Sat, 27 October 2007
As if allowing Fox News correspondents to softball questions to a government official wasn't enough, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has taken it one step further and given a fake press conference.
According to this article in the New York Times, FEMA deputy director Harvey E. Johnson was asked friendly questions by FEMA staff members posing as news reporters. The fake reporters asked such hard-hitting questions as “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?? and, “What lessons learned from Katrina have been applied?? to which Johnson gave pat answers like “I’m very happy with FEMA’s response so far.? Is it me, or is this, a redux of "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie?" Beyond the ethical questions of a government agency staging a fake press conference, there may be a legal issue here.
Television stations across the country have been caught airing what are called "video news releases," (VNRs) which are essentially commercials for a particular product or service, but which are designed to look like a legitimate interview. FCC regulations require that any paid programming or content like this be clearly labeled on the screen as such, and stations which do not follow this protocol face fines, and possibly further action for repeated violations. Now it seems the government is in the VNR business. But then again, they have been since at least 2001.
Nearly every press conference or public appearance by President Bush has involved complex sets with catchy slogans, video screens, PowerPoint presentations, and a carefully vetted crowd. Any protesters who fall through the cracks are drowned out by planted audience members who will begin chanting "USA! USA!" at a moment's notice. Apparently, that is not enough, though. FEMA has taken it a step further and eliminated those pesky reporters who may ask a question that demands more than a "heckuva job" answer.
News services were given 15 minutes' notice that the conference was going to happen, which was not nearly enough time to get enough people together. Reporters were given a toll-free line to listen to the dog and pony show, but had no way to ask questions of Mr. Johnson. The response from the White House has been mostly a slap on the wrist with a cotton swab. White House spokesperson Dana Perino's statement said in part, "It’s not something I would have condoned," and "And they — I’m sure — will not do it again.? No, not this administration!
Frankly, this gives me chills. Staged press conferences are nothing more than government propaganda. It doesn't matter whether there is a Democrat or Republican in the White House--or any other part of the government--it is wrong to dupe the American public like this. At the risk of making an appeal to prejudices, this is the same kind of thing that we condemned when the Soviet Union was presenting its Potemkin Village to the world, and now we are copying their best (or worst, depending upon your perspective) practices. This kind of behavior from our government officials is unacceptable, and we as the American people deserve better.
I am calling on my readers and listeners to call your Representatives and Senators and demand that a full investigation be initiated. We The People still have the power, and we need to use it--or lose it.
Category:Extras -- posted at: 8:59am EDT
Zila, Welcome to my blog, guy! I understand how easy it is to become cynical about things like this. The fact is, we do outnumber them. It\\\'s about time we make size matter. We can\\\'t give up. Nice to have you on board, Zilla. Make yourself comfortable and stay for a while. David
Unbelievable...except not really. I can\\\'t speak for the Democrats since they haven\\\'t been caught doing this yet, but this fits exactly into the Republican playbook we\\\'ve seen in the last decade, of molding facts and reality to suit a political agenda and score points.
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