Friday, October 14, 2005

Media No Longer Taking Flak?

Find the Flak
Our CEO president continues to treat news as widgets to be fabricated and sold to an unsuspecting public. Witness yesterday's Iraq war charade: a carefully orchestrated White House video link-up with Iraq that used U.S. soldiers as extras to shed positive light on Bush's war strategy.

We know this only because the media stunt was reported as such in the AP, the Washington Post, on NPR and, even "The Today Show." Such dogged objectivity is a new tack for many of our colleagues in the mainstream. But by revealing the man behind the curtain, they also lay bare the machinations of their own public deception.

That some in mainstream media are no longer giving this president a free pass to the front page is news in its own right. Bush's plummeting approval rating might have something to do with their newfound skepticism, which raises another issue altogether: It seems our media eagerly pile scorn upon a president when his numbers are down, but give him the benefit of the doubt when they're up.

This would suggest that mainstream media don't inform the public based upon the objective merits of a story, but merely tailor their reporting to respond to the flux and flow of popular opinion.

I'll leave that frightening theory to be sorted out by the media analysts at Pew and PEJ. For now, let's look at the propaganda at hand:

Reporting on yesterday's Bush-Iraq video-op, the Village Voice's Ward Harkavy finds that it involved an actor from within his own sausage factory. "The soldier on the left side of the front row was actually a flack herself, though she didn't reveal it during the regime's 24-minute infomercial."

The soldier in question is Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo; she works in public affairs for the military as spokesperson to the media. While she's emerged elsewhere in mainstream reports on Iraq, she hasn't always been identified in her role.

A New York Times' story from April correctly cited Lombardo as a "military spokesperson." Another report in the Albany Times-Union merely cited her as a "24-year Guard veteran." In his report, Times-Union scribe Tim O'Brien quoted Lombardo extensively as she praised the hard work of her division and drew special attention to their successful cooperation with local forces to "rebuild Iraqi infrastructure."

"I enjoy what I'm doing over there and enjoy getting to know the Iraqi people," Lombardo tells the Times-Union stenographer. "The support of my family has been tremendous."

It tugs at the heart, but there are likely more insidious forces at play. Lombardo's job is to make the handover to Iraqi forces look good. During yesterday's PR stunt, she got into a pre-scripted back and forth with the president:
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: I can tell you over the past 10 months we've seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. We've been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.

THE PRESIDENT: That's important. The American people have got to know — and I appreciate you bringing that up, Sergeant Major, about how — what the progress is like. In other words, we've got a measurement system —

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, together —

THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry, go ahead.

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: I'm sorry, just, together with our coalition forces, we've captured over 50 terrorists, as well as detained thousands of others that have ties to the insurgency. And I believe it is these accomplishments and the numerous accomplishments from our task force that will provide a safe and secure environment for the referendum vote.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. There's no question that we need to stay on the offense, and we need to stay on the offense with well-trained Iraqi forces, side-by-side the finest military ever — ever to exist, and that's the United States military.

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: That it is, Mr. President. Thank you.

Bush could have let the American people in on this political theater. He could have pointed out the flack as that person in military garb regurgitating the White House line. Instead, he pretended that Lombardo was a grunt, like the other soldiers seated at her side, engaged in a frank conversation about the state of the war. MediaCitizen has since discovered that Lombardo may not have been alone (read "Soldier Propagandist").

When prodded by reporters about the staged nature of Thursday's press event, White House press secretary Scott McClellan took offense: "I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?"

"But I also asked this morning, were they being told by their commanders what to say or what to do, and you indicated, no," responded a reporter in the White House press gallery. "Was there any prescreening of -- ?"

"I'm not aware of any such -- any such activities that were being undertaken," McClellan interjected. "We coordinated closely with the Department of Defense. You can ask if there was any additional things that they did. But we work very closely with them to coordinate these events, and the troops can ask the President whatever they want. They've always been welcome to do that."

McClellan added that the president wanted to talk with troops on the ground who have first-hand knowledge about the situation.

