October 24, 2003

The Politics of Media Filtration

In 1992, Carville articulated the winning formula:
"It's the Economy, Stupid." Now, twelve years later,
the emphasis has shifted to psi-war: "It's the Media,
Normon Solomon: "Now, after all the national media have done for George W. Bush, the guy's complaining. "There's a sense that people in America aren't getting the truth," he says. What an ingrate! "


Published on Thursday, October 23, 2003 by
The Politics of Media Filtration
by Norman Solomon

Now, after all the national media have done for George
W. Bush, the guy's complaining. "There's a sense that
people in America aren't getting the truth," he says.
What an ingrate!

"I'm mindful of the filter through which some news
travels," the president groused a few days ago, "and
sometimes you have to go over the heads of the filter
and speak directly to the people."

Some con artists are never satisfied.

The big media's filtration process has worked to
Bush's great advantage. During the 2000 campaign, his
dismal record as governor -- complete with a truly
awful environmental scorecard and a heinously cavalier
approach to executions in Texas -- got woefully
insufficient media attention. During his first months
as president, with many Americans doubting the
legitimacy of his electoral victory and sensing that
he had risen way above his level of competence, the
overall media coverage of the new chief executive was

In mid-September 2001, with Bush suddenly ascending to
the media stratosphere, Karl Rove and other political
strategists in the White House began their relentless
exploitation of Sept. 11.

But they couldn't have pulled it off without the avid
participation of mass media. Numerous mainstream news
outlets swiftly hailed George W. Bush as FDR
incarnate. They marveled at his consummate ability to
use TelePrompTers and talk seriously in front of
cameras. Exceeding low and narrow expectations, his
stock spiked upward in the political marketplace.

From war on Iraq to abrogation of key civil liberties
to further skewing of the federal tax structure in
favor of the wealthy, everything on the Bush team's
wish list has been shamelessly pitched as part of the
"war on terrorism."

But even cowboys get the blues, especially when their
imperial zeal turns out to be imprudent. Despite the
world's most powerful military under their command,
the global reach of the current empire-builders in
Washington is exceeding its grasp. They're now facing
some very tough quandaries.

With the U.S. economy still slumping and the
occupation of Iraq still in what Daddy Bush might call
"deep doo-doo," we can expect the political
exploitation of 9/11 to intensify between now and
November 2004. Get ready for an election year full of
efforts to wring every drop of media juice out of what
happened on Sept. 11.

In the new edition of her book "W: Revenge of the Bush
Dynasty," journalist Elizabeth Mitchell notes that
"the Republican National Convention will take place in
New York City on the latest date in the party's
148-year history to inch it near to the anniversary of
Sept. 11." Only a few days will separate the GOP
convention in Manhattan and the 9/11 commemorations.

The steady decline of Bush's approval ratings
nationwide in recent months has surely accentuated the
Rove administration's view of the 9/11 card as its ace
in the hole.

In the real world, his complaints notwithstanding,
President Bush can "speak directly to the people" like
no one else. The extent of his unfiltered media access
-- including live coverage of rhetorical speeches and
smarmy photo-ops -- is enormous. What's more, every
day, media outlets are choking with Bush appointees,
Republican leaders in Congress, supportive pundits and
corporate-backed think tankers who tirelessly tout the
president and his policies.

And we ain't seen nothing yet. Much of Bush's
anticipated $200 million campaign war chest next year
will be devoted to purchasing entirely "unfiltered"
access to the public in the form of commercials
lauding the man's supposed greatness.

Bush does have one thing right: By and large, the news
media are functioning as a filtration system in this
country. Of course, he wants it to filter out a lot
more of the news and views he doesn't like. But Bush
would be truly shocked if the nation's mass media
acted less like a filtration system and more like a
means for widespread democratic communication.

If we were to compile a long list of people with
perspectives, opinions, analysis and information
routinely excluded by U.S. media filtration, George W.
Bush and his buddies certainly wouldn't be on it.

In the United States and around the world,
impoverished people who suffer because of the
administration's policies are among the real victims
of media filtration. But evidently their complaints
aren't newsworthy.


Posted by richard at October 24, 2003 11:08 PM