Ode to Impeachment: Kucinich, McClellan, and the Propaganda Model

Here’s how the propaganda model works: Take an issue that is at odds with how elite policy makers view the world, say Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) bid to impeach President Bush in early June 2008, and evaluate the media coverage of the event. Kucinich’s attempt to impeach the President elicited a mere 132 words in every major media outlet including the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN.com. In this case, the mainstream media (MSM) did not conduct any of its own reporting or writing, instead it presented the public with an Associated Press (AP) report, which lacked depth and context regarding Kucinich’s argument. The paltry word count aside, the article was rarely found in print, but left to be discovered on the websites of major media players, designated to an obscure link on the margins. The only remnants of the media coverage can be found in an exact and precise Google search, which will lead readers to the brief article.

Media consumers were not given the information resources needed to make an informed judgment surrounding the impeachment proceedings. A thorough report would have explained Kucinich’s claims more. The reader is left to wonder why Kucinich thinks Bush deceived the nation and violated his oath of office. Instead, the article reminds the public that Kucinich was criticized by his opponents for ignoring business “at home to travel the country in his bid to be president.”

In today’s pseudo-political culture, which the media help perpetuate by blurring the line between commentary and news, the candidate’s relationship to their minister, or their use (non-use) of flag lapel pins, have more bearing on electability than a candidate’s solutions for the faltering economy and the seemingly endless occupation of Iraq. It’s not that striking that the media did not investigate Kucinich’s claims.

Kucinich delivered the articles of impeachment during Scott McClellan’s around-the-world book tour. McClellan’s seminal primary source, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House, caused a fury of media attention. He was interviewed by all the major media personalities such as David Letterman, John Stewart, and was on Good Morning America. His book undercut Bush’s claims for war and stated that the administration never stopped campaigning after Bush won the contested 2000 election. The partisan bickering never stopped and the Bush-Rove gang were determined to install a conservative majority into Washington politics that would last for generations. Facts were de-contextualized or misrepresented, outright lies accepted at truths, and news was spun to fit Bush and company’s neo-conservative worldview in order to ensure the President’s policies were accepted and never questioned.

McClellan’s major argument revolved around his disdain of the “culture” of Washington, where politicians say whatever they must to remain in power. He blames Bush’s top advisers, like Condi Rice, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld for the President’s decision to accept weak intelligence reports on Iraq and for the government’s disgraceful efforts to protect its citizens trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Because of McClellan’s rumpus in the media, maybe the editors of the major press outlets viewed Kucinich’s efforts as overkill. After a good two weeks of pumping up McClellan to the American public, Kucinich’s impeachment attempt perhaps came at the wrong time to receive in-depth media coverage. However, this analysis remains superficial. Surely, the 70% or so American who disapprove of the President are interested in an attempt to hold him accountable. In addition, the MSM had more than enough resources (at least the Times, the Post, and the 24-hour channels) to send a reporter to interview Kucinich and leading Democrats and Republicans to get their take on the impeachment debate. They could have sent another reporter to “hit the streets,” and get the average American’s opinion. The Propaganda Model accounts for why these steps were not taken. As seen under the rubric of the Propaganda Model, the disparity of coverage between McClellan and Kucinich can be accounted for by Herman and Chomsky’s (1988) description of acceptable dissent.

