As a child, my grandfather taught me that two wrongs never make a right. I have honored that wisdom throughout my life and I still do. I thought that everyone did. However, after hearing yet another report on how this Whitehouse produces political propaganda, presents it to the public as though it were objective news, and then justifies the practice, I wonder.
At a recent press conference, Whitehouse spokesperson Scott McClellan was given an opportunity to discuss the ethics of this. He declaratively offered, “The informational news releases that you’re referring to are something that have been in use for many years. It goes back to the early ’90s.” Trusting this to be true, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reiterated the claim, stating that the Clinton Administration was the first to engage in such questionable antics. Nonetheless, she added, “the Bush Administration has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on public relations, mostly for videos,” and apparently, this is “double what Bill Clinton spent.”
While speaking of the policy, neither of these comments addresses, what for me is the truer issue of “right” [otherwise considered admirable and amenable] or “wrong” [otherwise considered cruel and corrupt]. These proclamations seem as childish games. First, they hopscotch; then, they move from that game onto another. Mr. McClellan begins on the square marked “two wrongs make a right.” He then jumps to the equally childish box titled the “blame-game!” Ultimately he lands solidly on “Follow the leader.” Ms. Mitchell, on the other hand, is playing “Gotcha,” and “Can you top this?”
Neither addresses the question of values directly. The issue of morals is lost; manipulation is the rule. Communication morphs into competition; the stakes are raised or are they actually lowered. Propriety has been vanquished and programs are pushed, promoted, and prepackaged. Words have become weapons and the process of governing or discussing the government has become an Olympic event, one in which winning is the only goal.
There was a time when, participants in play, just as those in politics spoke of “good sportsmanship.” There were respectable forums; people were gracious even in defeat. There was a time when we in the United Sates of America spoke of “good governance” and acted on these principles. Politicians, people, and the populous acted with honor.
We were working towards a more perfect union, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. There was a time when we were thought to be equal, working together for the greater good, however, that was then.
Now, we are players and we pick our teams. There are spectators and coaches, broadcasters and bloggers, and, of course, we have color, lots, and lots of color. We have a Red team and a Blue; there are the Greens and there are the Grays. Actually, there are many shades of gray.
On the Red Team the players run with “He did it too.” Then, they advance with “He started it!” The Blue Team races in, “No, he did” or at least, “He did more of it than we did!” Some in the stands scream in protest, others in support. The coaches call for greater aggression and the crowds roar. There are spectators on the sidelines, some sitting silently, some barely stating their thoughts, and others never speaking above a whisper. There are broadcasters to bolster, and there are bloggers to berate. Politics is now play; and all is a bona fide event! I wonder; is this fun, is this folly, or is it futile to believe that this need not be our future?
Is our intent to find fault or is it to form a fellowship? Is the onus always on the other and will we merely perish all principles? Will we continue to play as we are, or might we look at history and possibly learn from it?
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905
Let us look at the past. Let us look at the history of packaging, prepackaging, propaganda, and political presentations.
Let us begin with the Reagan Administration, for many speak of his as being the example that George W. Bush follows. During the Reagan reign Sam Donaldson served as a Whitehouse correspondent; he first secured this position when Carter was in office. However, under Reagan he observed a change. Access was extremely limited, security was tight, and secrecy was the agenda. Press conferences were staged. Daily briefings were deliveries; in these, the Administration dictated what they deemed to be the news of the day. This caused, then, devout Republican Donaldson concern. As a reporter in a democratic society, a society founded on freedom, Donaldson began to question the reasons, the rationale, and the ethics of concealment. He wrote of this in his book, “Hold on Mr. President.”
While Reagan preceded both Bush and Clinton, he was not the first to manipulate the media or the message. You may recall reading “The Making of a President, 1960”? This book helped to bring the writings of Marshall McLuhan to life. For it seemed to be true, in the making of a Kennedy presidency, “The Medium [was] is the Message"! Yet, Kennedy did not commit the original sin of deception. All of our Presidents have postured, posed, and presented an image, a faÃ§ade, an illusion or a philosophy that they then ask the people to buy. They have learned from history; they have learned to do as their predecessor did; only they do it bigger and better.
It is for this reason that many have decided to apathetically accept what is. They relent; they find no “right” in the world of politics and reluctantly they tolerate what is “wrong.” They shrug their shoulders and woefully state, “This is the path of a president; this is the path of politician.” People give up, protest, or they participate, yet, no one chooses to define what is differently.
How would we define right, correct, ethical, moral, or just if we felt that we had the power to do so? Who would define these and who defines these now? Is it we the people that would or could determine the definition, is it the religious right, the moral majority, and those that twice elected a more moral man to preside as President? Would or could it be the electorate, the elected, or might it be our Supreme Court justices? Possibly, it a superior being, after all, was it not his holiness that told Mr. Bush that his mission in life was to be President?
Government Accountability Office decides what is wise and esteemed, or at least what is defined as political correctness; more than a month ago they attempted to do so. They warned the present Administration “pre-packaging of news for purposes of publicity or propaganda has been banned since 1951, unless the reports are clearly labeled.” However, their words were not welcome and therefore considered unwarranted. Their words were not the wisdom that the administration preferred or was seeking.
The Bush Whitehouse had not turned to the GAO asking, “Mother May I?” Instead, Bush and his band turned to the
Justice Department. On Friday, March 11, 2005, “the Justice Department ruled that video news releases are legal.” Apparently, for the current presiding Justice Department the game is “Just Do It! Why? Because we can!”
Can [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]
1. to be able to do, make, or accomplish
1. to have knowledge or skill
a. know how to
b. be physically or mentally able to
c. be permitted by conscience or feeling to
d. be made possible or probable by circumstances
Please read Daily Kos The Most Massive Propaganda Campaign in History and Government Propaganda is Illegal!
Weeks later, the game continues and now we have a coach! I first learned of this after reading, “NINETY PERCENT OF BLOGGING IS HALF MENTAL,” by MaxSpeak, and “OKAY, WHAT’S THE DEAL . . .” by Josh Marshall. Then, I discovered from many other sources that Tommy Lasorda is on tape. The recordings are part of a telemarketing program; they promote the Bush Social Security Privatization plan.
You may wish to read of the new coach, Tommy Lasorda, or wait; he may call you and ask you to play in this game. When he calls, you might ask him of his own words, “No, we don’t cheat. And even if we did, I’d never tell you.