Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In Pitching Social Security Privatization, Bush Team Takes Orwellian Steps To Create The Right Image

It's no secret that President Bush likes to speak before partisan crowds. His "town hall" meetings, complete with backdrops featuring an Orwellian word or phrase, feature hand-picked crowds of loving supporters, many of whom are willing to sign loyalty oaths or help out on behalf of a given Bush program.

The Bush Administration doesn't want to risk facing embarrassing questions or (heaven forbid) booing from Democrats or out-of-step Republicans. To further stay "on message," it doesn't provide transcripts of events, during which such miscreants make themselves heard, on the White House website (for details, read this JABBS report).

As JABBS readers learned from GOP consultant Frank Luntz (for details, read this JABBS report): "A real town hall can be very dangerous if it gets out of control. A town hall that gets out of control, a town hall where the speaker cannot command the respect and the control of the audience, can look very bad on television."

In the same interview, Luntz talked about the need to create the right backdrop of people. "There he's got an African-American, he's got an Asian, there's your female he's got. It's one of everybody. It's almost like the rainbow, uh, wedding line."

Apparently, the Bush Administration has taken Luntz' words to heart as a team led by the President barnstorms the country, pitching its Social Security privatization plan.

A memo, circulated among Women Impacting Public Policy, illustrates the lengths to which the White House will go to create the right image.

"President Bush will be in Rochester, N.Y., for an upcoming event and has called on WIPP for help," said the memo to New York-area members, which was leaked to the Los Angeles Times for a May 20 story.

The memo went on to solicit several types of people, including a young worker who "knows that [Social Security] could run out before they retire," a young couple with children who like "the idea of leaving something behind to the family" and a single parent who believes Bush's proposal for individual investment accounts "would provide more retirement options and security" than the current system. These people, all to be under the age of 29, would then be called upon by the President, to lob softball questions representing various arguments Bush has been making to sell privatization to younger voters.

Yes, not only does the Bush administration want to have a hand-picked audience listening to a carefully tailored message, but it also wants hand-picked types of people to ask the right questions to help sell that carefully tailored message. I'm surprised the administration doesn't provide cue cards, too.

Of course, the people attending the "town hall" meetings don't know that the questioners have been screened so as to make sure the right questions are asked, and television audiences -- local news broadcasts and C-SPAN, for example -- don't know it either.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, journalists around the country should recognize these events for what they are: large propaganda events, in which hand-picked audiences listen to hand-picked questioners in order to hear the President offer answers using hand-picked information. These "town hall" meetings have no news value, and should be ignored by the mainstream press -- unless (heaven forbid) someone asks a question that wasn't hand-picked, or the President offers an answer he hasn't essentially given 50 times before.


How beautifully does the system work? While the Bush privatization plan has been met with a tepid response, it sure does provide some wonderful propaganda moments.

At an even in Milwaukee last week, this exchange was recorded by the Times, involving a hand-picked questioner and the President:

"You got any thoughts about Social Security?" Bush asked 22-year-old Concordia University senior Christy Paavola, one of five younger workers who appeared on stage with him at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"Yes," Paavola said. "I don't think it's going to be there when I retire, which is really scary."

Many young people, the president commented, think they are paying into a retirement system that will never pay them back. He asked Paavola: "Got anything else you want to say?"

"I really like the idea of personal savings accounts," Paavola said.

"You did a heck of a job," Bush told her. "You deserve an A."

And you know, Paavola should get an "A," because she recited her lines as if she were reading cue cards. Bravo!


The woman's group, WIPP, helped find the five participants for the May 19 event. In addition to Paavola, Bush was joined in Wisconsin by a preschool teacher, a small business owner, and a dairy farmer and his wife, who worked as a bookkeeper in a bank. None was older than 27.

And if that's not a cross-section of society, what is? Oof.

Only in Bush's America.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, the horror! Egads! The Republic will crumble!

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great response! I feel I have learned so much, above commenter, from your wise and thought-provoking words.

Repeat after him everyone: Bush is great. Bush is perfect. Everything Bush does is correct.


1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, you could not be further from the truth. I just find it fascinating that there are people that continue to be shocked, shocked I tell you, that there are politics in politics. I suppose it would be better for the President to have his town hall meetings in the middle of the Democratic caucus. They are attempting to sell their vision of a program, in an incredibly politically charged environment. I do not see how this is such a horrible thing to do.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

If you want your country run by propagandists and imagemakers, Bush is your man.

