September 10, 2005
-- by John Emerson
I just finished watching as much hurricane coverage as I could stand. A lot of it is down to the cute kids and pets level by now, but CNN just put out a full hour which seems to consist entirely of state, local, and federal officials explaining that a totally unforeseen "breakdown of social order" was the big problem in New Orleans.
As several people have said in the last few days, Katrina has mostly been dealt with either as a PR problem for the various jurisdictions, or else as a law and order problem to be dealt with by police methods. After a flurry of pretty good journalism during the heat of the action, a look at Google News seems to show that the progression to the business-as-usual regurgitation of the Bush Administration cover story (lawless elements, plus ineffectual state and local government) seems well under way.
Stay tuned -- maybe I'm wrong. Bush's poll numbers are low right now, but only time will tell us whether people really have turned on Bush, or whether what we see is just a fluctuation.
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You're absolutely right in where you're going. As the story moved from dramatic rescue in New Orleans to White House survival mode from the Beltway media, the tone has changed. They're desperate now, and they're pulling out all stops. Sacrificing Brown is a good example.
The problem is that there ain't no election coming up. If there were elections a couple of months from now, we might see a real payday for these Republicans. But no one can be "punished" now, so they've got plenty of time to wear everybody down with the propaganda.
Given our experience of the past five years, I'm not optimistic, although I'll admit many, many other commentators, including some Republicans, think this time may be different. I just don't think so.
I saw the same changes in the coverage that John Emerson refers to. Starting last weekend, the tone and text of stories started to shift toward protecting Bush and blaming others. And most important, the people appearing on television, the ones doing all the talking, were almost all pro-Bush flacks, in and out of government. As with every story in the last five years, everything these flacks said was broadcast uncritically.
The change wasn't from critical to supportive, it was from telling the facts to selling the story. What happened in those brief few days of honest coverage was that the Bush message machine was off-track. Most of them were still digging up dirt on Cindy Sheehan and pushing photo-ops and stories showing the president pretending to be a man. But once they got back on track, the machine worked just as it always does.
We should also consider that the news coverage that was broadcast by local TV stations, the shows that have the larger audiences and run twice a night, were never as brutally honest or critical of the government as the cable shows. The local TV news shows simply do not run that kind of story. They always show shocking visuals of disasters, and they love the rescued puppies and hardy Americans. But they do not run politically sharp stories, particularly of Republicans.
The shock troops of the Republican hate machine are the few million who can bury a local TV station in phone calls, e-mails and letters. These entities have been beaten so badly for so long that they no longer have the personnel or the institutional guts to bother reporting on national political stories.
Anyway, that is just one of the reasons that I, like Phil from New York, don't think this one is going to be any different. It is really very depressing.
Bottom line: Bush gets away with it, nothing changes in government policy and anyone questioning it will be destroyed and demonized by the right wing hate machine, with the assistance/acquiescence of the corporate press/media.
Yup. I was never taken in by the ephemeral "media awakening" that even fooled genuine smarties like Jeanne d'. The corporate media does not "do a bad job", or "get lazy", or "forget their real purpose" or do any of the many other things almost all lefty blogs bemoan. They do their job nearly perfectly -- that is, they support the interests of the same economic elite that the republican party does.
Shep, Geraldo and Anderson were not "rediscovering their true purpose". They were momentarily swept up in a human catastrophe, and they abandoned their professionalism for their emotions. But don't worry, they're better now.
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