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Dumbing Down the Masses

In an attempt to rally support for the war in Iraq and to highlight Saturday’s referendum, President Bush scheduled a Q&A session with selected troops to be aired Thursday. When asked about the nature of the press event White House Press Secretary’s initial response was that the event was to be an open discussion between the president and the troops.

An error in the satellite feed allowed footage to be broadcast of the deputy assistant defense secretary prepping the troops for the interview. After the incident the White House was quick to downplay the idea that the troops’ answers had been scripted.

A Q&A forum has been used before by this administration to seek support for the war and to show the support and optimism of the troops. However, the incident with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in which he was grilled by troops for not providing adequate body armor, is a good example of how such PA events can go wrong. Perhaps the media event yesterday was scripted to save the President from any such embarrassment.

Regardless, this is not the first time this administration, or previous administrations, have sought to script media events. But does such behavior serve the people’s best interests? Still reeling from an election where talking points outweighed platforms, does it behoove an administration to dumb down the masses? With an approval rating at an all time low, why is honesty not the best policy?

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Recently, I was able to watch the reaction of two very different people to the hurricanes: the mayor of New Orleans and the mayor of Houston. I always heard the Houston mayor was known for being an ‘average joe’ and that many respected him for being straightforward and honest, but I didn’t have a chance to witness it until Rita. Not only did he seem to live up to the expectations, but the contrasting demeanor and attitude of the New Orleans governor emphasized how refreshing it was to have simple honesty in office.

That made me wonder if it would ever be possible for someone that simple and honest to become PUSA. I don’t know that much about the road to the White House, but it seems that people like that would be either be dubbed "uneducated" or would fall victim to slander which they refused to reciprocate.

This past week I read Plato’s concept of the ideal state. Plato thought each individual was one of three different types and that only one of these types was fit to govern: the philosopher. If the typical politicians were replaced with philosophers, he claims that reason and wisdom would rule instead of rhetoric and persuasion.

"Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils,… nor, I think, will the human race." (Republic 473c-d)

He describes these "philosopher kings" as "those who love the sight of truth" (Republic 475c) and supports the idea with the analogy of a captain and his ship or a doctor and his medicine. Sailing and health are not things that everyone is qualified to practice by nature. A large part of the Republic then addresses how the educational system should be set up to produce these philosopher kings.

These ideas are much different than the democracy we live in here; but could it be that such drastic changes are necessary to conquer the deceit of politics because it is inherent to democracy itself?

(Just so no one thinks I’m a thought thief, it should be noted that I wrote the section on "the state" on the Wikipedia article on Plato and have repeated some of it here.)

The "prepping: went like this:

>‘Let’s just walk through this’
>As she spoke in Washington, a live shot of 10 soldiers from the Army’s 42nd Infantry Division and one Iraqi soldier was beamed into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building from Tikrit — the birthplace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“I’m going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me,” Barber said.

A brief rehearsal ensued.

“OK, so let’s just walk through this,” Barber said. “Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?”

“Captain Smith,” Kennedy said.

“Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?” she asked.

“Captain Kennedy,” the soldier replied.

And so it went.

“If the question comes up about partnering — how often do we train with the Iraqi military — who does he go to?” Barber asked.

“That’s going to go to Captain Pratt,” one of the soldiers said.

additionally from Newsbusters:

But the only advice that the official was shown as giving was a suggestion to one solider to "take a little breath" before speaking to the president so he would actually be speaking to him. It was also stated that some of the soldiers practiced their comments so as to appear as articulate as possible. But there was no indication, or even allegation, that the soldiers were coached as to the substance of their comments or in any way instructed what to say.

I will admit that my first knee jerk reaction is to defend Bush- not on everything (like illegal immigration) but he gets blasted by the press for anything and everything that I wonder if I don’t have a "root for the underdog" complex. As for this: it looks to me like just making sure everyone knows who speaks in what turn for which subjects, so people aren’t dick-dancing around and heming and hawing and whatnot. Sure, we could have a press conference where some disgruntled PFC says "This sucks!" but we have the Michal Moore website for that. Sure, we could have a press conference that says what’s wrong in Iraq, but we get that from the MSM anyway, so that’d be redundant. The White House threw together a little cheerleading. Whoop-ee. The thing was rehearsed- does that mean that what the soldiers said wasn’t true?

Now my question, which is for the O-Nerd Army Captains, based on this statement:

Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a “carefully scripted publicity stunt.” Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.

“If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can’t do it in a nationally televised teleconference,” Rieckhoff said. “He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that’s not a bunch of captains.”

