Thursday, October 21, 2004
A little over a week ago, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of nearly a quarter of the nation's broadcast television stations, announced it would be forcing it's outlets to pre-empt primetime broadcasts to air a documentary entitled "Stolen Honor," an anti-Kerry documentary worthy of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth status. Sinclair is an out-in-the-open bastion of conservatism (97% of its political contributions have gone to the GOP), to the point that they almost make FOX News seem fair and balanced.
The company's chairman, Mark Hyman, defended his company's decision to air the slanted film by claiming that the story is news: "Would they suggest that our reporting a car bomb in Iraq is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign?" said Hyman. Problem is, Sinclair has done everything possible to suppress that type of "negative" reporting (i.e. the truth), including a refusal to air a Nightline episode last spring that featured a solemn reading of all the names of soldiers killed in Iraq. Sinclair deemed the show unpatriotic... you know, because honoring and recognizing the troops is the work of commies.
After Democrats and watchdogs cried foul, a long protracted battle featuring charges of firing of an employee who spoke out against the company's plans, a lawsuit against Sinclair by a veteran featured in the film, and a massive drop in Sinclair's stock price, Sinclair amended its plans and instead will air only portions of the documentary on its stations tomorrow night.
The most important thing to take from all of this is not that Sinclair was forced to partially back down, but that they tried to get away with it in the first place. This is indicative of how Republicans and their supporters (i.e. corporate media, big pharma, the NRA, etc.) operate. Simply put, they're weasels.
In terms of media manipulation, the GOP is insanely brilliant. This is a party that produces Video News Releases (i.e. commercials) supporting its policies and then airs them as though they are legitimate news pieces In another excellent article, Frank Rich offers up an analysis of the Bush administration's intimidation policies with regard to the media, elevating it above even the Nixon White House's infamous media tactics:
It appears as though the only areas in which this administration doesn't exude absolute incompetence is deception and spin – they excel in those disciplines. They insult our intelligence with these tactics. They think we're stupid. Let's not let them get away with it.
Though 9/11 prompted Ari Fleischer's first effort to warn the media to "watch what they say," it's failure in Iraq that has pushed the Bush administration over the edge. It was when Operation Iraqi Freedom was bogged down early on that it spun the fictional saga of Jessica Lynch. It's when the percentage of Americans who felt it was worth going to war in Iraq fell to 50 percent in the Sept. 2003 Gallup poll, down from 73 that April, that identically worded letters "signed" by different soldiers mysteriously materialized in 11 American newspapers, testifying that security for Iraq's citizens had been "largely restored." The legal harassment of the press, like the Republican party's Web-driven efforts to discredit specific journalists even at non-CBS networks, has escalated in direct ratio to the war's decline in support.
Must Read: Will We Need a New 'All the President's Men'? - by Frank Rich.
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