McClellan never stated that the President’s actions were illegal, even though the most amateur constitutional lawyer could, at the very least, build a strong case on Bush’s abuse of power. By blaming the culture of Washington and the effects of the permanent campaign for Bush’s downfall, McClellan was sidestepping the President’s culpability. Bush’s policy decisions were tactical errors, not outright malicious behavior. For example, McClellan, like many former and contemporary Bush supporters, even some liberals, still think that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do. To them, the war was mismanaged. The war went bad after the wrong decisions were made. L. Paul Bremmer’s decision to disband the Iraqi Army lives in folklore as one of the administration’s most asinine moves. What McClellan doesn’t question is America’s right to preemptively strike and occupy a sovereign nation. This attitude of American might is not new. It has been around since the 19th Century with Manifest Density and the slaughter of the indigenous population in the name of civilization and Christianity. Herman and Chomsky explain that the Vietnam War was also considered a noble cause, until the TET offensive in 1968, when the U.S. military was saddled with a huge strategic and emotional defeat. After 1968, elite liberals criticized the war with more energy, but only on its tactics. The once magnanimous effort to rid the Vietnamese of communism failed and a respectful, quick, and quiet withdrawal was the only option left for the U.S. Once again, America’s right to extend its borders and “pacify” Vietnam, which would open another market to American companies, was not broached. After an elementary review of today’s acceptable dissent regarding the Iraq War, Kucinich’s virulent denunciation of American power and in consequence, President Bush, has few corollaries in U.S. Congressional history during times of war. On the other hand, McClellan’s soft critique of American power under Bush does not offend conservative and liberal elites, thus he gets play in the media.

Some may say that Kucinich’s drive for impeachment did not receive in-depth coverage in the media because he did not stand a chance at achieving his goals. He was just a “liberal loon,” as Bill O’Reilly would say, there was no way for Kucinich to succeed so it’s not that important to cover. Giving it a 132-word AP article is more than enough to satisfy the press’ need to provide balanced news. Besides Kucinich is just distracting the public from the real issues, like the poor economy and the progress in Iraq. But, it is not the job of the press to tell the public what is and is not important. Journalism, as taught in any J-school in the country, is all about accountability. Journalists investigate, report, and write articles that hold the powerful accountable so the public does not have to. Political affiliation, ideology, or likelihood of success should have no bearing on media coverage.

Because Kucinich’s articles of impeachment were important, much more so than the brief article that made the websites of the major press centers. He has consistently been one of the few public figures to talk negatively about the ills of concentrated power and its effect on everyday life. By raising the specter of impeachment proceedings, Kucinich was putting McClellan’s rhetoric into action, exactly what conservative and liberal elites deplore — collective efforts to minimize their influence. Kucinich’s articles of impeachment take the debate surrounding the Iraq War past tactical arguments and into the legal realm, something unfathomable to political and corporate elites. For to continue their charade of protecting democracy and fighting state terrorists such as Iran and Venezuela, powerful conservatives and liberals have to keep every means available to them to start a war like they did in 1845 with Mexico, 1898 with Spain, 1964 with Vietnam, and 2003 with Iraq. In each of these instances, a war was started on the basis of lies and nobody was held accountable. Why break the trend in 2008?

Jeffrey Tischauser is as a freelance writer for ResearchCast.com and teaches communication as an adjunct instructor at Daley College in Chicago, Illinois. He can be reached at: jtischauser1@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Jeffrey, or visit Jeffrey's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 5th, 2008 at 5:25am #

    again, basics r ommited.
    the writer implies that US, once it presents american ‘truth’ , it can invade/bomb/murder.
    so, if in american eyes, planned war is legal, US kills.
    in ad’n, article like almost all other antiwar pieces tacitly aver a land to be attacked cannot have truth, only US.
    i do not think that russians, chinese, syrians, lebanese, iranians, koreans haven’t analyzed the sit’n as i have.
    this bodes unwell for the planet. thank u

  2. corylus said on July 5th, 2008 at 9:06am #

    You must have read a different article than I, as what I read here is an explanation of how attempts by the few remaining “true” representatives to hold public officials accountable — thus at least exposing American imperialism for what it is: ruthless greed and murder — are subjugated by the established corporate-owned media and political elite.

  3. OakRaidFan said on July 5th, 2008 at 12:00pm #

    Jeffrey is absolutely correct. While McClellan talks the talk, Kucinich walks the walk. When Kucinich reintroduces Articles of Impeachment between July7-9, he may double them, from 35 to about 70 or so. It only takes one (1) Article to be voted upon and acted on, for Congress to begin actual Impeachment proceedings. If Clinton could be brought up on Impeachment proceedings for having lied under oath, Bush & Co. should be brought up on Impeachment proceedings for lying about the war, destroying the environment, robbing US tax $, US atty firings, etc.

