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Contempt for the Truth
A s has been much ballyhooed in recent months, the Bush administration likes to keep “journalists” on retainer. The Department of Education hired conservative commentator and columnist Armstrong Williams to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act on his television program. The Department of Health and Human Services paid conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher to write brochures and to ghostwrite a magazine article promoting heterosexual marriage. Gallagher also promoted Bush’s marriage initiative in her syndicated columns. Likewise, Michael McManus, another conservative syndicated columnist, was paid to promote Bush’s Community Healthy Marriage Initiative and did so in his columns.
Then comes the story of Jeff Gannon or James Guckert or whatever his name really is.
Gannon/Guckert, a “reporter” for Talon News and GOPUSA, was consistently granted day passes to White House press briefings despite the fact that the White House knew “Jeff Gannon” was a false name. He continued to receive such passes and was selected to question the president at a press conference, even after Ari Fleischer suspected back in 2003 that Gannon/Guckert was a GOP shill. Fleischer’s suspicions were dispelled, however, after Gannon/Guckert’s boss, Texas GOP activist Bobby Eberle, assured Fleischer that everything was legit. Apparently, Eberle’s word was good enough.
Further blurring the already thin line between news and propaganda, Bush’s Office of National Drug Control Policy produced video news releases (VNRs) that looked like actual news segments and discouraged the use of illegal drugs. These VNRs were distributed to local news stations, which “mistakenly” aired them as actual news. Oops. Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services produced its own VNRs, which included newscasts and interviews to promote Bush’s Medicare reforms. The Government Accountability Office ruled that both VNRs violated statutory propaganda prohibitions.
Dissatisfied with merely misleading the public, Bush has resorted to lying to Congress as well. During the debates on Bush’s Medicare reforms, Medicare’s chief actuary, Richard Foster, lied to Congress about the estimated costs of the proposed reforms. As was later revealed, Foster was ordered by his superiors at Health and Human Services (HHS), under threat of reprisals, to withhold the cost estimates from Congress. HHS officials claimed they had the legal right to prevent the communication of truthful information to Congress. Aside from completely subverting the principles of democracy by forcing Congress to base a monumentally important decision on false information, the Bush administration also violated federal law. Not surprisingly, the Medicare legislation passed and the popping of champagne corks could be heard from corporate boardrooms across the U.S. Recently, the Bush administration revealed that the “new” estimated cost of Medicare was hundreds of billions of dollars more than it had originally claimed.
In the days immediately after September 11, 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency lied about the air quality and the dangers it posed to rescue and recovery workers. As concluded by the EPA’s Inspector General, the White House “influenced” the EPA to “add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.”
Leading up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush included in his State of the Union address knowingly false information about Iraq’s attempts to acquire yellowcake from Niger. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations patently false claims about Iraqi mobile labs, which were known to be mere weather-monitoring vehicles supplied by the British (a fact later acknowledged by Powell on April 2, 2004). The Bush administration claimed Iraq had aluminum tubes used for uranium enrichment despite the fact that the Department of Energy concluded the tubes could not be used for such a purpose. As a general matter, the Bush administration repeatedly accused Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that neither the IAEA nor UNMOVIC found evidence of prohibited weapons programs.
Of course, President Bush and his Administration are not the first to lie and manipulate information. They are, however, taking the practice of information manipulation to new heights. For instance, in 2004 the Bush administration spent 128 percent more on public relations than it did in 2000. In his first term, Bush spent nearly twice as much on public relations as Clinton, the previous champion of spin and manipulation. While our government’s penchant for lying to satisfy its political ends does not bode well for our so-called democracy, the media’s complicity and the public’s apathy bode far worse.
Ken Sanders is an attorney living in Tucson, Arizona.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.