Lombardo's only fist-hand knowledge is in spreading propaganda. David Axe, the Village Voice's reporter in Iraq, told Harkavy: "Her job when I was with the 42nd Infantry Division included taking reporters to lunch. She lives in a fortified compound in Tikrit and rarely leaves. Many public-affairs types in Iraq never leave their bases, and they're speaking for those who do the fighting and dying."

Lombardo joins Karen Ryan and Armstrong Williams as the poster children for the White House's vast propaganda campaign. As more evidence comes into view, we're able to assemble a case against an administration that has gone too far, involving a systemic and quiet campaign to manipulate the Fourth Estate and sell the electorate on presidential policies. Though, if Bush’s sagging approval rating is any guide, Americans are no longer buying.

10-15 UPDATE:

1. MediaCitizen outs another propagandist in the mix of soldiers.
2. The Pentagon's laughable denial comes via Fox News.

10-17 UPDATE -- See the videos, hear the rehearsal:

2. CNN
3. NBC
4. NPR (See link in left column)
5. and, of course, The Daily Show


Guy Behind the Guy said...

I don't think you can classify Master Sgt. Lombardo with Karen Ryan and Armstrong Williams. They are journalists -- well, at least Armstrong is. Lombardo is a spokesperson for the Army. It is her job to get the Army's message out to the public. I didn't see the video conference, but I guarantee you that every soldier involved was prepped on key messages to convey, just as the president no doubt was. While it is galling that the administration has maniuplated some media for its gains, this particular soldier is not a proper example of that. She, like every other Army spokesperson or officer trying to keep morale up, tells the message she has been trained to tell.

Jaimie said...

I didn't see this, but read plenty of reports about it. How was it that the White House allowed the video of the rehearsal to get out? That couldn't have been deliberate.

R said...

I could tell she was a plant the minute she started speaking. She was the only one who opened with some "ad lib" BS about how good it was to be there with the huffing, shuffling, grunting moron-in-chief.

Anonymous said...

I don't care that Lombardo's "job" is "to get the Army's message to the public." The fact remains she is not only an actor reading lines but a disseminator of outright lies. If there ever are any war crime trials, what's her excuse? I was just following orders?

somebody said...

I would definitely classify "Master Sgt. Lombardo" with Karen Ryan and Armstrong Williams. She wears the fatigues like she's a real soldier, but she's a desk-jockey and a PR flak. She's a lying slag-whore who would doubtlessly be singing a different tune if she were involved in combat operations, watching her comrades die along with Iraqi fighters and civilians.

dave said...

why would another scripted news segment suprise anyone?the last five years has all been smoe,mirrors&bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Guy Behind,
Sure it's Lombardo's job to help get the message out. But in this little stunt, is she playing the role of an army grunt, without being identified as an army PR person? If so, then that's really deceptive. Of course, this is nothing compared to the overall disgrace of Bush's war and all that goes with it.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the notion that the media is finally turning on Bush--if indeed they are--just because of low poll numbers. Bill Clinton had approval ratings in the mid-sixties--at the height of his impeachment--and never got anything like the free ride that the "liberal" media has given Bush up until now.

If the media is finally coming around to reporting truth and not unfiltered administration spin, it's about time. But they're a day late and a few dollars short--they've got a looong way to go before they'll have anything like credibility.

Anonymous said...

The bloods of the dead and injured soldiers are in the hands of the whore Lombardo. She is Bush's evil Lucifer. She is just as SHAMELESS as Bush and Company.

She deserves a very long and painful death when it is her time to expire.

And there is no doubt all these SHAMELESS people would be having reunions in hell.

Anonymous said...

Bush administration lackeys at the CIA cover up bush's incompetence in capturing or killing the actual person who is responsible for attacking the US on September 11th!!!!

"Osama was there, we were aware he was there, and we were doing everything in our power to capture, kill him, and destroy his forces," says Bernsten, who was the leader of a secret CIA paramilitary unit pursuing bin Laden.

