By Anthony Wade
As the grand altar for Bushism was being torn down after the convention and the presidential seal, which was illegal for Bush to use, was packed away; we all started looking down the stretch wondering where we go from here. Two months to go and the question I am being asked constantly is can Bush win? Of course he can. The second question however is HOW??? The answer to that question will determine the fairness of the election season. The answer is the media.
We have seen the deterioration of the effectiveness of the media over the past three years to the point that it is almost becoming obsolete for finding balance. Everyone likes to point to FOX News, because it makes an easy target. Clearly FOX should be housing their studios in the White House but this goes far beyond the fact that FOX is a propaganda arm of the Bush administration. The true foxification effect is not found on their channels but on the other "mainstream " media stations. We have heard forever, mostly from FOX, about the liberal media bias. This is obvious nonsense designed to make you think that CNN is the "Clinton News Network " and that FOX is merely balancing out the playing field. Nothing can be further from the truth anymore. No, the true foxification effect is that FOX News is so right leaning that it makes other news outlets seem moderate or mainstream, when they really are not. This was never more evident than during the MSNBC coverage of the republican convention. The "panels " that comprised the MSNBC coverage could very well have been booked by FOX staff. When the liberal voice on the panel has the last name of Reagan, we are in trouble from the outset. The democratic voices were all somewhat muted (outside of Reagan Jr., who tried his best to add some moments of sanity) while the voices on the republican side were not only shrill, but also most were former FOX News contributors.
Joe Scarborough was a regular on the Fox show, Hannity and Colmes during his reign as a Republican Congressman. He recently drew some unwanted criticism when he attended a Bush rally, as fan, not a journalist. MSNBC provided a lame excuse that Scarborough was an "opinion " commentator, not a journalist. During the convention, not only did Scarborough host the entire "after hours " MSNBC show which ran for a near two hours after each convention night, but he also served as a panel member for the portions hosted by Chris Matthews. Laura Ingraham is another former FOX News contributor who never wasted her opportunities to ridicule anyone from the left and be a blind supporter of president Bush. JC Watts is another former republican congressman who was a staple on shows such as Hannity and Colmes. These were some of the main guests on the MSNBC panels nearly every day of the weeklong convention. What do they all have in common? They are all shills for Bush, not journalists, or anyone who is interested in offering an honest opinion. Consequently, all of their reviews were glowing. This was not opinion, it was political propaganda disguised as journalism.
By contrast, the democratic voices were all moderate and taciturn in their attempts to comment fairly. The only extreme voices were those of Air America, which were only on the last night, after midnight, for a 10-minute segment. One of the most recognizable democrat voices on these panels was actor Ron Silver, who actually spoke at the republican convention supporting Bush! Often times you had 3-4 STRONG republican mouthpieces on a panel with ONE democratic voice. The result was an overwhelming softball piece from the network that claims to play "hardball. " The impression for the uninitiated who were watching was that EVERY convention speaker was great, Kerry was a boob, and Bush has a vision. No real dissenting opinions and those that were there, such as Ron Reagan Jr., were barely audible over the RNC talking points. When they were not gushing over the convention, they found time to mock Kerry for windsurfing, calling it a rich guys sport that won 't play well with middle America. When did millionaire George Bush become poor? Sure he owned the Texas Rangers but he bought his share with no money down and walked away with a profit of 14.5 million dollars! How does that relate to middle America?
There was no "reporting " or "analysis " going on here. No mention of how Guliani made 6 million dollars in speaking fees capitalizing on his role in 911. No analysis of how McCain later admitted that Fahrenheit 911 brought up fair points. Nothing but lip service paid to the gross hypocritical contradictions in Zell Millers speech OR that Cheney voted against the same weapons bills that Miller accused Kerry of voting against. No challenging of the lies that were pervasive throughout the convention. All you need to know to summarize occurred at the end of business Thursday. John Kerry was finally responding to the barrage of attacks and distortions heaped upon him throughout the week. He was speaking to a group of people in the mid west. MSNBC carried the beginning of the speech that finally saw Kerry hitting back, challenging Cheney and his five deferments. The public were finally hearing the other side after four days of relentless misrepresentations. That was until MSNBC cut away from the coverage before Kerry was done with his speech to go back to their republican panel. As they cut away, Chris Matthews actually said, "this is the president 's night " as the rationale. What??? This is supposed to be a news station! One of the candidates was speaking to the nation about the lies being spewed about him, and MSNBC cut away because it was the "president 's night?? " Shameless at best.
