I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: The era of classified documents and backroom scheming has gone the way of the elected president. U.S. leadersÐRepublican, Democrat, or corporate (pardon the redundancy)Ðfeel little need to conceal their criminal agendas. Someone, somewhere made the assessment that enough of us have been sufficiently indoctrinated. There is no longer any necessity to camouflage regime changes, carpet bombings, or tax cuts for the rich. Cloak everything in the robes of homeland security and the public won’t protest. In fact, many of them will line up to help.
In such an age, presidential handlers and their loyal media lapdogs feel secure discussing methods of manipulation. In a May 16, 2003 New York Times article (“Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights”) Elisabeth Bumiller tells us that the Bush administration is “using the powers of television and technology to promote a presidency like never before.”
Without a shred of scorn, Bumiller reports, “The White House has stocked its communications operation with people from network television who have expertise in lighting, camera angles and the importance of backdrops.”
She even gives a specific example. When President (sic) Bush spoke near Mount Rushmore last summer, “the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.”
“We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see” Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, told Bumiller.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but even Reagan’s string-pullers kept stuff like this under their hoodsSI mean, hats. Hey, who needs Chomsky when the Times is writing articles like this? We didn’t have to wait a few months for some brave soul to leak a confidential memo to Counterpunch or Democracy Now so we could all tsk, tsk, tsk in unison at such furtive fraudulence. The White House dupes us and then uses the allegedly adversarial press to crow about it. Such audacity renders impotent our media criticism and propaganda decoding. Like the target audience for Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the infamous Iraqi Information Minister, we’re not even expected to trust the company line…who has time for that?
“Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast,” says Bartlett. “But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators.”
An instant understanding…or as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf once said: 3The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies and more lies!2
MICKEY Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet and an editor at Wide Angle. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.