Saturday, March 12, 2005

NY Times: Propaganda Machine Much Worse Than You Think

A must read for every citizen. The NY Times has a shocking article detailing the mass deception used by the Bush administration to push its agenda. Read it. Pass it to your friends. It's a huge wake-up call.

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 different 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.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, such as the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Yet in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."

Friday, March 11, 2005

If the Press Doesn't Seek the Truth, Who Will?

From the Financial Times:
Journalism never was a sentimental profession. A good journalist, in whatever medium, must be sceptical, but never cynical. The current climate, created by technology and political manipulation, has become soaked in cynicism. When the government of a democratic nation fakes the news and discredits journalism as another form of PR, the public can only conclude that nobody is interested in the truth any more, or worse, that there is no such thing as truth, but only spin and opinion. This is the traditional view of tyrants, for whom all that counts is propaganda.

Gannon/Gucker Proves His Ineptitude

JamesJeff GuckertGannon continues his freefall decent into absurdity by showing off his mad journalism skillz on his website,

In his fake "briefing room", he asks (himself?) a question that he thinks should be asked in the White House Briefing Room.

Today's "question":
"Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman in Florida is due to be starved to death now that a judge will allow her husband to remove the feeding tube that has been keeping her alive. The President's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush has been trying to prevent this from happening. The President has the absolute power to grant pardons. Will he intervene to save Terri Schiavo from what is essentially a death sentence?"
Maybe he didn't learn this in his $50 weekend stint at the right-wing Leadership Institute, but Presidential pardons are reserved for felony convictions or military court martials, not for civil cases. Schiavo's case is a civil case, therefore, the assertion that President Bush could sweep down and use his power to pardon to interfere is not only absurd, but unconstitutional as well.

Now, GannonGuckert may think that the President is above the law, but us here in the reality-based community know full well that he isn't. And it's the job of the press to keep the President in check, not to egg him on and urge him to violate the Constitution. But then again, no one ever claimed GannonGuckert was a responsible "journalist."

Hypocrisy: A True Republican Value

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Missing the Point Becomes an Art Form

Scott Hogenson, executive editor of Cybercast News Service, is disappointed that the "Left" hasn't made an all-out effort to discredit Garrett Graff, a college newspaper reporter-turned-blogger who was issued a day pass to the White House Press Corps.

He seems to be trying to imply that there's some kind of special "Lefty Hypocrisy(tm)," because Mr. Graff has little journalism experience:
As for journalism experience, an issue of grave concern among liberal critics, The New York Times reports that Graff's news background includes editing the Harvard Crimson and being the progeny of an AP reporter. Whoop-de-do.

The implication here is that a complete lack of any journalism experience (Gannon/Guckert) is the same as college journalism. The missed point: becoming editor of the premiere publication of Harvard University is not exactly the same cake-walk as paying a few bucks for a propaganda class.

In order to make his point sound more impressive than it is, the author has left out some critical details about Mr. Graff's credentials. Mr. Graff:
  1. Was deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
  2. Was both a news writer and executive editor at the Harvard Crimson, where he wrote more news articles than any other writer in half-a-century.
  3. Interned at ABCNews' Political Unit.
  4. Interned at the Atlantic Monthly.

In contrast, Mr. Gannon/Guckert paid for a propaganda course.

Let's go back to the Cybercast News Service story:
The much larger issue here is one that reveals the staggering duplicity of liberal media watchers. Will the hatred that chased Gannon from his job manifest itself in manufactured outrage over the fact that Graff's professional background is paper thin? Will obsessed liberals scour the Internet for clues as to whether Graff likes boys or girls? Will anguished cries be raised over Graff's connections with the head of the Democratic Party?

... Instead of simply toasting themselves after eradicating a conservative from the White House Press Corps, the Left Wing went into full destruction mode. Rather than extolling the virtues of the alternate lifestyle Gannon allegedly embraced, he was vilified for it by those who traffic in phony pleas for diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

There's a frame-a-palooza here. Did you see these Keywords?

  • "staggering,"
  • "duplicity,"
  • "hatred,"
  • "manufactured,"
  • "obsessed,"
  • "anguished"
  • "phony"

Overall, these paragraphs attempt to paint the investigation of Mr. Gannon/Guckert's 2-plus year propaganda-perma-pass to the White House Press pool as an illegitimate vendetta driven by anger. Mr. Hogenson also tries to paint Mr. Gannon/Guckert's professional role as escort and porn site webmaster as irrelevant to the question of how he got his press pass. The points missed:
  1. Mr. Graff has honestly stated his credentials, which include several roles, albeit unpaid, doing legitimate journalism. Both Mr. Gannon/Guckert and the White House misrepresented Mr. Gannon/Guckert's credentials.
  2. Mr. Gannon/Guckert got daily access to the White House for years. Mr. Graff got access for a single day.
  3. Mr. Gannon/Guckert participated, professionally, in two activities which should have prevented him from passing a basic FBI background check, calling into question the security of our White House.

