September 9, 2004
A Modest Proposal
BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
In my film “Orwell Rolls In His Grave” media historian Professor Robert McChesney explains what happened during the Florida recount. To paraphrase:
As to how the Florida recount was presented on the TV networks, the odd thing about what the public saw was what they didn’t see. Take for example, the shutting down of the vote counting in Dade County on November 22, 2000, during which vote counters were intimidated and roughed up by Republican operatives brought in from out of state. Had the Networks repeatedly broadcast these readily available “smoking gun” images, the way they aired “the Dean Scream” or the montage of “Gore Huffing” during the first 2000 Presidential debate, public opinion would likely have demanded that the votes be counted.
Then, as “Fahrenheit 9/11” showed, the networks chose not to broadcast video images of public demonstrations during the Bush Inauguration, including the pelting of Bush’s limo with eggs, and instead simply covered the event as a coronation.
Likewise, the significant conflicts of interest among the Republican members of the Supreme Court who stopped the vote counting were not covered, or were briefly noted in a way that did not catch the public’s attention.
Whether or not such curious omissions are intentional, this methodology on the part of the mainstream media has emboldened radical elements of the Republican Party. They can get away with behavior that in the past would have triggered major scandals, indictments, or even impeachment. This gang was willing to do anything to get power, and they will do anything to keep it.
Cut to the present.
Given this news methodology, Kerry must fight both George Bush and Co. -- who do not play by the rules -- and the Mainstream Media. I do not think Kerry can be elected by debating issues. If he tries to talk about the economy or jobs, the Republicans, with the aid of the news media, will spin the numbers and turn the discussion into a difference of opinion. In any case, Kerry’s proposals will not be given significant airtime and the Republicans will try to “run out the clock” -– witness their current resistance to three debates. Kerry will be dependent on commercials, which will play against Bush’s commercials, largely canceling each other out. Furthermore, as we have seen, terror alerts can and probably will be used to stop any single story that seems to be gaining traction.
From my study of the structure and methodology of the corporate media over the last several years, this is what I think Kerry must do.
The media can and will undercover his speeches, but because he is the Democratic Candidate they will usually show at least a 15 second sound bite from a given day’s campaign speech. Kerry must only and exclusively couple all issues to Bush SCANDALS. Negative campaigning be damned, every portion of his stump speech must relate to one of several past or brewing scandals. Issues like the “economy” and “jobs” must be directly connected in the next sentence to Kenneth Lay and Bush’s inside trading when he was a director of Harken. Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity have Bush dead to rights on this old Harken story, and it goes to his economic stewardship, character and possible criminality, and it’s part of a pattern.
When Kerry speaks about national security, he must relate it to the treasonous outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame by White House officials. Bush’s AWOL issue must be mentioned in the same breath as “Rumors of a Cocaine Arrest”.
Kerry must couple Bush’s Judicial nominations with the stolen 2000 election. He needs to compare Republican smear tactics with what happened in the last election.
Bush’s highly touted war leadership should be connected to a visual of him in flight gear with the ridiculing caption “mission accomplished.”
In short, Kerry -– and any of his representatives appearing on any network or cable show -– must relentlessly attack Bush’s character. He literally needs to give the mainstream media nothing else to quote for weeks. Specifically, Kerry’s speeches need to be crafted so that they are very difficult to excerpt for 15 seconds without including a link to a Bush scandal. If Kerry goes on about being a better leader or a better uniter the Networks will likely only report that segment of the speech.
Mike Moore’s film contained startling footage (also streamed on BuzzFlash) of Bush sitting frozen in that classroom on September 11th 2001, but I am not aware of a single TV news show that broadcast that clip from the film. If Kerry gives the media no alternative footage, these scandals will be mentioned and enterprising reporters will have a pretext to cover and talk about them. In this context Kerry can challenge the media; “You are not reporting the news, Bush wants to further deregulate you guys, does this influence your coverage?”
In my opinion, this is the only way the general public (read: swing voters who don’t follow the issues carefully) will learn about these stories in a timely manner. It’s no good to hope that unforeseen events will trip up Bush. Kerry has to take the lead, and it must be a relentless multiple attack or the methodology of the mainstream media will neuter his campaign.
A final note: In April 2001, I caught Kerry walking out of MSNBC studios in Washington. I was standing alone outside the studio looking to importune pundits and trying to appear casual; but with a sleek camera on my hip that could have been a weapon, I looked like I might be up to no good. Kerry saw me, walked right over, and asked me “what the hell I was doing.” I was very impressed with his guts and spontaneity. Later, I contacted his office in Boston -- my accountant’s son happened to work there -- for an interview about the media. They vetted and fretted and probably didn’t even relay the request. Would Kerry’s team ever allow the radical approach I have suggested? With regard to the news media, do they fully understand what he’s up against? Do his handlers know what’s at stake for the country?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
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