Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Pyongyang on the Potomac: Part II

Following revelations that the Bush White House paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to tout the president’s “No Child Left Behind” program, Melanie Sloan at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with 22 agencies seeking similar arrangements with PR firms and pundits. Let the Washington witch hunt begin.

SIDEBAR: The White House is not alone in efforts to buy "the filter." This from the banks of the Tigris.

FOLLOW THROUGH: MediaChannel coalition partners at Free Press are calling on Americans to urge Congress and the FCC to launch a "thorough investigation and introduce legislation to outlaw 'payola punditry.'" Writes Ben Scott, "Among the first questions investigators must answer is how many other pseudo-journalists are on the take?"


George said...

Why the conservative media and its talking heads seem to be on the same page? As if they're fed the same lines (read:lies)! We need to strengthen our progressive voices, in print, tv, and in radio. We have to challenge those morons. We have better arguments. Perhaps we thought that the people wouldn't buy idiotic claims and would see through the smokescreens. Not so! A lie if often repeated and the bigger it is, the more traction it gets. See how failure is rewarded by Bush. Where is the outrage for incompetent people being hired, promoted, given presidential medals, etc?!!!

Com'on, we have the resources, but we should start spending wisely, and not on the Beltway Dem pundits and other insiders who've been losing elections for us, and now are trying to move the Dem party closer to the conservative side.

By the way, I don't expect to see the same self-critique of CBS (Rather's mistake) exhibited by those media that give open microphones to the likes of Williams, Coulter, O'Reilly, Hanity, etc. Disgraceful, but it's reality. What are we doing about it?!!!

Anonymous said...

It appears that the Republican Party has turned into a marketing machine--and it has shaped the American public opinion for a long time--Williams said there are more out there that's taking money to promote the Bush policy's--thank you Melanie Sloan--this could be the most important story of 2005--Virginia Johnston--Gainesville, FL

Anonymous said...

Other issues at stake:

Exactly who decided to spend Education money in this way? Who is investigating to find out how this happened? Why are the American people not more concerned about this? What happened to the other 1.25 million dollars that was doled out to other writers, and who were the other writers?

Anonymous said...

As so many others have said, why am I not surprised? With all branches of government under the control of a small group of ideologue neoconservatives, there isn't much chance that this will be reversed. What would surprise me is if FOIA will even be honored. All they have to do is delay--something they are very good at, anyway. We are unlikely to impede anything this administration wants to do. I'm too old now to resettle in another country, or I would seriously consider doing so. After 75 years of loving my country (and serving in its armed forces), it pains me deeply to see what is happening.

Shel Horowitz, author, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green said...

Several other cases have now come to light. I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg, that the Bush administration has a whole collection of paid undercover lobbyists masquerading as journalists.
Back when I was studying journalism, a certain degree of ethics was understood. Sad days!

In an op-ed by Andrew Rotherham called "No Pundit Left Behind," The New York Times called the Williams caper "a stunningly inefficient use of public dollars - every bit as redundant as paying football fans to watch the Super Bowl."

Because I write about business ethics--I'm the author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First--I find this story, which combines the public and private spheres in yet another act of blatant corruption, particularly instructive. First, Williams should clearly have reveled he was a paid lobbyist. Organizations such as Public Relations Society of America are very clear that failure to disclose a financial interest is a definite no-no for PR folks. If Williams hadn't stumbled across the PRSA Code of Ethics, surely his own common sense would tell him that when you shill for a special interest, the relationship ought to be disclosed.

Of course, those of us who have followed the various scandals and mismanagement accusations connected with the Bush administration shouldn't be surprised. The more they play the values card in public pronouncements, the more dirt shows up with a little scraping. I can't remember an administration as obsessed with having everyone follow the party line, regardless of the consequences, and so quick to apply double standards on matters of truth, special interest relationships, and their own accountability.

I'm not being partisan, here. The current group is amplifying a trend that can certainly be traced at least as far back as the LBJ administration--but Johnson and Nixon and Clinton were amateurs. As a populace, we need to demand accountability, and not spin--not only from any presidential administration, but from the media that supposedly have the job of keeping them honest.
This story is breaking all over the mainstream press--but so many others are either buried on page 46 or left to the likes of the highly partisan Internet news organizations of the left and the right.

Personally, I think America would have just as much appetite for substantive news as it does for the latest celebrity trial or "reality" TV show (sure doesn't look like *my* reality!)