Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Bush Administration

Memo to various and sundry in the Bush Administration: YOU ARE DUMB.
Riddle me this, Batman: When is news... NOT NEWS? And I'm not talking about my usual hatred of the media wasting time and effort on unimportant shit, I'm actually asking a Gorshim-style riddle here. When is news not news?
When it's a government-prepared, ready-for-air video puff piece handed out to local news, complete with fake reporter and fake lead-in for the real anchor.
Apparently, Bush has an entire team of people working tirelessly to come up with new, outrageous shit they haven't gotten away with before. And after their success with "Let's give Cheney's company billions of dollars by bypassing the contract bidding process" and "Look! Over there! Uranium!", they've thought outside the box once again.
Faced with an increasingly uppity press occasionally willing to risk royal disfavour by mumbling "hey, that's not, um, true, you know" once in a great while, the administration figured they'd just eliminate the middleman and create their own fake press to get their own fake news out.
So they sent a happy little video about Medicare reform to local news stations. It's full of happy people talking about how happy they are now that they can finally afford their life-saving drugs since the President singlehandedly fixed Medicare.
The videos have everything. Well, ALMOST everything. They have an actress portraying a fake reporter, Karen Ryan. Hispanic viewers get a different fake person, Alberto Garcia.
They have astonishingly realistic dialogue, such as the following exchange between a customer and pharmacist: CUSTOMER: "It sounds like a good idea." PHARMACIST: "A very good idea."
It even tells the anchor how to introduce the piece: "In December, President Bush signed into law the first-ever prescription drug benefit for people with Medicare. Since then, there have been a lot of questions about how the law will help older Americans and people with disabilities. Reporter Karen Ryan helps sort through the details." Presumably, there's a different script for the Hispanic video, lest people grow wise to the fact that the beautiful Karen Ryan has transmogrified into the hunky Alberto Garcia.
In fact, they only left out one thing. Any kind of indication in the video itself that it's actually political propaganda from Health and Human Services. As a result, someone -might- get in trouble over this. Maybe. Some Democrats are yelling, and someone'll probably look into it, and if you check page 17B six months from now, you may find out how it all turns out.
The amazing thing is that I honestly expected local TV news to have more pride than that. Not more ethics, of course. Just, you know. A certain amount of pride that, no matter what sensationalistic or insipid crap they throw on the air, at least it's THEIR CRAP. Not some Stepford news that Big Brother Bush asked them nicely to run.
I mean, there was a bigger uproar a few years ago when Sony made up a fake movie reviewer to pimp its crappy movies and get quoted on posters. That was a HUGE scandal. I mean, if our movie reviewers aren't real, then who ARE we all stealing our opinions from?
It's just like I said yesterday, when I was discussing this with my pharmacist, Alberto Ryan. "It sounds like a dumb thing," I said, and he replied, nodding sagely, "Si, a very dumb thing."