GOP: Grand Old Propaganda

In the wake of past propaganda scandals in the Bush regime, we should take a moment to recap.

The Health and Human Services Department hired a PR firm to promote new policies, using a paid actor to play a journalist. They then distributed the newsreels to local affiliate stations as "news."

This was uncovered with muted reaction.

Armstrong Williams, former aide to conservative justice Clarence Thomas, was paid $250,000 to promote the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. He said about promoting the Bush education agenda, "I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in."

Did he believe in it before he was paid a quarter of a million dollars? Not as much. After accepting the payment, he had a "contractual obligation" to promote the destructive education reform.

"In this era of huge corporate media, it is becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between news and entertainment, to differentiate between information and propaganda," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said.

Any reasonable person could not help but agree.

Now the eye of counter-propaganda has looked upon Jeff Gannon. This toady has been invited to White House press conferences to throw softball questions at Republicans in trouble.

The White House press room is now infamous for not inviting back any reporter who dares to ask a tough question. But when they do, the president, or his press secretary, knows that he can immediately say "Next question. Yes, Jeff?" and get the conversation back on safe ground.

Having a sympathetic reporter is not noteworthy. Having a propagandist, however, is. Gannon writes for "Talon News." The name may deceive you into thinking it is a credible news source, but in reality most of their articles are cut-and-pastes from RNC talking point sheets. Some reprint up to 50 percent of their content.

The editor-in-chief of Talon News is Bobby Eberle, a wealthy GOP operative, who, according to his own web site, was "recognized with a unanimously approved resolution of commendation by the Republican Party of Texas for service and dedication to the Republican cause." In the last four years he has "donated" $59,550 in disclosed contributions to the RNC and its candidates. He also heads GOPUSA.com, whose stated mission is "to spread the conservative message throughout America."

This "editor-in-chief," who has a vested political (rather than journalistic) interest, has sent one of his "reporters" into the White House press corps to ask the president some easy questions. Was this done in collusion with the White House or in ignorance?

It’s obvious.

The Bush administration is paying people to disseminate their point of view. And it pays well. A conservative radio host on 630 WMAL auctioned his services off recently on eBay. How much worse does this have to get before something is done?

The whole problem is, if an outcry is made, who will report it? NBC, owned by General Electric, which gave $757,386 to the GOP in 2004? Clear Channel Communications, which owns radio and television stations in nearly every county in the nation, and gave twice as much to Republican candidates as to Democratic? Should we count on Fox News to reveal the extent of the administration’s propaganda tactics, when they feature those same paid commentators as "fair and balanced" sources?

It would be much easier to just get our news directly from the government, straight from the elephant’s mouth. In early 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proposed doing just that with the creation of the "Office of Strategic Influence."

This office’s purpose was to provide news items, true and false, to news organizations.

Within the week, so much condemnation was showered upon the Pentagon that it announced the OSI had closed. That’s right, this clandestine office responsible for putting out false press releases put out a press release that it was no longer functioning.

Watch television and learn nothing. The only way you will uncover this broad assault on our press is to read publications untainted by corporate sponsorship. All else have a vested interest in propagating the myth that there is no conspiracy – until it becomes too relevant to ignore.

Chaelan MacTavish can be reached at [email protected]vanguard.com.