Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend

Sept 21 - Oct 5, 2005
Issue #84

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
Why is it OK for the press to lie?
Allan Uthman

Banana Republicans
3rd World, US-style
Shawn Ewald

Drowning Reality
Truth not a Major Factor in New Orleans
Kit Smith
Of Pandas & Morons
Truth vs. Myth in PA
Jeff Dean
Star Wars
The Sequel & the Reality
Bob Fitrakis

Play the Blame Game!
Match the Stupid Quote!
Roberts Confirmation Maze

Buffalo in Briefs
The Sports Blotter
The Week in Sports Crime
Matt Taibbi
Wide Right
Bills Football
Ronnie Roscoe
Kino Korner: Movies
Michael Gildea
Page 3
Separated at Birth?
[sic] - Letters
 Cover Page

Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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Why is it okay for the press to lie?
Allan Uthman

Trying to right itself after stumbling in hurricane Katrina’s wake, the Bush administration is relying on what it does best: lying. Lying about easily researched and refuted subjects. It seems stupid, but it has worked well in the past for Bush.

Don’t get me wrong; I know politicians lie. Just never this much, or this obviously. Right now, the mantra on millions of lips is that the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana are primarily responsible for the mess. The federal government, we are told, did not have the authority to act. It’s the local officials who stonewalled and dragged this out.

This just isn’t true. In fact it is a lie—a clear, non-debatable lie. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Governor Blanco requested that Bush declare a federal emergency days before the hurricane landed, on August 26th, which he did—three days later. The rules from there are very clear: once it’s a federal emergency, it’s under federal jurisdiction.

But the Washington Post claimed Blanco hadn’t declared a state of emergency until September 3rd – a week later than when she did. Newsweek made a similar claim. Both have since been corrected, but it’s too late for that to matter. Fox News’ Brit Hume said that Bush convinced Blanco to start evacuating residents. Rush Limbaugh said he begged her to do it.

These are all lies. Not mistakes. Lies in the service of power. Obviously, this isn’t anything new. The only difference is that this time, so far, they don’t seem to be working. Bush’s poll numbers are just as bad as when he started smearing Blanco and N.O. Mayor Nagin, whose 2 or 300 school buses, without drivers, turned into thousands overnight.

This time, the bullshit is too smelly. Nobody’s buying, except for the most loyal buffoons. Even some members of the press are asking hard questions, and asking them again when they don’t get answers.

The administration seems to be so out of touch that they are actually astounded to be challenged, even when telling obvious lies. And why wouldn’t they be shocked? It must seem really strange, when they’ve been telling such huge whoppers for so long, to suddenly get called on it. These guys have made careers out of lying; the have told so many lies of such magnitude for so long, and the press has swallowed it whole and rarely bothered to correct itself. They have no clue how full of shit they sound, because there’s no one to tell them. According to Newsweek, Bush’s staff had to put together a DVD of television news coverage of New Orleans, so the president could understand why his poll numbers were dropping.

Still, after all the lies about Iraq, the deficit, lies about reducing mercury emissions, about global warming, prisoner abuse, Joe Wilson, John Kerry, and a thousand other things, is it any wonder that the last thing they would expect would be skepticism from Wolf Blitzer? Even now, the crisis subsides, and once again we hear the lies.

Time Lies

There is no greater example of the media’s tendency to cradle Bush as they criticize him than the soulless hacks at Time magazine. In Mike Allen’s recent piece on the bungled disaster response and “Bush’s plan to show he isn’t isolated,” he’s too busy fluffing the president to really swipe at him much. It’s clear from reading articles like this that the press really do live in their own world—a world where Bush “banks on his image as a straight shooter,” where his month-long vacations are alarming because it gives his opponents “an opening for capturing the news agenda.” But by far my favorite quote from this piece is this: “Louisiana officials say it took hours for Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to reach Bush (although when she did, he talked to her soothingly, according to White House officials).”

Soothingly. Isn’t that cute? Doesn’t that just make it all better?

After detailing the many systemic problems within his administration which led to Bush’s oblivious non-response, Allen reports of Bush’s “three-part comeback plan,” which includes, as part 2: “The White House has sent delegates to meetings in Washington of outside Republican groups who have plans to blame the Democrats and state and local officials.”

This is simply reported as part of this “comeback” plan, with no hint of judgment, no acknowledgment of the fact that it’s a despicable, unethical course of action. This is their plan. This is what they’re thinking about—deflecting blame. And Time is here to help. Now that most of the dying is over, this disaster, like everything else, is a ‘political football,’ another match to be played between the two parties. Reality has nothing to do with it; the match is played in your mind, through the press, and control of your perceptions is the prize. And you are used to it by now.

