VNR Debates

I’m having an interesting back-and-forth with the “Don’t Go Into the Light” blog. He’s a Rightie, and I’m a Leftie, and the issue starts with this article on the Video News Releases put out by the government and also Corporate America. I commented on another article in the Independent Online, which as it turns out, was not entirely accurate based on the Bloomberg article. DGITL’s latest post on the issue, outlining his position, can be found here, and it is this that I plan to debate in the current post.

So, OK. Enough back-story, let’s get to the meat of the post.

First of all, this:

DragonFlyEye is largely correct with “Much of the media handling style of the Bush Adminstration is, in at least it’s nuts-and-bolts and it’s basic theory, a derivation on Clinton-era politics.” I would add that the page taken from the Clinton handbook wasn’t the large type edition, and nobody in the White House has their reading glasses handy when referring to it.

That’s just damned funny. That’s all I had to say about that. But he goes on to say that he’s not sure why the Bush Administration has had such a hostile relationship with the media. Now, here’s the thing: I’ve heard nothing from Conservatives for years except how the media is the quote “Liberal Media,” and since Bush has come to the presidency, I’ve heard nothing from Liberals but that the media is quote the “Conservative Media,” and I think they’re both basically nuts. I am guessing LB would be inclined to agree with me on this point. The media play by thier own rules, except for the fact that they need interviews with Administration officials, and therefore they are not in a position to piss off the Secretary of State. That means that in a Liberal administration, the media is going to swing left, and that the converse must also be true.

I say this because the Bush Administration seems to have done very little to actually capitalize on this of it’s own accord. My gut instinct here (and yes, I’m sure I’m letting my Pinko Liberal biases through) is that this Administration has done so much in the last five years which is very close to illegal, outright illegal, incompetent or irresponsible that they’re behaviour is nothing less than predictable. They’re acting like punks. Wiretapping, VNRs, Katrina, the list goes on. They’re keeping the media out of the White House because God help this administration if the American public ever got an honest, informed opinion of how things worked inside.

OK, so I’m biased.

LB goes on to say, as I made the point in my original post, that the mere fact of the VNRs would suggest that the media is not friendly to the Administration. While I obviously agree with him, upon further reflection I do think to some extent that does depend on what you mean by “The Media,” . . .

To whit: back to the issue of VNRs and specifically on thier legality, I will quote the paragraph in it’s entirety:

Legality is actually the easiest to tackle. I don’t buy into the notion that a VNR properly labeled as government sourced is covert. The news articles I’ve read all indicate that the government has been pretty good about identifying itself as the source. It seems to me that the burden falls on the stations that broadcast the VNRs without passing on that disclosure. Same goes for corporate VNRs. There are other legal issues I’ve seen brought up, but I’m no lawyer and have no desire to embarass myself.

I agree with the first portion of this paragraph, along with the tacit acknowlegment in the next para, that this is certainly grey area where legality comes to mind and definitely sneaky. It might be hard to pin the Administration down on this one for illegalty, but of course this has been the Administration’s modus operandi throughout its history. The second part, however, seems a trifle niave or even to intentionally dodge the real issue.

Follow me through this, if you could. . . The State Department releases a tape that says “Produced by the US Department of State,” right on the box, which has a title in the movie that says “Iraqi’s Really Dig Us. Produced by the US Department of State” and then Joe Smith, Program Director for the Podunk Awake and Semi-Alert at Five televison news broadcast just. . . strips all that information? For what? Esthetic quality?

That’s the dot no one is connecting right now. The Bush Administration department or corporation that put out these VNRs properly identified them, but for some reason, theres a rash of journalists going out of thier way not to let anyone know? And of thier own accord? That doesn’t come close to passing the smell test; indeed, I would go one step further and say that the rot has a specific stench of government/corporatists collusion.
And there is more dodging to be found where he defines “Propaganda”:

The definition is so broad that any government communication, regardless of content, would fit. Yeah, VNRs are propaganda. So was Harry Reid’s last press conference, and the Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. But since the word is almost always intended to have a negative effect, I find it repugnant that folks would label an anti-drug message or a farm report that way simply to cast the administration in a negative light.

Ooooookayyyeeeeee. . . .

I’m hoping that LB can show me a specific example of the VNRs in question being about farm reports or anti-drug messages. That Bloomberg peice says nothing of the sort. I’ll give a bit of leaway that he is in fact using credible material, but otherwise, the inflexive jab at the Left is just plain lame.

But even ignoring this, the argument is a bit flacid, anyway. LB knows, and we all do, that there is a difference between the Easter Egg Hunt at the White House and legitimate propaganda. And while propaganda seems to me an entirely adequate word for what we have going on here, the issue is really one of deception. Not “sneakiness;” deception.

Again, to put it in order: the government creates fake news stories with titles (presumably at the beginning and end, where they can be stripped out) declaring that they’re property of the federal government, then the VNR goes to a local station, which for some reason strips all that stuff out and plops the finished product into the middle of the broadcast. Meanwhile, the multi-national corporation that provided the VNR to the local broadcast station declares that they don’t have anything to do with anything. It’s the perfect setup.

LB is right: there’s very little chance that anyone can get busted for doing anything illegal, saving of course for the little local tv station. Meanwhile, people who watch television news thinking that they’re being informed are getting the seeds of the Bush Administration’s agenda, or a craving for the latest drug-du-jour, or whatever planted in thier heads. No, it’s not subliminal programming, no it’s not brainwashing, but any idiot that knows anything about advertising knows that whether a person likes or dislikes a product or it’s advertisments is irrelevant: all that matters is that they think about it when the time is right.

The concept is all the more dangerous when what is presented as legitimately free and independent news turns out to be government propaganda.? So, while I agree with LB that we have a lot of points in common on this issue, I think perhaps we have much we disagree on.? I’m looking forward to his next trackback.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

2 replies on “VNR Debates”

The continuing debate with DragonFlyEye…

Somehow his trackback hit the bit bucket, so I didn’t know DragonFlyEye had responded to my last post on VNRs until yesterday. Which is a shame, because although this isn’t really a burning-bush issue requiring great speed, I really don’t……

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