Remember what Bush-the-draft-dodger said!!!!

The president called his opponent's allegation "the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking." Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

These Busheviks have no shame. They will dress up someone who isn't on the front lines and have her play soldier. Betcha others in the photoop haven't got their hands dirty either. RW Conservatives can NEVER win an honest debate on issues; tis why the smoke and mirrors.

climbnyc said...

Maybe not the place to say it... but it's sort of odd that most of us anti-war liberals don't give a damn about the thick headed schmucks that join the army. We wouldn't, our friends wouldn't and we can't stand the patriotic blabber of those that do. On the other side, conservatives are generally not planning to marry somebody of the same sex, nor will they know those that do. Their sort will have an obortion, but keep it the dirty little secret they feel it should be, etc...

tiedye said...

The only reason any of the media is starting to get a spine is because Karl Rove is facing indictment.

For 5 years now, every time anybody said anything critical of Bush** on the news, their boss would get a phone call from Karl Rove.

R said...

The more I remember the exchange the angrier I get. Not only do they put this shill in there to coo how great it is to be with the chimp in chief, but they go on and on about how she was there in NYC after 9/11, and Smirky says "I thought you looked famliar."

If the media ---and we KNOW you read these blogs you dinosaurs--- had any conscience at all they'd run that quote "I thought you looked familiar" over and over with the ensuing story about how she was a plant.

Anonymous said...

Just when you think they have done it all, they come up with something new. It just never stops!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Although "flack" is technically the proper spelling to describe a publicist, I agree with the erroneous use of "flak" in this case. The constant barrage of deceptions and outright lies by the administration, including those furled by their dutiful foot- soldiers such as Lombardo, are the functional equivalent to artillery shellings on legitimate public discourse.

Anonymous said...

To climbnyc - while I can't argue with your assessment of the hypocrisy of the conservatives, I take extreme offense at you calling those of us who've chosen to serve "thick headed schmucks." I recently retired after 26 years in the Army. I'm a flaming liberal, living proof that there are atheists in foxholes, and am now an active participant in the anti-war movement. I joined the Army for a lot of good reasons, stayed in for better ones, and left when I could no longer stand what this administration has done to my beloved Army (the scripted photo op being the latest, but hardly the worst, example). The soldiers who serve today are for the most part the bravest, noblest, and most selfless people I know. They're also a cross-section of America, so you're going to get a few Lombardo's in the mix. All of them - even the Lombardo's - deserve far better political leadership than what the Busheviks have provided. Those who still believe Bush's b.s. will never come around to that if cowards on the left call them names and denigrate their service.

Oh, and, that part about you not caring about the soldiers - you and the neo-cons have a lot in common on that one.

Anonymous said...

Please get this to MSM

Anonymous said...

If any of you have seen the rehearsal video, the Pentagon Spokesperson, Allison B(something) tells Lombardo to "take a breath before speaking so that you are actually speaking to the President... that's a powerful message there." She is speaking in a peer-to-peer tone there. Alison B. doesn't say, "What you have to say is important, soldier." She just speaks to Lombardo the way a co-worker would to another co-worker, skilled in the same techniques. It's bone-chilling to watch, once you KNOW that Lombardo is a Flak.

Plus, what is the POWERFUL message? Well, that she was in NY in 2001. the powerful message is that NY and 2001 are the reason we are in Iraq. (well that's the message we are all supposed to get)

Interestingly, when speaking to Bush, does Lombardo flub when she says november 2001 (did she mean to say september?) Was Bush even in NY in November 2001? Can anyone find this out?

nicholas said...

So, the funny part is she was mostly likely there in NYC after 9/11. From Jan-Feb 2001, Guard Times, serving the New York Army and Air Nat'l Gaurd

Army Guard Names 'Best of the Best'
By Staff Sgt. Corine Lombardo
Guard Times Staff ALBANY From a peacetime perspective...

She was serving in the Gaurd in New York at the time, but she was serving as a journalist.

hughster said...

