Friday, May 30, 2003
After a slow news interlude, the web, this morning, is chock-a-block with interesting stories both big and small but the most interesting story by far is likely on the smaller site. The site is nuvo.net, the on line version of a 12 year old Indianapolis weekly newspaper and the May 28th story was linked through Buzzflash.com.
Headlined, Bush event misrepresented audience, the story reexamines the President’s May 13th visit to Indianapolis wherein presidential image polishers asked attendees visible behind Mr. Bush to remove their neckties:
That was the first thing,” said an Indianapolis resident who attended the speech and wishes to remain anonymous. “They told us to take off our ties. That was OK by me, mine was half-choking me anyways. I hate ties. But then, right before they started broadcasting, they stopped us again.” The anonymous source said that White House handlers approached dozens of people in the crowd, distributing white, button-down shirts…I called you guys,” said the source. “When I tuned in to the TV news that night, and saw what they’d done, I just could not believe it.” The source said he spotted himself in the audience, but that the woman beside him was black, not white. “I should know,” the source quipped. “She’s my wife and last time I looked she was white.”
NUVO was able to locate a smuggled amateur video of the Bush event, and by matching that document with the subsequently broadcast visuals, it’s clear that the Bush handlers manipulated the images of the audience to reflect more diversity of age and race than truly existed. In the fabricated broadcasts, blacks, Latinos and whites are evenly distributed in number, with the occasional Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander. Also evident are numerous hip-looking young people, ogling the president with absolute attentiveness. Our raw footage reveals an audience of predominantly white, middle-aged people…
This story, if true, makes Wag the Dog look like a civics lesson. While this unbylined story may be a joke it raises an interesting concept as the broadcast networks, in these days of unprecedented distrust and dwindling ownership, must be obligated to assure the public that images presented as “news events” are free of computer enhancement. Those of us in the viewing public should also realize that while computer “enhancement” usually is understood to mean eliminating imperfections those same computer programs can also add or magnify imperfections.
President arrives Booker Elementary, September 11, 2001
Paul Krugman, that beacon of light amidst the current chaos at the New York Times, thinks the 1997 film Wag the Dog bears a closer resemblance to the recent past than Clinton’s Balkan behavior:
An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public's consciousness. The 1997 movie "Wag the Dog" had quite a plot. Although the movie's title has entered the language, I don't know how many people have watched it lately. Read the screenplay. If you don't think it bears a resemblance to recent events, you're in denial…the administration has just derived considerable political advantage from a war waged on false premises. At best, that sets a very bad precedent. At worst. . . . "You want to win this election, you better change the subject. You wanna change this subject, you better have a war," explains Robert DeNiro's political operative in "Wag the Dog." "It's show business."
A final note: Showtime is filming a docudrama about Sept. 11. The producer is a White House insider, working in close consultation with Karl Rove. The script shows Mr. Bush as decisive and eloquent. "In this movie," The Globe and Mail reports, "Mr. Bush delivers long, stirring speeches that immediately become policy." And we can be sure that the script doesn't mention the bogus story about a threat to Air Force One that the White House floated to explain Mr. Bush's movements on the day of the attack. Hey, it's show business.
Lloyd Grove’s Washington Post column furthers the “it’s show business” theme with a Dick Cheney/Cindy Adams dust-up:
Vice President Cheney's office mobilized to DefCom 1 yesterday after New York Post gossip Cindy Adams claimed the veep had told subordinates: "The way to lick this recession is to get all those deadbeats out of the soup kitchens." A Cheney press staffer spent the day fielding breathless calls from a swarm of print and broadcast journalists as she frantically attempted to reach Adams…Adams answered her phone and breezily explained to the Cheney aide that the quote--sandwiched between items on Phyllis Diller and Keifer Sutherland--was a joke…"I don't see anything funny in this at all," said the staffer, who asked us not to name her…Adams told us: "Did you ever hear of anything so damned dumb in your entire life? It was a joke…Do people in Washington have no sense of humor at all? I've gotten quite a few annoying calls from the Cheney office today. All I can say is that young lady must have a poker up her pantyhose."
Finally, an indication in the Washington Post that Secretary Rumsfeld might want to consider attending a church service or making a good Act of Contrition after this surprising penetration of Pentagon security:
A dove, of all things, somehow flew in and made its way completely unhindered up to the fourth floor E-Ring, perching itself in the Air Force corridor.
This placed the offending harbinger of peace one floor up and directly above the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. (Actually it was a beige-y pink mourning dove, or Zenaida macroura…the frightened little critter, surrounded by hawks, flew back and forth in the corridor, landing on pictures of former Air Force secretaries, as perhaps 20 or so colonels and assorted staff ran about trying to capture it. Several distinguished visitors, including generals from foreign countries, walked by, somewhat alarmed at the commotion. The pursuers tried to corner the dove but no one had a net, though a box was tried. Catching it by hand, even when it alighted on the floor, proved impossible. And when they tried to corner it, the dove simply would fly over to another place in the high-ceilinged corridor. One concern was to keep the bird away from some glass doors which it might have tried to fly through. Finally, after about 40 minutes, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, who was last seen a year ago chasing and catching terrorists as a reservist with the Special Forces in Afghanistan, got up on a chair and threw his jacket over the dove as it sat on a lamp.
Photos: Matt Detrich, The Indianapolis Star and Jim Zingo