On the Media

There's a reason that the Voice of America isn't broadcast domestically. It's been a given that it's at best bad form, and at worst Orwellian, for the government to propagandize to a domestic audience. Domestic government propaganda was the province of fascists and communists. Democracies didn't do that sort of thing. Under totalitarian regimes, after all, there was no free press; all press was either wholly owned or wholly controlled by the country's propaganda ministry. The VOA and Radio/TV Marti are controlled by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is made up of dems and repubs, with the chairman being of the President's party. It is an autonomous and independent government agency. It is nominally under the watch of the State Department; the Sec of State is an ex officio member of the board. The Bush Administration has pretty egregiously broken the longstanding ban on domestic propagandizing. It's yet another thing that the Right would have excoriated Clinton for, yet defends almost irrationally because it's Bush. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: This conservative commentator (featured on Townhall.com), was paid $240,000 cash money via contract with the Federal Department of Education to promote "No Child Left Behind." If the law is so great, why'd he have to go on the payroll to promote it? He ultimately apologized, citing the obvious-to-a-cretin conflict of interest. Yet the right merely cited to Kos and MyDD, which were paid by the Dean campaign way-back-when, and also promoted Dean on their blogs. (The "what's good for the goose" argument). Except that MyDD and Kos both disclosed their connections with Dean prominently on their sites; they both expressed support for Dean before getting paid; and Dean's money is far different from the taxpayers' money - you and I didn't pay to promote Dean on Kos & MyDD, but we did pay to promote NCLB on Armstrong Williams' apparently invisible TV show and column. Well, it's now become a pattern. From today's WaPo:
In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families. "The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children." But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.
So not only is the Bush Administration paying conservative commentators to commentate conservatively (I'll bet we're just scratching the surface, BTW), but they're even paying pundits to ghost-write for administration officials. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer were also predictably very impressed with the President's Inaugural Speech; they were positively glowing. Probably because they both helped write the bloody thing. As Atrios said, "That speech I helped write was great!"
The planning of Bush's second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about "freedom" and "liberty." That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them. One meeting, arranged by Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, included military historian Victor Davis Hanson, columnist Charles Krauthammer and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis, according to one Republican close to the White House.
Someone want to explain why these people had to be paid to promote administration policies? Someone want to explain why it's horrible evidence of liberal bias for CBS to have Dan Rather anchor its news, but it's ok for FNC Anchor Tony Snow to sit in for Rush Limbaugh? Someone want to explain why it's ok for the government to propagandize and proselytize to us by paying off pundits? Why is it ok that these pundits not disclose their payola? You know - Bush is a uniter. He's convinced both the right and the left that the country's going to hell in a very rapidly moving handbasket.

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