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Juke Box Journalism

Shilling for Bush

by DAVE LINDORFF

It seems clear now that the disclosure that two syndicated right-wing columnists were paid shills of the Bush administration posing as journalists is really just the tip of a grimy iceberg.

With the admission by Armstrong Williams that he had pocketed a cool $240,000 to pimp in his columns for the Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" program, and by Maggie Gallagher that she’d taken $21,500 to pimp for Bush’s "support for marriage" initiative (sexism is alive and well in the Bush White House when it comes to bribes), comes word that the administration has been spending $88 million on PR for its various schemes.

That’s the public’s money.

The likelihood is that there’s plenty more tainted cash that went to shameless hacks like Williams and Gallagher, though.

The irony in all this is that so much of the corporate media these days is pimping for Bush anyway. Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR at www.fair.org) has documented how ABC and NBC have skewed their coverage of the alleged Social Security "crisis" by implying that the bankruptcy predicted by Bush is a universally accepted reality, when it fact it is only a scare and wildly improbable scenario.

The coverage of the war in Iraq, which is going from bad to worse but which keeps getting positive coverage on all the networks and in the press, with wounded and killed Americans and U.S.-brutalized Iraqis kept out of view, could have been scripted at the White House.

Of course, maybe there are key players in all the editorial offices of these institutions, steering their coverage in a pro-Bush direction, but this seems unlikely. More probably, the media are behaving like administration PR outfits because it’s easy, it’s safe, and it’s cheap–and because shilling wins valuable points that can be cashed in during regulatory issues, as when newspapers seek permission to buy a TV station in their own circulation area.

Still, there is something almost smutty about well fed people like Williams and Gallagher taking money in return for writing positive stories for the president. There should be some kind of intellectual STD that you get for performing that kind of obscene act-something that causes warts to appear on the eyelids and the tips of the fingers or something.

Gallagher said she would have told her readers about her check, but she "didn’t remember."

Personally, I’d have a hard time in my income bracket "forgetting" a check for $21,500. I suspect that that is the case for most hard-working scribes, though maybe not for the coiffed airheads that grace the little screen, or for the people whose faces appear in thumbnails next to their verbiage on editorial pages across the nation.

Bush has called on his cabinet officers not to buy good press, though he has not called on them to come clean and report on the good press they’ve no doubt already bought. This is a bit like his telling his military not to torture after first authorizing a program of torture.

You can almost see the wink as he says it.

Just one more reason for Americans to doubt what they’re reading, seeing and hearing about this most staggeringly corrupt and power-hungry administration.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com