When I have a brand new video
From Mr. Bush, it’s such a thrill
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a shill!

When Rove says I’m cute and funny
And a reporter of the finest skill,
I just lap it up like honey,
I enjoy being a shill!

I flip when McClellan sends me pre-packaged
News reports to make their case,
I go on the air with no shame and
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!

I’m strictly a useless hack’s hack
And my future I hope will be
To sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom’s sack
Where I’ll be enjoyed like a whore from gay Paris!

When I have a brand new video
From Mr. Bush, it’s such a thrill
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a shill!

(with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein)

Can you blame me that, upon finding out, via Pam, that more faux news has been shilled out by Bush and the vast, fetid wasteland of indolent uselessness that passes as our media, I was inspired to song? Of course you can’t. The scheme is an exquisite muse, and generous, too, in her willingness to just keep on giving. Its audacity, its bravado, is stunning. Forget Chicago’s ghost-payrolling scandals; this is the true embodiment of the American dream—the ultimate in getting paid for doing absolutely nothing.
"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.
Gulp! said America. That was tasty! May I have another?
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.
Critics excluded, eh? Wait a minute, aren’t dissenting viewpoints supposed to be given equal airtime? Oh, that’s right. The Fairness Doctrine was crumpled up into a little ball, devoured by Reagan, and shat out into the Oval Toilet back in the ’80s.

The article offers example after example of this technique, including quotes from a television reporter who had no idea she was reporting on a segment for which interviews were conducted by State Department contractors. The administration got a hell of a lot of mileage out of its first-term PR budget of over $250 million.

The audacity of the administration, the complicity of the networks, and the unquestioning complacency of the American public have come together in an impressive triad of noxious disregard for honesty. The contempt which has been shown on all sides for the realities of the world in which we live has allowed a bubble to form, filled with disinformation, manipulation, and apathy, in which far too many Americans are only too happy to live in blissful ignorance. Meanwhile, anyone who might seek to discern and report the most basic of facts is summarily dismissed as a crackpot, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. How utterly, perfectly convenient for those who have nothing to gain and everything to lose from too close a look at the truth.

Let the propaganda machine roll.

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