(By Ray D.)
Watch out world! SPIEGEL ONLINE has once again uncovered evidence that the US media is firmly in the grasp of the Bush administration and its well-oiled propaganda machine!
That's right! The American people are being influenced by the Bush administration's deviously clever manipulation of the television news. In an article entitled "Bush's Perfect Propaganda Machine," SPIEGEL ONLINE points to a report in the New York Times detailing the US government's increasing use of "prepackaged TV news." SPON writes:
"The US government offers a service for American local broadcasters that they are using more and more: Complete news reports. The original source gladly goes unmentioned. In this way the administration elegantly delivers its view of things to the people.
Hamburg - The Bush government is using a method that PR agencies have successfully used for years. Prepackaged TV news reports are sent to TV stations that thankfully take the material because they are often financially strapped. According to a report from the "New York Times" this type of propaganda has dramatically increased in the past years."
Of course SPIEGEL ONLINE conveniently fails to mention these quotes from the very same New York Times' report:
"The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts. (...)
Federal agencies have been commissioning video news releases since at least the first Clinton administration. (...)
Under the Bush administration, federal agencies appear to be producing more news releases, and on a broader array of topics.
A definitive accounting is nearly impossible."
In other words, the practice is hardly unique to the Bush administration. It was widely used by the Clinton administration and continues to be widely used in the private sector. The New York Times' claim that the practice has increased under Bush may well be true. However, the newspaper openly admits: "A definitive accounting is nearly impossible."
Speaking of accounting, even SPIEGEL ONLINE cannot completely ignore the obvious fact that the individual television networks are ultimately responsible for the news they run and how it is presented. The article's (you guessed it) final paragraph reads:
"The US government rejects the propaganda claim of the newspaper. It is ultimately the responsibility of the broadcaster to inform that reports on government policy came from the government."
Unfortunately, SPIEGEL ONLINE's "Bush's Perfect Propaganda Machine" is itself part of a propaganda-like campaign on the part of many German media outlets. The objective is to convince the German people that the majority of US media are dominated or at least strongly influenced by the Bush administration.
Many Germans have even been led to believe that most US media are "gleichgeschaltet." In other words, many Germans have come to the conclusion that the majority of US media display a uniformity of opinion that strongly favors the President and his policies, particularly when it comes to the Iraq war. SPIEGEL ONLINE's article, "Bush's Perfect Propaganda Machine," must be viewed in this context to be fully understood by outside observers.
Bush's Perfect Propaganda Machine...Apparently Not So Perfect
The problem with the "gleichgeschaltet" idea is that it is factually untenable. To put it another way, it is ludicrous bunk.
A recent study conducted by Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism provides enough evidence to quickly demolish the notion that American television network media are dominated or even significantly influenced by a Bush administration's so-called "perfect propaganda machine." (It should be noted that Columbia University, located in the heart of New York City, is hardly a bastion of conservative, right-wing, Republican thought.)
The study found that in the critical period leading up to the 2004 election, television network news' reporting was overwhelmingly biased against President Bush:
"In the closing weeks of the 2004 presidential race, the period dominated by the debates, President George W. Bush has suffered strikingly more negative press coverage than challenger John Kerry, according to a new study released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
More than half of all Bush stories studied were decidedly negative in tone (1). By contrast, only a quarter of all Kerry stories were clearly negative. (...)
Stories primarily about the President were more than three times as likely to be negative than were stories mostly about Kerry (52% Bush versus 17% Kerry).
Negative Bush stories also outweighed positive ones. Only 15% of Bush stories on TV cast him in a clearly positive light. The largest number, 33%, were neutral.
Kerry fared far better. Indeed, his coverage was more than twice as likely to be positive during this period as negative. Fully 57% of stories primarily about Kerry were positive and another 26% were neutral.
Most of the network TV stories were not solely about Bush or Kerry but discussed both candidates. While these stories tended to be more neutral than stories about primarily one candidate or the other, even here there was a pattern of Kerry coming out better. In all, 11% of these stories were clearly negative about Bush, versus 4% for Kerry. Likewise, 16% were positive about Kerry, versus just 7% about Bush."
Remember, these are the very same television network news channels that, according to SPIEGEL ONLINE, have been so cleverly and "subtly" influenced by the "Bush administration's perfect propaganda machine." In light of the facts, it would appear that "Bush's perfect propaganda machine" is not nearly so perfect or influential as SPIEGEL ONLINE would like its readers to believe.
The major problem is that studies like the one carried out by Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism are never mentioned by SPIEGEL ONLINE despite the fact that they are widely published and readily available in journalistic circles. Why? Because the facts that they present don't fit into the publication's portrayal of the United States as a nation hijacked by scheming neo-cons in which the devious hand of the Bush administration is stealthily controlling the nation's media.
To understand this phenomena of denial, it is critical to understand "root causes." Sadly, SPIEGEL ONLINE's readership has developed a junkie-like addiction to the vilification of the United States that the news magazine now feels obliged to supply. To present facts contrary to this general view would mean to deeply upset the addict-pool. And that would directly upset SPIEGEL's cash flow. So is it any wonder that America-friendly token articles by Henryk Broder and others have become so few and far between of late?
Simply put: SPIEGEL ONLINE's "Bush's Perfect Propaganda Machine" is yet another classic example of the triumph of sensationalism and bias over substance and balance in the German media. Put another way: If you don't like the facts, just ignore them! We wouldn't want to upset the junkies, now would we?
(Note: Emphasis ours in quoted sections throughout the text.)