So, how do we move forward? The media must be held accountable, period. There are stories out there that have been under-reported, or not reported at all that need the attention that has been paid to the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush. The swifties have garnered ridiculous amounts of attention from the media over the past few months. A google search for SBVT returns 321,000 hits. This group has been so discredited, that it should not be discussed anymore other than to indict the Bush campaign for complicity, an angle that is barely covered. I expect such nonsense from Fox, but all the other stations are doing the same thing. There is now data that shows that the constant barrage of SBVT has had a negative effect on the poll numbers of Kerry. That is not surprising when it is all we have heard about for two months now! This was what they did against Gore as well in 2000. All of the stories during the Bush-Gore race centered on the allegations that Gore was a liar. Now, this was not true and any "reporter " should have been able to discern as much. Instead of rebuking the Bush spin machine, the media embraced it and Gore became the liar. Conversely, Bush could lie with impunity such as when he took credit for supporting a Texas patient 's bill of rights, when in fact he did not support it and it went into law without his signature. Now, four years later we see the same treatment for John Kerry. When another Bush operative is busted for being associated with the swifties, we barely hear about it, and when we do it is wrapped up in a criticism of Kerry, for not responding soon enough or for "opening this door " by making Vietnam the centerpiece of his convention. When the American people tune in to these perceived mainstream media outlets, they are actually getting, "FOX Lite ". I am going to outline some stories that should be HUGE coming down the stretch. Lets see how many of them you have heard about, and how much attention is being paid to them.
Ben Barnes vs. The Swiftboat Veterans for Bush
If you have not heard yet, Ben Barnes is a prominent Texas politician who says he landed Bush a coveted pilot spot in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War, and is now 'ashamed' of his actions. The explosive comments from a central player in the National Guard drama - captured on video and available online - have received just cursory coverage in the mainstream media since it was brought to light a couple of weeks ago. The ho-hum response stands in stark contrast to the media orgy that has greeted the hollow, secondhand allegations made about John Kerry's Vietnam service by the Republican-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has yet to make a single factual allegation stick about the circumstances surrounding Kerry's five war medals."
Barnes will be on 60 minutes this month and I hope that the media pays just as much attention to these allegations as they have to the swifties. Barnes' allegation makes Bush a liar as he has always asserted that he received no preferential treatment to get the guard spot he eventually went AWOL from. A current president found to have abused power to get into the guard in the height of the Vietnam War is even more newsworthy considering the propensity that president has for making war.
On the swifties end, we have heard very little about the connections found between this slimy group and the Bush campaign. Three members of the campaign have been found to also work with the swifties. Swifties literature was being passed out at a Bush campaign headquarters. Lastly, the Bush administration just handed a 40 MILLION dollar contract to one of the swifties. Where is the media on this subject? They have been talking about the damage done to Kerry, but very little about the truth behind this Bush sham. Pay careful attention to the 60 minutes piece and the media reaction.Experts Against Bush
Another story flying under the radar is this story about a group of former high-level diplomatic and military officials who have condemned the Bush administration's foreign policy and asserted that it has harmed national security. Calling themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, the signers include former senior military commanders and 20 former U.S. ambassadors, many of who were appointed or served in Republican administrations. The statement was prompted by concerns "we are on the wrong track, and we need a fundamental change," according to one of the signers, Phyllis Oakley, a deputy State Department spokeswoman during President Reagan's second term. Oakley said the group's members are senior, former government officials who "have spent their lives working to erect the stature and posture of the U.S. as a leader in the world ... and we simply see that edifice crumbling."
Oakley also said that releasing the statement was not an easy decision.
"We're all career [public] servants who have never taken a political stand," she said, " ... [but] what we want to get on record is our profound concern about the future security of the U.S."
This happened over a month ago, yet I do not recall any attention being paid to it. So a bunch of guys backed by the republican smear machine launch discredited accusations about Kerry and we hear about it from every angle but a respected group of former government officials condemn Bush and his policies and it is not newsworthy?
