|Last evening I watched Charlie Rose’s PBS interview of Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
What struck me was how much his style of communication mimicked that of GW Bush. The same attempt to conceal bald lies with swagger and squinty smile and smirk. The same transparent insincerity obvious when you look in their eyes. The same propensity to stick fiercely to rehearsed ‘talking points’ and refuse to answer any question for which they have no rehearsed answer.
Both of them are blatant propagandists — their choice of words, the use of slogans, the constant repetition of expressions with distorted meanings and disinformation, the deliberate appeal to base emotion, to the point listeners are no longer interested in or prepared to listen to reason.
What astonished me was the utter inability of Charlie Rose, who has access to exceptional research resources and is himself extremely bright and well-prepared, to handle the brash and clever Ahmadinejad. A friend of mine at the CBC, Ira Basen, has studied this phenomenon extensively. He has explained how politicians, with the help of their wealthy supporters, PR/media whores and other spin doctors, have effectively abolished open press conferences and other unrehearsed opportunities for media dialogue, and replaced them with scripted ‘production numbers’, often with visually appealing backdrops or stunts, designed purely to misinform and obfuscate, and ti reiterate the carefully-crafted ‘talking points’ and Orwellian slogans. In other words, to turn them into pure propaganda events, like the infamous Bush photo-ops.
Bush and Canadian PM Harper, right-wing birds of a feather highly distrustful of a media that might reveal the truth behind their orchestrated disinformation campaigns, are practiced experts at this type of production. We just learned that Harper’s ultra-conservative military cohorts script-wrote the speech that Afghan President Karzai mouthed last year during his visit to Canada.
The mainstream media are just putty in these propagandists’ hands. What would it take for them, if they were so inclined, to restore some of the integrity and balance to the reporting process it once had? My suggestions:
This would take courage. As Bill Maher has said, “the job of the media is to make what’s important interesting”. You can’t do this with mindless regurgitations of pre-packaged propaganda productions manufactured by vested interests. You can’t do it with CNN-style blather about the minutiae of what various people think these productions mean, or should mean. Just because the mainstream media show up in droves to cover it, doesn’t make it news.
I’m not optimistic that any of the mainstream media will do any of these four steps. If public broadcasters can’t seem to handle the propagandists, we can hardly expect the mainstream media outlets in the corporatists’ pay and thrall to do so. It’s too controversial and too expensive for their tastes or risk appetites.
So we’ll have to continue to depend on the indymedia for real news. Unfortunately, that means that we’ll almost never see interviews with the rich and the powerful, or those with something to hide. But if these interviews are mostly just disguised propaganda anyways, perhapsthat’s just as well.
PS: The CBC, in addition to running Ira’s series on Spin, has done some excellent investigative reporting (check out this startling hidden-cam expose of doctors’ failure to follow basic hygiene in hospitals, despite knowing this causes thousands of deaths) — but their focus seems to be on everything except political parties’ and leaders’ misdeeds and lies. Too risky for publicly-funded media to be seen as taking sides, I guess.
Category: The Media
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