Last Friday I happened to be on a conservative radio show where I pointed out that the big winners in Iraq's recent elections were Shiite clerics with a long history of friendship with Iran - not exactly the sort of people who are likely to be long-term supporters of the Bush administration's political agenda in the Middle East. If conservatives want to celebrate the election as a victory for Iraqi self-determination, I said, they should be "careful what you wish for." Now it looks like I need to give myself the same cautionary advice.
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"I hope that, as a result of our efforts, as a result of our helicopter pilots' being seen by the citizens of Indonesia helping them, that value system of ours will be reinforced," said Colin Powell, one week after the tsunami wrought havoc across South and Southeast Asia.
Conservative commentators Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus have been outed recently for taking money under the table to endorse Bush administration programs. These cases are only the tip of a much bigger iceberg, as you can tell from looking at the images I'm attaching here. I wrote about it three years ago in a story that described the work of conservative direct marketer Bruce Eberle, whose Omega List Company specializes in raising money using mail and e-mail.
On a section of the website that has subsequently been removed, Omega List was quite straightforward about the fact that it pays conservative commentators to endorse clients and their causes. A series of web pages featured conservative radio show host Blanquita Cullum explaining exactly how the system works and how other radio hosts could get in on the gravy. "You do what you do best!" she said. "Get on the air and talk to your listeners! Drive them to your website by conducting a daily survey or a contest on the topic of your choosing." Eberle's "polling wizard" software, installed on the site, would then capture the names of respondents so that they could be hit up for money. "What happens next is a cakewalk," Cullum continued. "Omega will call you with an opportunity to send an endorsement e-mail to your list ... and receive a royalty for lending your name to a cause, organization or product you believe in. ... Omega gives you their specialized software absolutely FREE and presents you with an opportunity to earn an extra $25,000 or more annually."
Thanks to PR Watch forums contributor "El Gringo" for calling our attention to a really atrocious example of dishonest propaganda. The graphic at right is by Linda Eddy, an artist for the website, IowaPresidentialWatch.com. Owned by Roger Hughes, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Iowa, the website spent the recent U.S. presidential election calling Democratic candidate John Kerry a habitual liar and comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels -- which is awfully ironic in light of its own promotion of a big lie.
The image you see here might lead you to believe that the child in the picture has been made "glad" and secure thanks to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. As "El Gringo" discovered, however, Lindy Eddy doctored the photograph. The original photo, taken by a journalist, depicted a young girl who had just received bullet wounds during a firefight in which her mother was killed and her father was wounded. Eddy doctored the photo by erasing the little girl's own face (which carries the listless expression you would expect from an injured child) and replacing it with someone else's face to make her look positively radiant and adoring.
If you're wondering what happened to the "Disinfopedia," our wiki-based "encyclopedia of people, issues and groups shaping the public agenda," it hasn't disappeared. We've just renamed it. It's now called SourceWatch.
John Rendon is CEO of the Rendon Group, a secretive public relations firm that often provides behind-the-scenes advice to the U.S. military. Over the years, we've received dozens of phone calls from journalists who have sought interviews with Rendon about his work on behalf of the Iraqi National Congress, but no one has been able to get him to say more than "no comment."
We were a little surprised, therefore, when a telephone message was left for Rendon in our office by someone identifying himself as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. A transcript of that message is as follows:
Craig Gordon of the website Now Age Press recently interviewed me. He was interested in the current situation with mad cow disease in the US, a subject Sheldon Rampton and I addressed in our prescient 1997 book Mad Cow USA. Craig also was curious about the origins of the Center for Media and Democracy and how issues as seemingly disparate as Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), Mad Cow Disease and Bush's war on Iraq all fall under our investigative lens.
Steven Milloy, the self-proclaimed critic of junk science at Fox News, rarely misses an opportunity to bash environmentalists. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he falsely claimed that the collapse of the World Trade Towers could have been delayed if only the builders had used more asbestos. He also has a habit of distorting other people's words when it serves his agenda. (A recent example of this was featured on RealClimate.org, a weblog for climate scientists.)
Milloy's response to the Asian tsunami is similar. In a column for Fox News, Milloy accuses environmentalists of exploiting the disaster by trying to blame it on global warming. In order to make this seem plausible, however, he has to misquote the environmentalists he is attacking.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded conservative advocacy group that specializes in lobbying state legislatures for enactment of favorable legislation, has issued a "2004 Report Card on American Education" that provides an instructive example of the ways that industry-funded organizations manipulate information to reach foreordained conclusions.
ALEC's report, which comes packaged with a glossy clip-art cover showing a pencil, ruler and other classroom implements, was authored by Andrew T. LeFevre, the President of LeFevre Associates, a PR/lobby firm based in northern Virginia. It was edited by Lori Drummer, who heads ALEC's education task force, which is "responsible for overseeing the development of ALEC policy related to education reform and school choice programs" - euphemisms for school privatization, which ALEC advocates.