Part of Bush 's plan is to spin the economy as on the way back, turned a corner, and even if it isn 't, Clinton left the recession anyway. None of this is true according to any non-GOP expert, yet this remains so under-reported that all we are hearing is Bush saying everything is great and the slightest blip of progress is not presented with the overwhelming failure this president has presided over. Here are the FACTS:
The economy needs to create 150,000 jobs per month to keep up with new job seekers.
July created 32,000 jobs.
The 1.5 million jobs created over the past year that Bush hypes so much only keeps up with the new seekers.
Bush will need to create 900,000 new jobs before Election Day, just to get to ZERO jobs created under his watch.
362,000 new filers for unemployment last week alone.
4.7 million bankruptcies in the first three years under Bush.
Since June 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of adults considered "not in the labor force" - those who don't have jobs and are not looking for them - has grown by about 4.4 million, to 66.6 million.
45 million families without healthcare.
Three straight years of increase in the number of families living in poverty.
The top 1% holds 40% of the wealth in this country.
Bush has stopped using an independent economic agency that has tracked recession start and end dates for 40 years because it placed the recession within his term. Instead, he simply moved the date back so it would fall into Clinton 's era, with no proof or basis in fact. The inescapable truth is that the economy is an unmitigated disaster. The coverage of it is equally catastrophic, as they allow Bush to play it up without pointing out the glaring contradictions.Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been trumpeted all convention long as a success by nearly every one the speakers. The truth however is quite the opposite. Cheney said that Bush "drove the Taliban from Afghanistan ". Laura Bush said that women are "back at work " and little girls are learning to read again. Bush himself touted Afghanistan as success of freedom. The facts though are that the Taliban is still roaming to and fro, killing whomever they wish. It has gotten so bad that the puppet government installed by Bush is asking the Taliban to have a voice in the newly established government.
The Taliban is still wreaking havoc in Afghanistan and to Bush, that is a rousing success. No wonder, since he knows no one will call him on it.Iraq
John McCain stated this week that he expects us to be in Iraq for the next 10-20 years. Bush has already put in place the mechanisms necessary to re-institute the draft and without having to worry about re-election in a second term, there will be nothing to stop him from implementing it. Cheney has no designs on running in 2008 either, so you can guarantee the draft will be back to fuel the wars this administration has planned in Iran and Syria, not to mention the continuing the bloodletting in Iraq.
Within the Iraq quagmire, are other stories not making headlines. This week came the revelation that Halliburton is using our soldiers as meat-shields, accompanying their drivers around the war-torn country as bodyguards. Never mind that the Halliburton employee will be earning 3 times or more what our soldier earns, this policy is reprehensible and our soldiers are crying out for help through websites. It appears you will also not hear about this story from our media.
Another disappointing media blackout surrounds their refusal to challenge the president on the insistence of tying the Iraq war to the war on terrorism. This lie was repeated multiple times during the convention and will be a major part of the standard stump speech for Bush down the stretch. As Robert Perry pointed out last week, "Before a national television audience, Bush repeated his false account of the run-up to the Iraq War, asserting he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein refused to disarm or to comply with United Nations inspection demands. The reality is that not only did Hussein say publicly and apparently accurately that Iraq no longer possessed stockpiles of banned weapons but also he allowed U.N. inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 and gave them free rein to examine any site of their choosing.
As the saying goes, you can look it up. U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix said he was encouraged by the Iraqi cooperation as his inspectors checked out sites designated as suspicious by Washington but found nothing. According to Blix, the Bush administration then forced the U.N. inspectors to leave in mid-March 2003 so the invasion could proceed.
