George Bush likes to insist that he governs "based upon principle and not polls and focus groups." In reality, writes Joshua Green, "the Bush administration is a frequent consumer of polls, though it takes extraordinary measures to appear that it isn't." In 2001, the administration spent close to $1 million for polling, using political advisors like Jan van Lohuizen and his focus-group guru, Fred Steeper. "Policies are chosen beforehand, polls used to spin them.
President Bush's attempts to "rebrand" the United States are doomed, according to Naomi Klein. Klein analyzes of the strategy developed for the U.S. by Charlotte Beers, the advertising executive hired by the State Department as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. One of the problems, Klein notes, is that Beers' strategy of "branding" is itself in conflict with her attempt to equate Americanism with democracy and diversity.
Does the White House blacklist critical journalists? Nicholas Confessore examines the way journalists who flatter the Bush administration get treated compared to others.
"How good bad music and bad reasons sound when we march against an enemy," observed the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft seems to have taken this to heart. Workers at the Department of Justice are complaining about being expected to sing a patriotic song written by Ashcroft himself. "Have you heard the song?
The Rendon Group received close to $100-million dollars from the CIA for work it did in Iraq in the five years following the Gulf War according to reporter Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker article. Between 1991-96, The Rendon Group did "media relations" work for the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition opposition group supported at the time by the CIA.
The Bush administration may be trying to "prepare us for a war without end," writes Ruth Rosen. "The political impetus for creating a state of perpetual war can't be ignored. George W. Bush has never forgotten his father's precipitous fall after the Persian Gulf War. Despite his currently high approval ratings, Bush also knows that a majority of Americans still favor the Democrats' domestic policies."
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush have backed away from the Pentagon's new propaganda arm, the Office of Strategic Influence. The administration is scrambling to deal with public backlash against the idea of a Pentagon propaganda office that would, among other actions, disseminate false and misleading information to US allies.
The U.S. has imposed more restrictions on reporters in Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. war, but Hollywood has carte blanche to make feel-good "reality TV" shows about the adventure. Maureen Dowd notes that that the Pentagon is teaming with Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down," "Pearl Harbor" and "Coyote Ugly," along with Bertram van Munster of "Cops," to make a TV docudrama about the war on terrorism. "I'm outraged about the Hollywoodization of the military," says Dan Rather.
On February 19 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon's new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Information, was planning unethical, possibly illegal activities such as misleading the press in friendly countries. The Pentagon and White House responded to the story by going into damage control mode with a flurry of "clarifications" and backpedalling. "What people have to understand about this is very clear," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
"The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. ... (The US military) recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe. ...