Tell me, if not for reports like this one, would you know when watching a "town hall" meeting on C-SPAN that the audience is hand-picked and the questioners are hand-picked?

Have you ever seen a disclaimer when watching the local news reports on these (not to mention Hardball, Hannity & Colmes, O'Reilly, etc.)?

Clinton didn't do this. Gore didn't do this while campaigning. Kerry didn't do this while campaigning. The Bush administration, following the advice of Luntz, has mastered the art of message manipulation. Now they have apparently mastered the art of audience and questioner manipulation.

What is Bush so afraid of? Is the administration so afraid of a tough question embarrassing them, or forcing them to back away from fragile arguments? Is that why they don't post certain transcripts on the white house web site?

It's a joke. And conservatives would never tolerate such things from Democrats.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right. I see lots of Democrats out there giving speeches and having town hall meetings in front of the NRA, in front of different organizations that do not share their ideological underpinnings. Why does this surprise anyone? It is all about developing and crafting and image and message. Isn't that fundamental to politics?

3:04 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

What are you talking about?

Name a time when a Democrat hand-picked an audience, and the questioners (so as to know what questions would be asked)? You can't do it.

Speaking before a group like the NRA is one thing. Speaking at a "town hall" meeting -- the idea is to suggest that the meeting's population represents the area -- is different.

You just don't want to admit that the Bush administration is using advanced propaganda techniques -- with "town hall" meetings, paying journalists, favoring Jeff Gannon, sending out unidentified video news releases, coming up with friendly terms like the "Clean Skies Initiative," to mask anti-environmental programs, ignoring scientific and intelligence reports that go against message, etc., because it scares you to think that you are a conservative and your conservative president has lied to you. You know you don't want to vote or support a Democrat -- and that's your choice, and I'm not going to knock that choice -- but the only way you can continue to support your conservative president is to ignore a mountain of information that screams that Bush is purposefully trying to deceive the populace.

It's easy to offer a sarcastic retort. It's easy to ignore story after story, using Bush's own words and actions, and say, without evidence, "it's just politics," or "everyone does it."

It's not just politics. Not everyone does it. Bush is trying to pass a program, and in order to get support for that program, he's tinkering with reality. He's using propaganda measures that you would not accept if they were being done by the Russians or the Iranians or the North Koreans. But you look the other way when they happen here, because it's easier to say, "it's politics."


3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone please frame the above comment from Rob of Wilmington Delaware. Well said!

4:30 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

I call 'em like I see 'em!

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont disagree with the above comments.

however, i have to suggest that there arent all that many voters that watch town hall meetings on cspan. geez...and i thought my wifes addiction to lifetime was bad.

if everyone is convinced that Bush is pitching fiction all the time, i would suggest watching well written fiction like Lost, 24, alias....rather than listening to air america or watching much on fox news.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if only 100,000 people watch the local news in Milwaukee (after the town hall meeting JABBS describes) I doubt many of them know the lengths the Bushies go to.

And if C-SPAN broadcasts a town hall meeting, another 100,000 people might watch it. And again, they won't necessarily know they are watching propaganda in action.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all based on the assumption that the people watching C-Span or the local news are incapable of putting together a rational thought, filtering that which they accept as true from that which they do not. How self important are you to think that your perspective is the one that should be held by all? Are not the viewers capable of making their own determination?

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on now, how can viewers made a rational decision when they are only being presented with one side of the story, and led to believe it is the only side.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

Exactly. Viewers shouldn't have to assume that a news report on a "town hall" meeting is essentially an presidential infomercial.

With the way the Bush team orchestrates these meetings, it's not much different than the video news releases -- one is live, the other is on tape, and both are propaganda.

If the Senate wants to run a disclaimer across the bottom of the screen to make sure viewers know they are watching a VNR, maybe they should demand that broadcasters do the same when televising a town hall meeting.

10:41 AM  
Blogger choff said...

Anonymous said...
i dont disagree with the above comments.

however, i have to suggest that there arent all that many voters that watch town hall meetings on cspan.

If the Bushistas held truly open town hall meetings, with Bush answering unscripted questions from those present, and C-Span broadcast them, there'd be a sizeable audience.

1:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares