Sep 12, 2005

Fourteen days later, and the media still has no backbone

As Simon Dumenco from Ad Age says in today's opinion piece, PR can only go so far. Dubya relies so much on Karl "Doughboy" Rove because he thinks that he can win people over by being charming, funny, and positive. By doing this, Dubya hopes that the idea of positivity and success will just permeate every aspect of the situation. It's this type of slight-of-hand that he uses with regard to Iraq. And now, with Katrina.

It was, of course, just the latest highlight in his career as chief marketing officer for the Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld neo-con agenda. It’s a job that entails always sticking to a breezy, upbeat storyline. It’s no surprise that Bush took this PR-trumps-action tack for Katrina. For much of his five years in office, he’s seen that putting a faux-cheerful, faux-hopeful spin on even the worst calamities (see also: the war in Iraq) meant that a cheerful, hopeful spin would automatically float to the top of the memepool, at least momentarily. If he kept repeating these faux-cheerful, faux-hopeful things ad nauseum, he’d have a great shot of at least partially obscuring all the actual rotting nastiness lurking below the surface.

Maybe visualizing success works with perfecting your golf swing, making that basket, or serving that ace. But good PR is no substitute for solid, concrete leadership. And action. And results.

Not here. Not when people are still displaced. Still desperate to find and reconnect with their loved ones. Trying to give their families a proper burial.

And especially not when it's revealed that your corporate buddies are poised to make a few cool million bucks off of this tragedy.

"It smells so much like cronyism and you've still got people sleeping on floors," [Rev. Jesse] Jackson told Reuters.

Not-My-President, beginning his second tour of hurricane-and-flood ravaged New Orleans, denied vehemently that the delay in relief response from the federal government was racially motivated or that the war in Iraq affected the amount of resources needed to help these people out. He says it's "preposterous" to even suggest that.

Spin it however you'd like, Dubya, but we now know - through the ham-handed actions by you and the rest of your administration - how much you really care about the American people. Which is to say, not very much.

In fact, NYT columnist David Brooks revealed on The Chris Matthews Show on 9/11/05 that from the early days of Dubya's administration, their tactic from Day One was to shield itself from political damage by never publicly admitting to making a mistake - even if it included lying to the media and the American people.

As Media Matters reports, in the past, Brooks has commented on BushCo's unwillingness to admit mistakes:

In his November 2, 2004, column, Brooks wrote: "I'm exasperated at the Bush communications strategy. His advisers came in with one rule: no concessions to elite opinion. They decided not to be open on how they make decisions. They would never admit mistakes."

In his September 9, 2003,
debut as a Times columnist, he noted: "The Bush administration has the most infuriating way of changing its mind. The leading Bushies almost never admit serious mistakes. They never acknowledge that they are listening to their critics. They never even admit they are shifting course. They don these facial expressions suggesting calm omniscience while down below their legs are doing the fox trot in six different directions."

On the November 14, 2003,
broadcast of the NewsHour, Brooks said of the Bush administration: "Well, the good news about them is that they won't admit mistakes, but they are ruthlessly pragmatic when forced to be."

But it was not until his appearance on the Chris Matthews Show that he mentions how BushCo is intentionally decieving the American public.

MATTHEWS: Do you think there's a problem with this? I remember when the president wrote in his diary -- his father, President Bush senior -- "you know, I picked [former Vice President Dan] Quayle the first time around, and I wish I hadn't. But I'm stuck with him, and I can't admit it." Is there a problem with this president simply admitting, "I put the wrong people at certain jobs, I didn't get back fast enough to the White House, I wasn't calling the orders fast enough?"

BROOKS: From Day One, they had decided that our public relations is not going to be honest. Privately, they admit mistakes all the time. Publicly -- and I've had this debate with them since Day One; I always say admit a mistake, people will give you credit --

MATTHEWS: Who do you debate this with?

BROOKS: With people who work in the White House.

MATTHEWS: I thought you were talking about with the president in the back room. [laughter]

BROOKS: Not with him, but they represent what he believes, which is, if you admit a mistake, you get no credit from your enemies, and then you open up another week's story, because the admission of a little mistake leads to the admission of big mistakes and another week's story. It's totally tactical and totally insincere.

Why the media continues to soft-pedal around the actions of this administration is beyond me. You know for a fact that the Bush administration makes it part of their policy to lie to the media and the American public - on purpose - and you don't say anything about it until now?

FEMA tells you not to photograph the dead bodies? You become a collective of cringing violets.

Obviously, if the public knew about all of this bullshit, Dubya and the rest of BushCo wouldn't be in office today. To be sure, there have been some journalists who have actually spoken out. But I want more. I want a collective voice to rise up. I want the media to again become a government watchdog instead of a government mouthpiece.

Unless, of course, you look to bloggers to do your job for you.


Brother Kenya said...

Great post, Mags. Jeez, my blood is boiling these days!

revi said...

I've been trying to figure out exactly what would wake up the apathetic and disenfranchised in this country. I want to hear the squeal of chair legs against the floor as this country rises up and says, "I'm not taking this anymore!"