agencies. Nevertheless, former Republican strategist Jim Pinkerton, who later worked in the senior George Bush's administration, says: "It's quite clear this White House is exploring radical alternative ways to getting its message out - through the aggressive hiring of flacks like Williams, and the presence, or even planting, of friendly so-called journalists like Gannon.

"The Bush people are challenging all the old assumptions about how to work the press. They are ambitious - visionary, if you will - in ways that Washington has yet to fathom."

Larry Gross, who runs the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, says: "Richard Nixon hated the press, Bill Clinton hated the press - but they accepted the basic rules of the game. Bush has a strategy of discrediting, end-running, and even faking the news. Those prepackaged videos sent to local TV stations `looked' like news, much the way Gannon `looked' like a reporter. We're seeing something new: Potemkin-village journalism."

And here is the spin:
But Rich Galen, a Republican strategist and Bush ally, scoffs, saying: "The notion of the White House somehow being involved in a conspiracy to control the news by planting someone like Gannon is just laughable. They (critics) are trying to connect the dots, but they're coloring outside the lines."
How "laughable" that White House tried to control the news. Because the Armstrong Williams bribe, the Gallagher payola, the fake news videos, all that was just for fun...not at all an attempt to control the message. Scoff away, Galen. No matter how much you try to minimize this for you "ally", the American Public won't stand to be fooled any longer.

"Nothing to See Here" by Tom Tomorrow

Click here. Die laughing.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Contact Congress, Urge Them To Investigate

Ask them to investigate Propagannon. Ask them to have Press Secretary release the White House credentialing standards. Ask them if they think different standards should apply for the Congressional Gallery vs. the Press Corps.

Or, just ask them if they have any connection to Considering links to the Republican Study Committee and the National Republican Steering Committee, it should be an interesting question.

Contact them

Hey, while you're at it, send the President an email too and ask him if Guckert represents a "nice, independent relationship with the press."

Guckert Speaks...Again

What a difference 10 days makes. (No, we're not talking about the 10 day turnaround from Guckert becoming a "reporter" to his being granted White House access.) Ten days ago, Guckert told E&P "I'm no longer talking to anyone [in the press] anymore."

Today, days after re-launching his website, he gave an interview to Roll Call's Mary Ann Akers, RawStory reports.

Guckert keeps playing the repentant "sinner", when in reality, his "past" isn't his "past" at all. At the time he was hired as a White House correspondent, apparently it was his present...

As John Aravosis at pointed out, Guckert's websites, where he allegedly self-promoted his escort services, were live until at least April 17, 2003, months after he was a White House correspondent. His last "customer review" was in November of 2002...not to distant a "past" is it?

In his latest interview, Guckert once again claims he switched to "Jeff Gannon" because it's easier to pronounce than "James Guckert"...or perhaps "James Gannon"? Or Jim Gannon? We here at Propagannon must give Guckert some credit for being able to assert this "Jeff" is easier to pronounce than "James" with a straight face. Bravo, James. Bravo.

Guckert also says "They accused me of throwing softballs. Where does it say that every question has to be hostile?" he asked." Of course not every question has to be "hostile" (read: reality-based). But where does it say that every single question has to be a softball? We've combed through Guckert's questions, and have yet to find one of a truly substantive nature that does not resemble propaganda. "Lifeline-only Questions 101". Must be a Leadership Institute Course.

Apples and Oranges, or The Real "Gannon Standard"

Mens News Daily continues defending the indefensible by claiming Guckert's infilitration of the White House Press Corps is par course. John Hawkins pens an "article" which equates Guckert with lifetime journalist Helen Thomas. Nice try, but let's see why the comparison falls flat on its face.

Guckert: A degree in Social Studies. Oh, and a $50 weekend seminar at a right-wing propaganda institute.

Thomas: A degree in English, plus 30 other honorary degrees (including doctorates).

Guckert: No awards???

Thomas: "the National Press Club's 4th Estate Award; the Columbia University Journalism Award, the International Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the Missouri School of Journalism Award, the Peter Zenger Award, the Hearst Newspapers' Bob Considine Award; the Society of Professional Journalists first life-time award and elected to its Hall of Fame, the Allen Neuharth award, the William Allen White Journalism Award, the Wayne University "Spirit of Diversity" award and the Ellis Island American Legend Medal, among others."

Guckert: was a Talon "reporter" for less ten days before being granted access to the Bush White House Press Corps.

Thomas: was a reporter for some 50 years before being granted access to the Bush White House Press Corps.

Guckert: used fake quotes in asking the President softball questions.

Thomas: used facts in asking the President the questions every reporter should be asking. We won't waste valuable pixels reprinting all Thomas questions Mens News Daily found problematic. For your reading pleasure, we provide a series of links which support the questions quoted by Hawkins:

Helen Thomas: "We didn't go in to win the war on terrorism when we invaded Iraq." -- April 29, 2004. As reported by Unknown News.

Question based on the reality that there was no tie between al Qaeda and Saddam.

Helen Thomas: "...following up Ann Compton's question [regarding Saddam Hussein's court hearing], does [President Bush] agree with Saddam that Presidents are above the law?" -- July 1, 2004. As reported by Unknown News.

Question based on the reality that the Bush administration has tried to place the President above the law.

Helen Thomas: "Prime Minister Blair took full personal responsibility for taking his nation into war under falsehoods -- under reasons that have been determined now to be false. Is President Bush also willing to take full, personal responsibility --"

Question based on the reality that the President refuses to apologize.

Helen Thomas: "There was no threat"..."Saddam Hussein did not threaten this country." -- July 19, 2004. As reported by Unknown News.

Link, link, link, link, link, link get the idea.

We would continue here and could cite hundreds of other links supporting Thomas' questions, but we think we'll leave Hawkins to his own research. Simply put, Thomas' questions are based on reality; Guckert's questions are based on a partisan agenda and propaganda.

Thomas is a lifelong, widely-acclaimed journalist. Guckert is a fraud. The President chose to push Thomas to the back row in the briefing room and doesn't ask her questions anymore, while Guckert somehow got prime seats to the sideshow. In typical fashion, Bush distances himself from those that may hold him accountable for his actions while he surrounds himself with propagandists and frauds.

The only "Gannon Standard" that should be applied to the White House Press Corps is this: no person should be allowed to enter the Press Room under false pretenses, under a sham organization, afforded special privileges, and selected to ask questions which are not based on reality. The American Public deserves better than that.

A Cartoon Worth A Thousand Words

Courtesy of the LA Times editorial section. Also, thanks to Agathena from DailyKos for bringing it to our attention.