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Bush's Dangerous Propaganda Game

This deliberate manipulation of our news is more than outrageous – it's a frontal assault on our democracy and is totally disrespectful of the American people.
 
 
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You're used to hearing television reporters give their signature tag lines: "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting." "This is Jennifer Morrow reporting." "I'm Pat O'Leary reporting."

But these days, you can't know if your news presenter is a reporter ... or a ringer. Karen Ryan, for example, is a veteran of the government's propaganda machine, having posed as a "reporter" for fake news segments produced and distributed by seven federal agencies in the past two years. Ryan is really a PR consultant, who candidly calls herself a "paid shill for the Bush administration."

Likewise, Jennifer Morrow is a fake – that's not even her real name. She's really an employee of a PR firm, hired in 2002 to pose as a reporter presenting a gushing story about the work of Bush's homeland security agency. Her "news segment," paid for by us taxpayers and produced by the Bushites, aired all across America, with no mention that it was covert propaganda.

Pat O'Leary is not a real reporter, either. He's one of two full-time poseurs hired by Bush's department of agriculture to produce videos that are shipped to hundreds of local stations and aired as "news." They travel the country, often covering Bush's secretary of agriculture – and their reports are unfailingly flattering, free of any critical comments from those who differ with Bush's policies. No surprise, since their reports must be approved by the ag department's PR office before being sent to your TV station.

This deliberate manipulation of our news is more than outrageous – it's a frontal assault on our democracy and is totally disrespectful of the American people. It's also a dangerous game for those playing it – the Bushites and the station owners are sabotaging their own credibility, which was not strong to start with.

This is not about technical legalities, but about fundamental morality. Both the government and the media are claiming a right to lie to us.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush , from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.