That’s why it doesn’t sound completely fucking bonkers that Bush can “respond” to the Katrina crisis with a week-late speech, and get big points, at least on the right, for doing so. There he was, all lit up (with power from generators that could have gone to better use) in kindler gentler blue, a few hundred feet away from the rotting, bloated corpses of the people he’d let down, and making promises, “taking responsibility,” as if that means anything to an unimpeachable lame duck.

But rather than reacting like any normal person would to a guy who has lied to them on a daily basis for 5 years, the press gets excited, even before it happens—leading to insanely horrid headlines like “Bush Plans Speech; Death Toll Rises” at the L.A. Times.

Even if you’re okay with that, you should not be okay with the lies. When Bush said nobody could have predicted the levees would break, it was a lie and everybody knew it…but nobody cared. When Tom Delay said there was no fat left to trim in the congressional budget, well, you just keep waiting for him to slough off an entire layer of skin at once, or swallow a live rabbit whole, don’t you?

Poverty Lies

A look at recent statistical pocket-pool on the poverty rate further illuminates the unfettering of the bullshit process. Since team Bush’s PR disaster following Katrina, the administration’s been hemorrhaging points in opinion polls and scrambling to alter public perceptions that Bush doesn’t care about the poor. Unfortunately for them, the numbers aren’t good. Poverty decreased every year under Clinton, from 15.1 percent to 11.3 percent. Since Bush took office, it has increased every year, to 12.7 percent so far. This wouldn’t seem like something Republicans could spin to their advantage.

But why let the truth get in the way? Amazingly, people have been using these very numbers to make the case that Bush has reduced poverty. On CNN, the shameless Joe Watkins compared the poverty rate when Clinton took office—in other words, the rate handed him by Bush’s dad—to the rate today: “under Bill Clinton, 15.1 percent of the population was poor; under President Bush, 12.7 percent of the population is poor. That's a reduction, that's a good thing.” Again, this is a lie—there is no other word for it.

And it’s a lie that comes from the top, apparently, because Watkins was not alone. At least Bill O’Reilly was kind enough to take a number from later on in the Clinton years, but still early enough to maintain the fantasy that Bush had reduced poverty: “Halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower.” This isn’t exactly a lie, it’s just that picking the “halfway” point in Clinton’s stay in office is meaningless, except as a method of obscuring the truth.

Then an editorial in the “liberal” Washington Post echoed the lie: “Since 1999, the [poverty] rate has been edging steadily, and disturbingly, upward,” an editorial claimed. But hey, at least they were only off by two years.

Why Bother?

Perhaps the worst thing about this media complicity is that it seems almost unnecessary at this point: Republican voters seem unworried about the lies, perfectly willing to believe them without the help of obsequious media outlets like Time, Fox, and CNN. They are happy to be lied to, and trained to lie to themselves. Any item that criticizes Bush, or even presents facts which reflect poorly on him, is “politically motivated” and “liberally biased,” and dismissed out of hand.

There’s been a lot of talk of what a great job the media, even cable outlets, did covering the first few days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. It’s been called a high point, where the media actually prodded the government into action. But what made those first three days or so special? Reporting. There was no spin alley in New Orleans. Nobody’s cell phones worked. No one was crafting the message. Isolated, all the correspondents could do was actually report what they saw. And what they saw was horror, and they told of it. The results were undeniably compelling, and sometimes amusing—watching Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly try to control a dangerously off-message Shepard Smith on Fox News, for instance, or Anderson Cooper telling Senator Mary Landrieu that it was difficult to hear her congratulate politicians on what a great job they were doing when rats were devouring corpses in the street.

That kind of news – not padded, not spun, just the truth – should not be considered exceptional. It’s what the press is supposed to be for, and it’s what they should do every day. Just imagine:

I’m here in Crawford, watching the president cut wood, and I have to say, it’s totally disgusting. He’s been here four and a half weeks now, and I don’t think I’ve seen him so much as read a comic book. He gave a speech today, but—you know, ‘blah blah blah freedom liberty 9-11,’ same old crap. We’re left to wonder, what the hell does this guy do, anyway? Do Bush and the terrorists have a gentleman’s agreement to call a ceasefire during August?  Back to you, Wolf.

Thanks, Anderson. Meanwhile, in congress, Senate Republicans voted unanimously against an effort to set up an independent investigation into what went wrong with the federal response to the Katrina disaster. Since the only possible motive the GOP would have to squash such an investigation is that they have something to hide, we can really only draw one conclusion: these people are fucking douchebags.

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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