One would think that a journalist with credentials like Mr. Hogenson's, would be more concerned about the impact that the presence of fake journalists like Mr. Gannon/Guckert may have on his profession. Treating fakes as legitimate reduces the credibility of real journalists.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

CONFIRMED: Jeff Gannon was an adult porn webmaster

While Jeff Gannon's colleagues at the "conservative" news website were writing about pornography in this manner -

April Shenandoah...We are allowing the devil to vomit all over our children, and we elect political officials who gladly swim in the same puke. We should be doing everything humanly and spiritually possible to drown pornography in its own vomit... link

Jeff "Bulldog" Gannon was using pornograhic pictures of himself to sell gay porn on the internet.

Thanks to the excellent investigative work of blogslut, here , we now have definite confirmation that James Dale Guckert aka "Jeff Gannon" was an adult porn webmaster. Read her entire post for the background, but here is the official statement of MALECORPS, one of the sites to which James Guckert signed up as an affiliate.

For entire article, click here

James D. Guckert and his republican associates are, once again, setting record heights for political hypocrisy.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Instapundit Can't Differentiate Between Journalism & Plagiarism

Glenn Reynolds of calls Mediabistro's Garrett Graff "another Jeff Gannon." Graff has extensive journalism experience:
[He was] news writer and executive editor at the Harvard Crimson, Harvard University's daily newspaper, where he wrote more news articles than any other writer in half-a-century and held internships at ABCNews' Political Unit and at the Atlantic Monthly.
Another Jeff Gannon? Gannon/Guckert's "experience" was a $50 seminar at a right-wing propaganda institute. As you can tell from Guckert's biography....oh...wait. You can't find it . For some reason, Guckert's biographies have been scrubbed off the internet. Why? Perhaps because he doesn't want people to see how woefully unqualified he was and how his affiliation with Talon News was merely a pretense?

Reynolds is being a Guckert apologist. If he wants to be an apologist for a fraud and a possible criminal, so be it. But no one is buying the false equivalency he and his collegues on the right are trying to sell.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

We're Still Waiting, Mr. Guckert

Last Wednesday (March 2), the investigators at dailykos and submitted a list of questions to James D. Guckert in response to his offer to answer questions submitted to him by "liberal" blogs. See the list here.

As of Sunday, March 6, 12:38 PM EST, there has been no reply from Mr. Gannon.

A Badge is not Security

Words of wisdom from Fred Brown at the Denver Post, a paper known for its Fox News-style version of "fair and balanced":

Compare that with Washington, D.C., where the credentialing of James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, has become an issue of great moment. Or at least some would like to make it an issue of great moment.


Come on, now. This flap is more amusing than threatening.

As a question of ethics and standards, it's hardly on a par with, say, the inaccuracies in Dan Rather's report on President Bush's National Guard record.

It seems that Mr. Brown may be jumping to conclusions. He knows that a situation in which a paid escort, owing $20K in evaded taxes and penalties, who was given access to classified documents, was instrumental in the Dan Rather take-down, and was the national-stage "seed" for right-wing talking points against members of congress and democrats in general couldn't involve a serious ethics issue?

Even though there hasn't been any investigation, he is certain. But beyond that, he equates any investigation with media self-absorption:
It's worse than inside politics; it's inside journalism. It lacks the relevance, usefulness and interest of a good news story. What could be more boring and insignificant? Thank goodness that journalism, which has been painfully self-absorbed recently, isn't consumed with this story, too.

Well, isn't he right? Not really.

See, in order for the media to be self-absorbed, Gannon/Guckert would have to be a member of the media, which he isn't. This man who couldn't possibly pass a basic FBI screen, who was allowed to sit within 20 feet of the President of the United States, was unable to get a press pass to cover the U.S. House and Senate, because he the vetting process for Congressional coverage determined that he was not a member of the media.

In this next paragraph from the article, see if you can find the right-wing framing [emphasis added]:
And it raises broader questions about credentialing, which is a dilemma for journalists, or at least should be. Reporters ought to resist the notion of licensing or regulation by the government, and yet we accept some laws that set us apart - such as shield laws to protect sources, or press parking spots or badges that allow us to go places the hoi polloi can't.

One of those places is the White House. Others include the press galleries of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives - and the press tables in the Colorado legislature.

There's an important issue being glossed over here: there is already a credentialing process for White House Press Pool access. With Mr. Gannon/Guckert, that process may not have been followed, or worse, the results may have been ignored. In the former case, work needs to be done to make sure it is followed in the future. The White House Press Pool allows people to get too close to the President for lax security to be excused. If the results were ignored, there may be reasons that are worth investigating.

