Thursday, December 01, 2005

Manufacturing Fake News

The War on the Press
The Bush administration has mounted a widespread effort to produce “video news releases,” or VNRs, which are broadcast as real news to millions of unsuspecting Americans. At least 20 federal agencies have distributed this propaganda.

The White House has spent more than twice any other administration to create counterfeit news. In 2004 alone, the Bush administration spent $90 million on PR contracts, drawn from a $254 million taxpayer slush fund set up to manufacture White House-friendly propaganda.

Thus far, four separate Government Accountability Office investigations have found the White House violated laws that prohibit government use of taxpayer money to spread “covert propaganda” without attribution. Objectionable activities include a video news release where PR flack Karen Ryan gives the Bush tutoring program “an A-plus”; and commissioned newspaper articles that praised the Education Department’s role in promoting “science literacy.” Readers were never informed of the government’s role in placing the article, which appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country.

The GAO’s pronouncements against un-attributed propaganda have gone unheeded. Press officers for several of the federal agencies in question recently told the New York Times that disclosure requirements did not apply to government-made television news segments, which they insisted are “factual, politically neutral and useful to viewers.”

On September 30, the GAO correctly shot down that sophistry, saying that pre-packaged government news is inherently not factual because “the essential fact of attribution is missing.”

While some in Congress have taken up the call for more investigations, they have yet to look beyond isolated incidents. As more evidence comes to light we’re able to assemble a case against this administration that goes much further, involving a systemic campaign to covertly manufacture news and manipulate public opinion in favor of presidential policies.

To read the rest of the report on the attacks against journalism, follow these links:

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