Bush's Covert Propaganda Machine

The media payola scandal keeps growing. First it was Armstrong Williams, the right-wing commentator who got caught taking $240,000 from the department of education to shill for George W.'s "No Child Left Behind" education law.

"Just a bad apple," said the Powers That Be, "an aberration" in an otherwise honest system. But now comes news that Maggie Gallagher, another right-wing commentator, has pocketed some $40,000 from the government to shill for Bush's "strengthening marriage" program. Both Williams and Gallagher have been roundly castigated for so crassly thumbing their noses at journalistic ethics.

But wait a minute. It takes two to play the payola game – the corrupters as well as the corruptees. What we have here is Bush & Company routinely and cynically using your and my tax dollars to use the media to propagandize you and me. Where's the accountability for these corrupters? Which agency officials are diverting our tax funds into propaganda? Which Bush operative devised this system? And why aren't all of these Bushites being publicly castigated ... and fired?

George now says his government will no longer pay journalists. Thanks for small favors, but that's only a tiny piece of the Bushite propaganda machine. Even more corrupt is their surreptitious deployment of VNRs – video news releases – which are pre-packaged "news" stories prepared by Bush officials to praise his policies. These ready-to-air pieces are narrated by actors posing as reporters. You've seen them on your local TV news, but you wouldn't know it, because they never mention that these reports come from the government itself. They are broadcast on hundreds of TV stations reaching millions of households.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.