It's called a "feeding frenzy" and there's nothing new about it. I forget where I read a particularly nasty account of chickens pecking away at the bloody spot on another chicken until said other chicken expires from the attack. Media works the same way - you can either cast the weaker as the "underdog", as Bush was cast against Kerry (Kerry was cast as the "privileged aloof patrician" against Bush's phony "man of the people" act) or you can cast the weaker as a hopeless loser (Bush makes this latter role easy for the press - one might even claim he is typecast).

This would suggest that mainstream media don't inform the public based upon the objective merits of a story, but merely tailor their reporting to respond to the flux and flow of popular opinion.

So what's new? We've been told that we're interested in the private life of Hollywood[1] stars, would-be stars and ex-stars - we're force-fed a constant stream of drivel about them, and lo and behold, we are interested, and the news media keep plugging celebrity stories "because that's what the public wants".

I think the idea that the media, even the "serious" media, provide objective total coverage, is now shown to be complete TE[2].

What I think is really happening is that the media can see no long-term economic benefit to Bush's policies. An uneducated population doesn't buy or read print media. A dying economy scales back on advertising as the bankrupt population can't afford the goods and services on offer. Bush is bad for their business, and the sooner he and his crazy policies are disposed of, the better. If this also happens to make for entertaining news and feed the beast of public opinion, this is an added bonus.

[1] In the UK, it's the TV soap opera stars who make tabloid front pages for being caught in bed with someone they shouldn't be, or driving a car in a bent condition.
[2] Taurine Excrement

Rob Lewis said...

It seems our media eagerly pile scorn upon a president when his numbers are down, but give him the benefit of the doubt when they're up.

This would suggest that mainstream media don't inform the public based upon the objective merits of a story, but merely tailor their reporting to respond to the flux and flow of popular opinion.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Anybody remember the Reagan administration? Popular president = kid gloves from the media. His many outrageous whoppers were virtually never pointed out.

Robert L Bentham said...

senior did the same thing in gulf disaster 1. Christianne amanpour was there when they moved a hundred of us off the tarmac and said we were going to need to fall out and fall in over there. we weren't going to leave until we did so. the plane was loading and it was our turn to go home after a year what were we to do, gen bill pagonis and some saudi prince pulled up in two seperate limosines and then got out shook hands and we became the adoring masses...i turned to her and said something like what the f$$$ and she said "thats the news" these crooks should be frog marched to the hague...

Anonymous said...

Wake up! We all have a great big crown-wearing chimp on our backs!

Anonymous said...

Please, don't try to turn the main stream media into a hero for talking about Bush's latest fake photo op. They're just doing their job, finally.

Actually, it's their fault that Bush tried this stunt in the first place!

The main stream media has been an enabler for the Bush/Cheney administration since they stole the first presidential election. Plus the MSM were a direct participant in the smearing of Democrats like Howard Dean, John Kerry, and also whistleblowers and also anyone else brave enough to speak out against corrupt, incompetent Republicans.

Hey main stream media! You are just as dishonest as Bush! So get off your high horse you hypocrites! Do your job instead of being a branch office of Karl Rove's Ministry of Propaganda and Lies!

Kevin Schmidt

Anonymous said...

Yes, the media is late, one comment I read was they are a day late and a dollar short. It's more like 2 years late and Billions of dollars short! Where were they before the last election? And they are still falling short. There is so much corruption in this administration it is unbelievable. And it is the responsibility of the media to bring this information to the American Public, for all to see, even those with out access to the internet, so that we can make informed decisions when we go to the polls. The media failed this country as much as the Bush Administration has.

lebkuchen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Look at the long list of true Americans they helped to smear and destroy.

YOu make me sick MSM! Thank God for the internet, the only place left where we can get real, uncensured, propaganda free news!

Kevin Schmidt

Anonymous said...

Rove no doubt leaked the PR stunt.
If we know they are lying and they know we know-- yet continue to lie-- That's real Power--
rubbing their lies in our faces. They want us to know-- so now we can't say "we didn't know". And if we don't do anything about it--
its tacit consent. They're going after our souls. So we'd better have a General Strike or we're finished.

