The Peach

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How the Right Does It

For a fascinating peek into the workings of the Administration PR machine, check out this piece from In These Times, which describes a media workshop given by DHS and keynoted by Tom Ridge, to "educate" journalists on reporting on terrorism, Republican-style.

Ridge apparently described the session's goal as equipping the assembled journalists with a ""detailed playbook" for responding to crisis, providing journalists with the strategies and (government-affiliated) contacts needed to deal with a terrorist scenario. “A consistent message to the public is critical.”" Attendees were encouraged to report government-approved "facts" and to consult government-approved "experts," but refrain from any critical thinking about the international context of terrorism, our government's policies or anything else that might distract the populace from a narrow set of establishment-affirming storylines.

In essence, as far as DHS is concerned, journalism's role in a terrorist situation is to report whatever Tom Ridge tells it to report. Writer Maya Schenwar describes the scene: ""The role of the press, said moderator John McWethy of ABC News, is to accurately report information as government officials release it. In other words, in a state of emergency, the media morph into a PR department for Washington."

The piece is fascinating for revealing by this one instance how the Republican machine has succeeded across the board in warping our national media. Ridge is seen here pre-packaging the story in a way that many busy journalists must find irresistible. Here are your facts -- and they're pre-checked for accuracy; Here are your experts -- with phone numbers! Here's your storyline. It must be hard at times, under the pressure of the 24-hour news cycle, to walk away from that kind of thing. Nevertheless, we expect real journalists to do so.

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