"Although the inspection organization was now operating at full strength and Iraq seemed determined to give it prompt access everywhere, the United States appeared as determined to replace our inspection force with an invasion army, " Blix wrote in his book, Disarming Iraq. "
Where is the media to challenge these baseless lies from Bush and company? If it is mentioned at all, it is treated like a theory, or opinion, instead of the cold hard facts. That is what is wrong with the media. Facts are treated as possibilities and the truth suffers.Election Shenanigans
Considering the sham in Florida in 2000, you would think the media would be all over any story related to election problems this time around. Unfortunately, we have heard very little about a myriad of stories. The republican push to install computer voting machines could easily be explained by the fact that the three companies that produce the machines are all run by large Bush donors, one of which is on record as have said he wanted to "ensure the delivery of Ohio 's electoral votes to Bush. " As if this was not bad enough, there are concentrated efforts from republicans in many swing states, including Florida, to ensure there are NO paper trails for these machines. In each case the officials used the ridiculous argument that the democrats just want to question the reliability of the election process. How in the world can any elected official be against paper trails? More importantly, why hasn 't the media asked this question repeatedly, until something was done about it?
In a similar story, a Colorado company under contract to ensure that the nation's touch-screen voting machines are accurate has been a substantial contributor to Republican candidates and groups, donating $72,000.
Right now, there are computer machines that have been hacked into and proven to be unreliable in many swing states. Further compounding the doubt is the machines are made by companies that are beholden to Bush. Finishing off the problem is that republicans have made it impossible to do a recount because there won 't be any paper trails. The media has been far too silent on this story.Individual Liberties
As if things were not bad enough with the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft just announced (very quietly) a plan to place enemy combatants into "camps ", for the purpose of interminable detention. Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants. I am sure these will not be "happy camps. "
In the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, we see the true arrogance of the dictatorial nature of the Bush administration. Hamdi has been rotting in a floating Navy brig in Norfolk, Va. because the president said so. The Judicial branch of government disagreed with the over-stepping of the checks and balance system and told the administration to present the evidence they claim to have for holding him.
The government refused to comply with the federal judge who ordered that he be given the underlying evidence justifying Hamdi's treatment. The Justice Department has insisted that the judge must simply accept its declaration and cannot interfere with the president's absolute authority in "a time of war." I want to make sure you all got that. The system of checks and balances has been a central lynchpin of our government since its inception over 200 years ago. In three years Bush has decided he does not care what they say because "we are at war. " Here is the problem, as long as Bush is in office, we will be at war, and thus he has made himself into a despot. The case of Jose Padilla did away with the necessity of habeas corpus, and now, Bush has decided he does not need the courts. THIS SHOULD BE THE TOP STORY EVERY NIGHT UNTIL BUSH REALIZES HE CANNOT SUBVERT THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE AND OUR FORM OF GOVERNMENT. Not surprisingly, it has barely gotten any attention while we see 10 stories per week about the swift boat liars. When are we going to step up and demand that our media serve our interests?
The abuse does not stop there as we have been transformed into a police state. A 19 year old in Seattle was harassed by Secret Service at his job because he had a bumper sticker that said, "King George, Off With His Head. " Jeb Bush in Florida has sent state officers to intimidate elderly black women who were very politically active in getting out the vote. In NY, a judge has held the NYC Police Department in contempt of court for holding protestors for over 60 hours without being charged.
Throughout all of this, the media is silent. We hear clever tag lines and standard rhetoric but the big stories just waltz on by. You can turn into any mainstream media show and see the foxification effect in full swing. Arnold calls the unemployed "economic girly-men " and everyone is giddy that he was able to work it into his speech. Cheney is still receiving deferred compensation from Halliburton, everyone just marvels at how steady his speech was. Throughout it all we hear nothing substantial. We hear nothing about the impoverishing of this country, the destabilization of Iraq, the lies about Afghanistan, the healthcare crisis in this country, the Valerie Plame outing, the RICO lawsuit filed against the president, the deferred stock options from Halliburton that Cheney still has, the destruction of our environment, the elimination of overtime benefits for millions of Americans, the refusal to raise the minimum wage, the 40 million dollars handed to one of the swifties by Bush, Ben Barnes and any one of a number of crucial stories that the public used to rely on the media to inform them about before national elections.
Somewhere the truth is crying.
Anthony Wade is co-administrator of a website devoted to educating the populace to the ongoing lies of President George W. Bush and seeking his removal from office. He is a 37-year-old independent writer from New York with political commentary articles seen on multiple websites. A Christian progressive, and professional counselor, Mr. Wade believes that you can have faith and hold elected officials accountable for lies and excess.
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