If you read the full text of the article, you'll find that the reporter is trying to equate the presence of a press badge with security. Ordinarily, that should be true. But if the normal security protocols were not followed, or their results were ignored, then Mr. Gannon/Guckert's badge provided a false sense of security to those with whom he shared the Press Room for more than 2 years.

You may want contact Denver Post and Mr. Brown to help them understand the inaccurate assumptions in this article. Remember: politely worded letters will be read, nasty ones will be dismissed. Be nice, but firm.

Media Swarms Over Gannon/Guckert Controversy

It looks like the national and local media is finally starting to understand the severity of the story. A media swarm? It took them a month, but better late than never. Here is a sampling of what the media is saying:

Edward Cone explains ties between and the Transylvania County Republican Party:
The Soviets called their party newspaper Pravda -- "Truth." Americans used to laugh at that kind of phony journalism. But more and more, the joke is on us.

Think it can't happen here? Click to the Web site of the Transylvania County Republican Party for a look at things to come. The official page for this western North Carolina political organization carries national news from an outfit called GOPUSA....It's a tidy little news network, hewing close to the party line, self-contained and free from the impure thoughts so common to the mainstream press.
Ed Quillen of the Denver Post opines on the Bush Administration's addiction to paying off journalists, and offers a price list of his own:
For a mere $10,000 per occurrence, I will pretend that No Child Left Behind is not an unfunded federal mandate. For the same fee, I'll contend that the Healthy Forests Initiative means healthy forests, and that the Clear Skies Initiative is connected to better air quality.

For only $5,000 per usage, I will learn to write in the Republican dialect. That means that the administration's proposed Social Security changes will involve "personal accounts" rather than "private accounts." I shall never write treasonous phrases like "the occupation of Iraq" when I could be patriotic and upbeat with "the liberation of Iraq."

And I will always refer to that partisan farrago of collectivists and traitors as "the Democrat Party," rather than use proper grammar with "the Democratic Party."
William O'Rouke of the Sun-Times discusses Gannon/Guckert in the context of the President's desparate attempt to sell his privatization scheme:
But salesmanship has been weak from both the president and other officials of the Bush administration. The White House successfully sold the Iraq war and weapons of mass destruction to the public, but is stumbling badly trying to sell Social Security privatization. That is because, given the tragic tones of the war, with its grand themes of life and death, fear was fomented, and mistakes and exaggerations were -- and remain -- muffled.

Stateside, though, distortions and missteps appear exactly as they are: inept, often sophomoric, along the lines of the paying so-called pundits and journalists for favorable coverage, even to the point of allowing a shill from a Republican-sponsored Web site, GOPUSA, into White House press briefings, where he was addressed on a first-name basis by both Bush's press secretary and the president.
Michael Tackett of the Chicago Tribune write about the "free" press:
The Bush campaign put this into practice with great precision with its "Ask President Bush" forums across the country. The president would roll up his sleeves, walk and talk with a microphone, and put on the pose of a politician willing to answer any question thrown at him by the citizenry.

But those who managed to get a seat in the audience had most likely either written a check to support the campaign or signed some form of loyalty oath, virtually ensuring a dissent-free environment and offering the rest of the media only the canned event to write about. Great strategy if you can get away with it.

Sex, Lies, and Spies: Aravosis Blasts The LA Times


I can think of three possible reasons The Times didn't cover this obviously major story with any vigor:

(1) Trepidation about gays, sex and power. In the age of wardrobe malfunctions, news organizations are extra cautious about covering anything involving s-e-x. And a gay angle only makes things more confusing. Would you be anti-gay or pro-gay if you wrote about an allegedly homophobic journalist who happened to be gay? Answer: Allegations of prostitution aren't just about someone's private life, they're about a crime that can lead to blackmail, especially if state secrets are involved. And in any case, your readers are adults — give them the facts and let them decide for themselves.

(2) Reverse liberal guilt. Too sensitive to right-wing accusations of being liberal, traditional media have overcompensated by becoming too timid in covering certain stories. They seem loath to aggressively report on scandals involving Republican politicians, in general, and this White House in particular.

(3) Blogophobia. Liberal bloggers scare the mainstream media. Media critics fret over our supposed lack of professional credentials, even though many of us are journalists. They doubt our facts but don't independently investigate the stories.
The lack of coverage plays into the hands of the White House. Mainstream media editors act as if our investigation of Guckert is about prurience and lacks merit. But there is more than enough evidence to make any reporter want to check out the possibilities of White House deception and media manipulation.

The Times' editors shouldn't allow themselves to think they are above the fray. In truth, they are failing to speak truth to power.