About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
The Bush administration buys news, getting closer to Orwellian society
Federal auditors (I repeat: Federal) concluded that the Bush administration violated the law in using public money to buy favorable coverage of news about Bush's "no child left behind" and other educational policies. Interestingly, such ruling comes with absolutely no provisions for punishment of the violators of the law, which raises questions about what the point of a law without punishment is actually supposed to be.
Regardless, it's still disturbing. The Government Accountability Office actually said that the White House has disseminated "covert propaganda." The auditors also commented on the fact that the Administration spent money to commission monitoring news coverage to see if its "message" was being reported: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."
Moreover, the Bush people engaged a woman named Karen Ryan to do a packaged television story about the Administration's program to provide remedial instruction and tutoring to children. After having presented the program in a positive light, the video segment ended with "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting." Except that this was no "report" done by an independent journalistic agency, it was paid for by the Bush administration, in an obvious attempt to deceive the public.
Again, the Accountability Office: "The failure of an agency to identify itself as the source of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual. The essential fact of attribution is missing."
Not quite Orwellian yet, but getting closer. And I predict decreased funding for the Government Accountability Office in the near future...