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Thursday, October 07, 2004

A myth of his own making

From Frank Rich at the New York Times:
The administration has been brilliant at concocting camera-ready video narratives that flatter if not outright fictionalize its actions: "Saving Jessica Lynch," "Shock and Awe," the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue (a sparsely populated, unspontaneous event, when seen in the documentary "Control Room"), "Mission Accomplished." Mr. Bush has been posed by his imagineers to appear to be the fifth head on Mount Rushmore; he has kept the coffins of the American war dead off-screen; he has been seen in shirtsleeves at faux-folksy Town Hall meetings that, until his second debate with Mr. Kerry, were so firmly policed in content and attendees that they would make a Skull and Bones soiree look like a paragon of democracy in action...

To enforce the triumphalist narrative of these cinematic efforts, the Bush team had to cut out any skeptical press, or, as Mr. Bush once put it, "go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people" (as long as they're pre-selected). This didn't just mean avoiding press conferences and blackballing reporters from campaign planes. It also required an active program to demonize "the elite media" while feeding Fox News and its talk-radio and on-line amen chorus at every opportunity. "I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience" is how Dick Cheney put it earlier this year. Thus the first Bush-Kerry debate was preceded by a three-installment interview with the president by Fox's Bill O'Reilly, whose idea of hard-hitting journalism is encapsulated in his boast that his was "the only national TV news program" to shield its viewers from pictures of Abu Ghraib. The highlight of his pre-debate Bush marathon was his expression of admiration for the president's guts in taking questions not submitted to him in advance. This is a "free press" in the same spirit as that championed by such Bush pals as Silvio Berlusconi, Crown Prince Abdullah, Pervez Musharraf, Ayad Allawi and, of course, dear old "Vladimir."

Full story here.


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