  4. bozhidar balkas said on July 5th, 2008 at 12:32pm #

    back to basics, please?
    it is apodictic( of a desirable/necessary/certain truth) that one has no right to attack another land under no known circumstance.
    corrolary to this being that one prosecutes only criminals and not collectiveley punish pop which almost always is misled and so supports crimes of their leaders.
    pop should never be punished. but one can put a ransom of bns on alleged criminal’s head like saddam.
    so, why did he omit this? and almost all contributors have skirted the simple desirable notion.
    alleged criminals like milosevic and saddam cld have been ( easily?) arrested or slain. after all saddam had ab 6.5 bn enemies.
    corrolary arising from the above postualets that we must stop discussing whether bush lied or told the truth; US still has no right to attack a people for crimes commited by individuals.
    in fact, how can u kill even 1 person let alone a mn+ while armed w. the truth?
    and the truth made in america which is armed w. wmd; its ships cruising the oceans; thretening many nations, etc.
    these r the basics; to me, anyway.
    his article mentions some problems.
    but ommiting to condemn a war regardless of what US says, is wrong thing to do.
    more can be said. i hope i have s’mwhat clarified the issue. thanx for ur comment.
    i had to reread the article by tischauser to find out what he wrote. however, these basic premises or even truth is not mentioned.

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 5th, 2008 at 12:40pm #

    correctiom ab apodictic truth. it shuold be apodictic (of desirable/necessary/certain) truth and not (desirable/necessary/certain/truth) thank u

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 7:02am #

    93 years havr served you well, bb. should several decades fewer have given most of us a tiny measure of your courage. corylous, I contributed to K’s campaign from California but haven’t read the article above. What I don’t believe in is “The Propaganda Model.” In Chomsky and Herman’s version, or anyone else’s. As I keep posting in various comments to DV, I believe in a “Secrecy Model” (my own, needless to say).

  7. Deadbeat said on July 8th, 2008 at 7:47am #

    I agree with Bozhidar. The same holds true for Afghanistan. Somehow that basis for that war is getting overshadowed by the Iraq war. There was absolutely NO justification for the war in Afghanistan however the Congress (including Kucinich and McKinney) overwhelmingly voted to give Bush the authority to invade.

    However it was reported at the time that the FBI had NO solid evidence of Bin Laden’s involvement. In addition the former Afghan government was willing to comply and assist the U.S. and to extradite Bin Laden once the U.S. provided the Afghan government with evidence of his involvement. And most importantly if Bin Laden was involved with 9-11 he action was not representative of the former Afghan government nor the people of Afghanistan.

    Last week the U.S. bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan.

  8. hp said on July 8th, 2008 at 8:48am #

    Not exactly rocket science.
    We’re #1, we’re #1. (at drug dealing)
    When the Taliban imposed a ban on poppy cultivation in 2000, the production declined more than 90% in 2001.
    “NATO” invaded shortly thereafter.


  9. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 11:15am #

    No “justification” for the war in Afghanistan, granted, but Kucinich and McKinney may have been trading for influence on the inevitable Iraq War. What are you, Deadbeat, hoping those two will be posting here at Dissident Voice next year?

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    How about this one, hp? Those flowers that used to be called “California Poppies.” They’re now “California Golden Fields.”

  11. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 12:08pm #

    How about this one, hp? Those flowers that used to be called “California Poppies”? I heard they’re now called “California Golden Fields”.

  12. hp said on July 8th, 2008 at 2:44pm #

    California ‘worth ten times their weight in golden” fields.

  13. Patrick said on July 14th, 2008 at 4:51pm #

    Democracy in America…is all but dead!! With passage of the FISA recently(including Obama voting for it) the hand writing is on the wall.
    The MSM is giving FISA and Impeachment virtually no coverage. We might as well be living in the former Soviet Union!! The next step is “Marshall Law” and subsequent revolution. However, the news is not all bad, perhaps it will eventually mean the break-up of this disasterous union!!


    one-pissed off military veteran