"State-run media" is a phrase normally reserved for regimes such as North Korea that manipulate and censor all public information. Media in the United States were thought to be free of such autocratic control, but recent maneuvers by the Bush administration should make all of us stand up and take notice.
After recent revelations that several "journalists" have been working as propagandists on the White House payroll, more are beginning to wonder how free America’s press actually is.
Each passing week adds a new chapter to the story line. In early January, the $240,000 Armstrong Williams took from the Department of Education headlined national news. This single event sparked public outrage and compelled 20,000 people to join Free Press in demanding that Federal Communication Commission Chairman Michael Powell launch a probe of Williams. Since then two other journalists have admitted being on the take: Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus.
Next came pseudonymous "Jeff Gannon" with his backdoor pass to the White House. Now we're learning the White House has set up a Social Security "war room" -- using taxpayer funds to aggressively lobby the press on behalf of Bush’s privatization plan.
Despite the cascade of criticism in the media and elsewhere, the Bush team continues to manipulate the press. Renewed tactics include the latest "video news report" propaganda designed to build support for Bush's education, Medicare and anti-drug and other plans. The State Department, Defense Department, Transportation Security Administration and Agriculture Department have produced similar "news" segments for local TV. All told at least 20 federal agencies have quietly used this tactic to cloak the administration's messages as objective television news. And it's all done at the taxpayers' expense.
We are witnessing a systemic pattern of abuse by an executive branch that is siphoning up taxpayer money to covertly manipulate the Fourth Estate. But while some in Congress have taken up the call for investigations, they have yet to raise this issue beyond a probe into a few bad actors, such as Williams, to finger the source of the problem.
It's against federal law to use public funds to infiltrate our press with "covert propaganda." minority calls for a concerted probe have sounded a hollow echo through the halls of the Capitol. Washington remains under the thrall of the majority Republican Party, which would rather ignore this simmering scandal. Moreover, Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department appears unwilling to take the next step: a criminal investigation into the administration’s use of millions of taxpayer dollars to push fake "news" upon Americans.
Washington’s silence speaks volumes. Without popular dissent, an emboldened White House will continue to throw up obstacles to full disclosure. It is now up to the public to do what our elected officials are unwilling or unable to: pressure our government to exert proper legal scrutiny of possible White House propaganda crimes.
This Free Press/MediaCitizen special report reviews the evidence and guides you to a series of actions you can take to defend our free press and turn the tide against government-sponsored propaganda.
1. A Propaganda Slush Fund Courtesy of U.S. Taxpayers
2. Jeff Gannon’s White House Maneuver
3. Armstrong Williams and the White House Payola Trail
4. Propagandists on the Pentagon Payroll
5. The Demise of FOIA and the Special Prosecutor