Reporter or Ringer?
DEPARTMENT OF PROPAGANDA George W. recently declared, “There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press.” Even as he mouthed the words, he knew that his administration is stomping on press independence every chance it gets. The latest revelation is that various agencies under Bush are sending out hundreds of government-made “news videos” to local television stations. The videos use fake reporters, extol the virtue of Bush policies, and are aired with no mention that this “news” is Bushite propaganda. George has been roundly and rightly blistered for this un-American scam—though he says he’s going to keep doing it. But what about his co-conspirators? Hundreds of corporate-owned TV stations have willingly participated in his tax-paid media campaign. You’re used to hearing television reporters give their signature tag lines: “In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting.” “This is Jennifer Morrow reporting.” “I’m Pat O’Leary reporting.” These days, you can’t know if your news presenter is a reporter … or a ringer. Karen Ryan, for example, is a veteran of the government’s propaganda machine, having posed as a “reporter” for fake news segments produced and distributed by seven federal agencies in the past two years. Ryan is really a PR consultant, who candidly calls herself a “paid shill for the Bush administration.” Likewise, Jennifer Morrow is a fake—that’s not even her real name. She’s really an employee of a PR firm, hired in 2002 to pose as a reporter presenting a gushing story about the work of Bush’s homeland security agency. Her “news segment,” paid for by us taxpayers and produced by the Bushites, aired all across America, with no mention that it was covert propaganda. Pat O’Leary is not a real reporter, either. He’s one of two full-time poseurs hired by Bush’s department of agriculture to produce videos that are shipped to hundreds of local stations and aired as “news.” They travel the country, often covering Bush’s secretary of agriculture—and their reports are unfailingly flattering, free of any critical comments from those who differ with Bush’s policies. No surprise, since their reports must be approved by the ag department’s PR office before being sent to your TV station. Many of the pre-packaged videos arrive with government-written scripts for the local news anchors to use as introductions to the video segments—and, sure enough, the station managers have the anchors mindlessly read them. The managers even make the government’s videos more deceptive by editing the tag lines used by the fake reporters. For example, WCIA in central Illinois routinely airs puff pieces produced by Bush’s ag department. These video stories end with a sign-off by the department’s fake reporter saying, “I’m Bob Ellison, reporting for the USDA.” The station, however, got the agency to alter the sign-off so it now says, “With the USDA, I’m Bob Ellison, reporting for The Morning Show.” This deliberate manipulation of our news is more than outrageous—it’s a frontal assault on our democracy and is totally disrespectful of the American people. It’s also a dangerous game for those playing it—the Bushites and the station owners are sabotaging their own credibility, which was not strong to start with. This is not about technical legalities, but about fundamental morality. Both the government and the media are claiming a right to lie to us. To learn how you can help stop your local stations from using Bush’s propaganda pieces, call Center for Media and Democracy: 608-260-9713 DO THE MATH Here’s a test: Would you lend $5 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money to a British-owned company so that it can make a profit by selling U.S. nuclear technology to China, which in turn is likely to copy that technology and become the world leader in manufacturing it? If that sounds like a good use of U.S. tax funds to you, then you’ve got a bright future at the export-import bank. Indeed, this is an actual loan approved by the geniuses at this bank—a bank that is supposed to help American companies increase their exports, ostensibly to create U.S. jobs. You can argue that few good jobs ever are created and that the bank is little more than a corporate welfare fund, financing projects that giant corporations can and should finance themselves. But at least such subsidies should go to American corporations. This one appears to do that, for the $5 billion loan technically would go to Westinghouse Electric to build four huge nuclear reactors in China. However, this nuclear division of Westinghouse was bought in 1998 by BNFL, owned by the British government. Our tax dollars are being used to protect the investment of Brits. But, wait, says the bank, this is about U.S. jobs. Some of the components of these reactors will be made here; 5,000 American jobs are involved. But $5 billion divided by 5,000 jobs is what? That’s a million dollars per job! Actually, this deal will cost us jobs, for the Chinese government says it fully intends to take over the manufacture of the American components BNFL is selling to them. If this makes sense to you, rush your resume to the export-import bank today. Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.