Mimi said...

Finally, the media is getting back in touch with the people of this country. I admire your efforts and encourage journalists to continue to be the "watchdog" of the leaders/misleaders of our country. We need a few more Woodward's/Berstein's. This latest PR move on the WH dishonors our troops and anyone with half a brain. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget, "Master Sgt. Lombardo" also said she was in N.Y.C. when bu$h was up there....and bu$h said..."I thought you looked familiar.." Well,..I guess she did.

Chris said...

It's a small point but I think, typical that if Master Sergeant Lombardo is indeed a Master Sergeant then is the President aware that he gave her a battlefield promotion to Sergeant Major ? Is he familiar with the rank structure in the military considering his short, ignominious stay there ?

Howling Latina said...

What, no wrinkles in his jacket from the unseen wires...?

Geez, I guess it was all prestaged.

unirealist said...

Never forget. Two years from now, let's have all these MSM whores in jail or hung from the lampposts.

Anonymous said...

About as convincing as an infomercial,

j said...

its about time for a mutiny amongst the troops.Because if these tools are leading the war offensive than the goal is truly lost.

what really needs to be said,is that we have no say nor leverage in this.We invaded and occupied a country based on a total lie.The iraqi citizens will never support us,its time to pull out now!

As for the enabling 10,these are traitors to their military and their country for sitting there and sucking up,they are definitely aware of that loyalty,heinous loyalty,will get them promotions and other lofty positions in the future.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing about Dumbya, he always has to cheat. It's the only way he can win. I can't help but recall his wearing a wire to the Kerry debates. Bush is a pitiful little creep. I can't stand the sight of him.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch bush's speeches anymore, he has no credibilty!! Mainstream media, IMHO has no credibilty either.

In fact I no longer watch cable news, it's too depressing.

I wait for Jon Stewart's recap, far less depressing. Also Amy Goodman of Democracy has my confidence as a viable news source.

Nice board here!!

Anonymous said...

Nice piece!



Anonymous said...

Sure hoping for all reporters to get braver.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the focus should remain specifically on paid shills (Armstrong Williams, etc.) and pre-screened military personnel.

First of all, I get a bit incensed every time I see a military officer interviewed about Iraq in the televised media. Whenever the media are rebroadcasting events originally aired by governments with which we disagree, they go to great lengths to inform us that these are comments from a "controlled" source where individuals don't have the freedom to express their views.

Almost every time an American officer is interviewed in Iraq, their words are carefully chosen and the correct phrases are inserted, usually administration catch-phrases for whatever is the current situation.

The reason for that is obvious... they are not allowed to speak freely. It is against the law (military law) for them to oppose their chain of command or commander-in-chief in these interviews.

Does the interviewer inform the viewer of this fact? The answer is no. Instead they just gaze admiringly at their heroic guest.

Personally, I've had it with "supporting the troops." I support the troops that refuse to engage in an illegal war. I support the troops that refuse to torture, kill, and maim prisoners of war.

I support troops that live a life that exemplifies the truths and principles upon which this country was founded.

The American soldiers that participate in these pre-selected and rehearsed propaganda sessions for Bush and Rummy? They are NOT American heroes, they are just plain thugs.

Anonymous said...

Media becoming truthful - naw....

Rats leaving the sinking ship - like Powell and his pathetic stain on his character - they think they might redeem themselves for the atrocities they've supported, ney, PROMOTED, until now.

reference librarian said...

'claque' might be a better word than 'flack'.....perhaps the former is being replaced by the latter...?

Anonymous said...

Apparently MSG Lombardo's husband commented at this blog whose author has been attempting to contact her for an interview.

It's disappointing that above and beyond the entire incident being a fake (scripted and rehearsed), the White House had to use public relations flacks and propagandists in uniform to spread their spin - instead of allowing a real random sample of soldiers to speak freely with Bush. :(