Is this guy right, or is this a slight for officers, saying that they aren’t "boots on the ground"?

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More stuff on this by LordDilly

Also from Newsbusters:

Thursday’s NBC Nightly News led, yes led, with how, as anchor Brian Williams put it, President Bush had that morning conducted “a staged event" via satellite with ten U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi soldier in Iraq…Over video of Bush on the aircraft carrier, Mitchell went on to remind viewers of how “this isn’t the first time this administration used troops to help sell the Iraq war.” But she also admitted a media double-standard: “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events and often the news media ignore the choreography.”

CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer opined that “unfortunately for the President, after satellite cameras caught administration aides rehearsing the soldiers beforehand, Democrats dismissed the whole thing and said the troops deserved a lot better.” Lara Logan managed to cover other material in her story and uniquely showcased a soldier who told CBS: "The truth is that everything that was said was meant to be said, though it may have sounded scripted in some places. Nerves kick in, for one. Two, everyone puts their thoughts together. You put it down, you go over and over it a hundred times."

But on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume noted complaints the event was "not entirely spontaneous" before Carl Cameron pointed out that Bush posed an unplanned question to the Iraqi soldier. In the panel segment, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon recalled how when “back in December” a soldier asked Rumsfeld about armor, a question that “had been planted by a reporter, I didn’t hear any outcry from the press.”

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I-Man for Pres by kflgilbert

Personally, I think that we would all be so much better off in this country if Don Imus was president. Brutally honest. No Bull Crap. Not afraid to speak his mind. Intelligent. Ugly (no Monica types would be hanging around the oval office waiting to light his
cee-gar). Would have backing of the Donald. Is against war. No time for politicians. Whines and gets everything he wants. Looks like Thomas Jefferson. Loves kids. Shoots straight. Admits when he is wrong. He admitedly is never wrong. And has the editors of Newsweek, Time, the Wallstreet Journal, along with their horses – eating out of his hand. Happily married. Takes NO BS from ANYONE. Clean and Sober (now). And is backing Kinky Freedman for Governor of Texas. I ask you? What more could we ask for?

In an attempt to spark some discussion along some new tangents, I would like to pose the following questions:

Is spin good, bad, acceptable, unavoidable, or does it just all depend upon what party you affiliate with?

Talking points….do they serve a purpose other than to dumb complex issues down? Or are the of service to the American people?

And the big one: Does this administration utilize the media well or not? What could they do to better utlize the media?

Just some areas that I hoped to explore with the news post. Hopefully, they will spark some ideas and discussion.

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words of a soldier by LordDilly

Thought this to be appropriate. From the blog of SGT Ron Long,one of the soldiers who spoke to the President:

>Yesterday, I (bottom right corner in the picture) was chosen to be among a small group of soldiers assigned to the 42ID’s Task Force Liberty that would speak to President Bush, our Commander-in-Chief. The interview went well, but I would like to respond to what most of the mass-media has dubbed as, "A Staged Event."
>First of all, we were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President.
>We were given an idea as to what topics he may discuss with us, but it’s the President of the United States; He will choose which way his conversation with us may go.
>We practiced passing the microphone around to one another, so we wouldn’t choke someone on live TV. We had an idea as to who we thought should answer what types of questions, unless President Bush called on one of us specifically.

>President Bush told us, during his closing, that the American people were behind us. I know that we are fighting here, not only to preserve our own freedoms, but to establish those same freedoms for the people of Iraq. It makes my stomach ache to think that we are helping to preserve free speech in the US, while the media uses that freedom to try to RIP DOWN the President and our morale, as US Soldiers. They seem to be enjoying the fact that they are tearing the country apart. Worthless!
>The question I was most asked while I was home on leave in June was, "So…What’s REALLY going on over there?" Does that not tell you something?! Who has confidence in the media to tell the WHOLE STORY? It’s like they WANT this to turn into another Vietnam. I hate to break it to them, but it’s not.

Tomorrow morning, the Iraqi people will vote on their constitution. The success of our mission or the mission of the Iraqi security forces is not defined by the outcome of that vote. If the people of Iraq vote this constitution down, that only means that the FREE, DEMOCRATIC PROCESS is at work in Iraq. They are learning to voice their opinions in the polling stations, not through violence. If it is voted down, they will have the chance to draft an even better version; One that may better serve the people of Iraq. This is up to them. It is history in the making and I will not let the media or anyone else (who has not spent more than two weeks here) tell me otherwise. I have been here for almost a year. I have seen the progress made in so many ways from January’s elections to this referendum. Don’t tell me what the Iraqi people can or can’t do. They will tell you with their VOTES!

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