Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Ode to Impeachment: Kucinich, McClellan, and the Propaganda Model

by Jeffrey Tischauser / July 5th, 2008

Here.s how the propaganda model works: Take an issue that is at odds with how elite policy makers view the world, say Rep. Dennis Kucinich.s (D-OH) bid to impeach President Bush in early June 2008, and evaluate the media coverage of the event. Kucinich.s attempt to impeach the President elicited a mere 132 words in every major media outlet including the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN.com. In this case, the mainstream media (MSM) did not conduct any of its own reporting or writing, instead it presented the public with an Associated Press (AP) report, which lacked depth and context regarding Kucinich.s argument. The paltry word count aside, the article was rarely found in print, but left to be discovered on the websites of major media players, designated to an obscure link on the margins. The only remnants of the media coverage can be found in an exact and precise Google search, which will lead readers to the brief article.

Media consumers were not given the information resources needed to make an informed judgment surrounding the impeachment proceedings. A thorough report would have explained Kucinich.s claims more. The reader is left to wonder why Kucinich thinks Bush deceived the nation and violated his oath of office. Instead, the article reminds the public that Kucinich was criticized by his opponents for ignoring business .at home to travel the country in his bid to be president..

In today.s pseudo-political culture, which the media help perpetuate by blurring the line between commentary and news, the candidate.s relationship to their minister, or their use (non-use) of flag lapel pins, have more bearing on electability than a candidate.s solutions for the faltering economy and the seemingly endless occupation of Iraq. It.s not that striking that the media did not investigate Kucinich.s claims.

Kucinich delivered the articles of impeachment during Scott McClellan.s around-the-world book tour. McClellan.s seminal primary source, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House, caused a fury of media attention. He was interviewed by all the major media personalities such as David Letterman, John Stewart, and was on Good Morning America. His book undercut Bush.s claims for war and stated that the administration never stopped campaigning after Bush won the contested 2000 election. The partisan bickering never stopped and the Bush-Rove gang were determined to install a conservative majority into Washington politics that would last for generations. Facts were de-contextualized or misrepresented, outright lies accepted at truths, and news was spun to fit Bush and company.s neo-conservative worldview in order to ensure the President.s policies were accepted and never questioned.

McClellan.s major argument revolved around his disdain of the .culture. of Washington, where politicians say whatever they must to remain in power. He blames Bush.s top advisers, like Condi Rice, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld for the President.s decision to accept weak intelligence reports on Iraq and for the government.s disgraceful efforts to protect its citizens trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Because of McClellan.s rumpus in the media, maybe the editors of the major press outlets viewed Kucinich.s efforts as overkill. After a good two weeks of pumping up McClellan to the American public, Kucinich.s impeachment attempt perhaps came at the wrong time to receive in-depth media coverage. However, this analysis remains superficial. Surely, the 70% or so American who disapprove of the President are interested in an attempt to hold him accountable. In addition, the MSM had more than enough resources (at least the Times, the Post, and the 24-hour channels) to send a reporter to interview Kucinich and leading Democrats and Republicans to get their take on the impeachment debate. They could have sent another reporter to .hit the streets,. and get the average American.s opinion. The Propaganda Model accounts for why these steps were not taken. As seen under the rubric of the Propaganda Model, the disparity of coverage between McClellan and Kucinich can be accounted for by Herman and Chomsky.s (1988) description of acceptable dissent.

McClellan never stated that the President.s actions were illegal, even though the most amateur constitutional lawyer could, at the very least, build a strong case on Bush.s abuse of power. By blaming the culture of Washington and the effects of the permanent campaign for Bush.s downfall, McClellan was sidestepping the President.s culpability. Bush.s policy decisions were tactical errors, not outright malicious behavior. For example, McClellan, like many former and contemporary Bush supporters, even some liberals, still think that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do. To them, the war was mismanaged. The war went bad after the wrong decisions were made. L. Paul Bremmer.s decision to disband the Iraqi Army lives in folklore as one of the administration.s most asinine moves. What McClellan doesn.t question is America.s right to preemptively strike and occupy a sovereign nation. This attitude of American might is not new. It has been around since the 19th Century with Manifest Density and the slaughter of the indigenous population in the name of civilization and Christianity. Herman and Chomsky explain that the Vietnam War was also considered a noble cause, until the TET offensive in 1968, when the U.S. military was saddled with a huge strategic and emotional defeat. After 1968, elite liberals criticized the war with more energy, but only on its tactics. The once magnanimous effort to rid the Vietnamese of communism failed and a respectful, quick, and quiet withdrawal was the only option left for the U.S. Once again, America.s right to extend its borders and .pacify. Vietnam, which would open another market to American companies, was not broached. After an elementary review of today.s acceptable dissent regarding the Iraq War, Kucinich.s virulent denunciation of American power and in consequence, President Bush, has few corollaries in U.S. Congressional history during times of war. On the other hand, McClellan.s soft critique of American power under Bush does not offend conservative and liberal elites, thus he gets play in the media.

Some may say that Kucinich.s drive for impeachment did not receive in-depth coverage in the media because he did not stand a chance at achieving his goals. He was just a .liberal loon,. as Bill O.Reilly would say, there was no way for Kucinich to succeed so it.s not that important to cover. Giving it a 132-word AP article is more than enough to satisfy the press. need to provide balanced news. Besides Kucinich is just distracting the public from the real issues, like the poor economy and the progress in Iraq. But, it is not the job of the press to tell the public what is and is not important. Journalism, as taught in any J-school in the country, is all about accountability. Journalists investigate, report, and write articles that hold the powerful accountable so the public does not have to. Political affiliation, ideology, or likelihood of success should have no bearing on media coverage.

Because Kucinich.s articles of impeachment were important, much more so than the brief article that made the websites of the major press centers. He has consistently been one of the few public figures to talk negatively about the ills of concentrated power and its effect on everyday life. By raising the specter of impeachment proceedings, Kucinich was putting McClellan.s rhetoric into action, exactly what conservative and liberal elites deplore . collective efforts to minimize their influence. Kucinich.s articles of impeachment take the debate surrounding the Iraq War past tactical arguments and into the legal realm, something unfathomable to political and corporate elites. For to continue their charade of protecting democracy and fighting state terrorists such as Iran and Venezuela, powerful conservatives and liberals have to keep every means available to them to start a war like they did in 1845 with Mexico, 1898 with Spain, 1964 with Vietnam, and 2003 with Iraq. In each of these instances, a war was started on the basis of lies and nobody was held accountable. Why break the trend in 2008?


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posted by u2r2h at 3:49 AM


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