Thursday night’s press conference gave us a solid example of how elite interests dominate the news cycle.
Consider this. At the same time Bush was braying about fixing the Social Security system, the violence in Iraq was reaching a crescendo (13 bombs went off in Baghdad on Friday killing 50 civilians and 3 American servicemen), the convicted fraudster, Ahmad Chalabi, was assuming his position in the Iraqi cabinet as oil minister in the new Iraqi government, and the journal Science was releasing a report confirming that “Climate scientists have found the heat exchange between earth and space is seriously out of balance -- validating forecasts of global warming.” (Adding that if carbon dioxide levels continue to grow things could “spin out of control”)
None of these topics found their way into the presidential press conference. Instead, Bush was given an open platform on prime time TV to assail the most successful government program ever initiated, which, by conservative estimates, will be solvent until 2051.
What we heard in Bush’s 10-minute monologue was nothing more than a sales pitch for the program of rich constituents. The first order of business was to confirm that the administration’s only plan for the current energy crunch is more drilling, less regulation and bigger subsidies for the American energy giants. (a.k.a. the new Bush Energy Bill) In a time when the rate of consumption of resources has reached unsustainable levels, this is sheer lunacy.
The second major theme was Social Security, a topic on which Bush continues to follow the explicit strategy laid out by the conservative Cato Institute:
1. Maintain constant criticism of Social Security to influence the media and to undermine public confidence in the soundness of the program.
2. Build a network of influential supporters of private accounts, including Wall Street brokers who would profit from them.
3. Divide and conquer the opposition by assuring retirees and those nearing retirement that their benefits would be fully paid.
Is this a fair rendering of the Bush approach? Discredit the system and guide the flock towards privatization?
So, what was the American media’s response to Mr. Bush’s palavering?
Well, a simple Google search shows over 1,400 articles used Social Security in their title. In other words, the press corps willingly promotes the president’s message by conveying the main elements verbatim in all the major print media. It’s a smooth way of transforming a news conference into a White House infomercial, where prepared questions create the illusion of a lively debate. In essence, the playful jousting with reporters only illustrates to what extent the media is in bed with the administration. As recent polling date shows, increasing numbers of Americans see the media as little more than court-appointed stenographers for the imperial agenda.
Politicians always try to dominate the news cycle with their own issues. The difference here is that the real issues that threaten our immediate future as well as our very survival as a species are being omitted or marginalized to promote the narrow, self-aggrandizing interests of the privileged few. The Bush plan for private accounts is a stunning example of this. The friendly sounding “personal accounts” are a conspicuous ruse designed to funnel taxpayer dollars into Wall Street brokerage houses. Bush’s barnstorming 60-day tour across the country touting the benefits of private accounts did nothing to convince the American people that dramatic changes need to be made. In fact, “opposition to Bush's handling of Social Security jumped from 56 percent to 64 percent between March and April. In a CBS poll earlier this month, only 25 percent said they were confident in his handling of Social Security.” (Jay Bookman, Atlantic Journal Constitution, April 27, 2005)
Similarly, the American people aren’t hoodwinked by Bush’s shortsighted energy policies. Jay Bookman notes a recent Associated Press poll that only 31% think that Bush is “handling our energy problems effectively.”
In virtually every area, Iraq, energy, Social Security, the economy, foreign policy etc., Bush’s numbers are on the downhill slide. Nevertheless, the “Big Brother” strategy of keeping him in the spotlight, championing the elitist agenda hasn’t changed a bit. The palpable arrogance of the Washington cabal is so extreme that Bush’s popularity could dither in the single-digit range and he’d still be featured prominently on the daily news. He’s simply “their guy” and all the bullhorns are in their stable.
But, the issue isn’t Bush; his role is incidental at best (even the most ardent Bush supporters don’t seriously believe that he’s running the country). The broader issue is that our information-systems (media) are entirely clogged with the special interest tripe that flows from boardrooms across America drowning out even those voices that only want to save the species from extinction. The “deregulated” capitalist octopus has extended its grip into every crook and crag of our collective existence and is bringing down the republic with its inexorable rapacity. Rome is burning, but Bush and his cadres are still maniacally focused on the last bag of gold left in the public vault: Social Security.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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