Breaking News, Top Breaking News, Liberal News
FORUMS | BLOG | EDITORIALS Liberal news Liberal News



Liberal News
Midday | Evening
Editorials| Archives
Editors' Blog


Liberal news
Blue Lemur Blogs
-Your free blog!
Discussion Forums

Favorite Links
Logo & Raw Shop


Contact| Link to us
| Join


About Us
Privacy | Site Map

Williams gets $240k, voted off the island


Did you happen to watch the Survivor All-Star season? It isn’t often that I can actually use some of my more ridiculous television-watching habits in my column, so I have to seize this opportunity now.

Here’s the recap of the relevant part: two of the contestants, Rob and Amber, allied early (they became romantically involved in the course of the season, and are currently engaged). But in one of those clever machinations that Survivor honchos throw in to let CBS give Shocking New Twist! promos for the show every week, the organization of contestants was shuffled so that Amber had to switch to the other team.


After her new team lost a game, meaning that they had to vote a member off that night, Rob muttered to his friend Lex, on Amber’s new team, asking Lex to not vote Amber off. Lex did this, and the next week, when the tribes merged, Rob promptly voted Lex off. Lex was not very happy about this, spouting some typically Survivor-esque bluster about how Rob came to him as a friend asking him to do a favor, and in a shocking glimpse of rational thought on the show, Rob replied that if Lex helped save Amber for him as a friend, then he had no right to demand game help from Rob in return.

Lex took most of his speaking time in the big season finale to slam Rob for his actions some more, saying that Rob chose money over friendship, but Rob’s point was still true: if the decision was made as a favor to a friend, then Lex had no reason to ask for help in the game as a tit-for-tat. Either the actions were friendly, in which case there was no need for “payback,” or they were game play, and BOTH of them were in it for the money.

How does a “reality” show relate to the politics of the day, you ask? Via a real-life scenario in the papers this week. In the role of Rob, we have the Bush administration—but instead of saying to political commentator Armstrong Williams (playing the part of Lex), “Please help our No Child Left Behind act from being voted off the island because you’re our friend and like us so much,” They said, “Hey Armstrong, if you talk up the No Child Left Behind Act, we’ll give you $240,000.”

And now, in the aftermath of USA Today discovering and publishing a story on this bribe, Williams is insisting that the money wasn’t part of a cause-and-effect relationship; he promoted No Child Left Behind because it was so great.

Inquiring minds must then ask: why the $240,000?

This is not the first time the Bush cabal has illegally used taxpayer money to purchase blatant propaganda. Last year, “news” pieces on the White House’s proposed prescription drug plan appeared in scores of local news programs before it was revealed that the “reporters” in the piece, giving an ostensibly neutral recitation of fact (that just happened to list the advantages of the Bush plan in handy bullet point form,) were actually actors in a “video news release” funded by your tax dollars.

Both the contract with a supposedly independent political pundit and the phony news reports are indisputably illegal—government money cannot be used to fund propaganda for or against its own programs. I know this well from personal experience. I helped put together some grassroots lobbying for a non-profit organization that also receives some governmental contracts. I was brought into the organization explicitly because a regular salaried employee spending some of their time working on lobbying and some on an event paid for with government money would be too far into a legal gray area: it was easier to hire an entirely separate person for a finite length of time to just do the lobbying, and keep that person’s job functions completely distinct from any work funded by the government.

So if that is the standard to which other organizations are held, how on earth can the White House defend using the money I pay in taxes to fund Republican political propaganda, in a particularly underhanded way?

Williams as well deserves particular opprobrium. It is manifest to someone who has read even one of my columns that I am writing from a particular ideological perspective. But even if you don’t agree with what I’m writing, I trust that you believe that I hold this perspective because I actually think this way, not because I’m getting a check for espousing a specific program or candidate.

One expects that people involved in the political world can have ties to candidates and programs as specific as they like. I don’t think anyone believes that James Carville speaks objectively about Bill Clinton, nor that anyone bought Karen Hughes’s book for an unbiased evaluation of George W. Bush. The key, however, is that the viewers know about those ties, and can make their own evaluation of a pundit based upon a level of transparency.

When the government uses our money to covertly pay for favorable“news” reports, or softball interviews of Cabinet members (as when Williams interviewed Secretary Rod Paige,) that transparency is gone.

Williams is a conservative from way back—he was an aide to Clarence Thomas, after all. He very likely would have toed the Republican line in support of No Child Left Behind without a check.

What he would not have done on his own is to have had a written agreement to lobby other journalists to talk more about No Child Left Behind. He probably wouldn’t have explicitly targeted African-Americans, convincing Steve Harvey to have Paige as a guest on his own show. And, need I add, he wouldn’t have gotten paid for his commentary twice—once by the ultra-conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Corporation (which has actually severed ties with him,) and a second time by the White House.

The Bush administration represents the new paradigm, exemplified by fake “reality” shows like Survivor, where greed provides the motivation to model an orchestrated version of pretend conflict to entertain a willing and self-deceived audience of voyeurs.

If the American people aren’t quite stupid enough to believe every outright lie that our President and his minders tell them, then the Grand Old Values Party will simply pay someone to act as a shill. In case you haven’t been to the carnival lately, a shill is “A decoy who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate the participation of others.” When news organizations report that a government program (its very name a cruel deception) like “No Child Left Behind” is failing miserably, what option does Bush have but to secretly pay a commentator to use his public position to spread his lies covertly?

When the rock was lifted off Bush’s little cockroach nest, he and Mr. Williams scurried for dark corners and explained that they were “just friends”.

Thus we return to the lesson of the Survivor show, after all. The White House can’t hand over a check and then say Williams was doing it because they’re buddies. Williams got a check for “services rendered,” and now he and the White House are pretending that they rented out that cheap motel room because Williams likes the White House’s eyes. Just admit it, boys—you did it for the money.




Copyright © 2004 Raw Story Media. All rights reserved. | Site map | Privacy policy