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Pattern Recognition In The Bush Media Era


In a remarkable video constructed by David Olson and posted on Mediachannel.org some months back, we hear President Bush speaking explicitly in one of his often incoherent speeches about “catapaulting the propaganda.” The President shares his belief-and no doubt the advice of his advisors that repetition of key phrases and message points is essential to influencing public opinion.

“See in my line of work,” he told students in Rochester New York on May 24, 2005. “you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

It is this key Pavlovian insight that animates the GOP media offensive and is often critical to its success. Let me repeat: It is this key Pavlovian insight that…..” How else to let “the truth to sink in?”

Here we have a President who seems so flustered and unfocussed revealing just how calculated he is about what he says and how he says it. He knows he is spewing propaganda and is proud of it.

In a media environment of so much “noise,” clutter and contentious argument, oft repeated simplistic phrases easily break though into public consciousness at a time when impressions and thought by association often drives meaning.

This approach is not fact-based but rather uses symbols and stylized sincerity more than serious explanation. That’s why it’s effective in an already dumbed down media environment.

Another favorite tactic is producing events with carefully chosen backdrops and organizing pre-planned well orchestrated events.

The President’s secret mission to save the mission in Iraq is the latest example of pre-emptive warfare by media to create a basis for looking tough and acting optimistically while the sh-t hits the fan. His audiance most assuredly were not Iraqis but Americans for whom this kind of political theater seems to work well. With showbiz values already driving news biz presentations, Bush has been able to stoke up his supporters without changing anything on the ground. In this way, he can look like a winner while losing.

His language is also scripted and calibrated as noted by the maverick blogger Michael Petralis

“Like something from minimalist composers Steve Reich or Philip Glass, two composers whose music I’ve listened to for years, a quote from President Bush yesterday during his p.r. stunt visit for a few hours to Baghdad sounded terribly familiar.

“I’m impressed by the strength of your character and your desire to succeed. And I’m impressed by your strategy,” Bush said about Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.

A quick Googling of Bush’s gushing praise returned these recent quotes from our fearless, but often tongue-tied leader.

BUSH: People are going to be amazed at her strength of character and her intellect. [...]

BUSH: But what also matters is the intangibles. To me a person’s strength of character counts a lot. And as a result of my friendship with Harriet, I know her strengthen of character. [...]

BUSH: And people will get to see not only her strength of character but will get a sense of her judicial philosophy. [...]“

This approach is more than it appears. Perhaps to really decode it, you have to turn to the work of that American born and Canadian based science fiction futurist William Ford Gibson, the king of cyber punk and the coiner of the phrase cyber-space among others.

His book, Pattern Recognition, is soon to be a TV show/movie offers some clues to his behavior. With reality looking more and more like fiction, fiction often penetrates reality better than journalism.

.Blogger Kate Sherrod explains how his book interprets the subtext of our times. “It is set very much in our … car-driving, Guiness-swilling, paper-wasting, TV-watching present, specifically about a year after the September 11 attacks; its milieu is the very internet in which you, my reader, and I, Your Humble Blogger am now engaged, a perfectly evoked subculture of fanatical followers of a mass of film snippets that surface online from time to time dubbed “the Footage,” and the very 21st century “post-geographic” life of a 33 year old woman whose overwhelming sensitivity to media blitz, to corporate logos and branding, would be a crippling mental illness if she hadn’t found a way to make it.”

In short, we are living in times when content coherent linear logic and presentations are often less influential than “cool” formats and idiosyncratic people. The weird is in-that may account for some of Bush’s appeal even as so much well sourced and grounded criticism unmasks his every move.

The critics often don’t get the way the terrain has changed or how mindlessness sells and pretense is rewarded. (After all Ann Coulter has a #1 best seller.!

Gibson does get all of this. A one time Vietnam war resister, he is critical of the corporate system that Bush and Co. represent and serve. One summary of his book notes, “Gibson critiques commercialism in this book in a very tongue in cheek manner. By creating a character “allergic” to brands, he comments on the ever-emergent world economy and the ubiquity of brands as it expands.”

Think of George W Bush is a brand all by himself and reaize how he is marketed as such. It’s time for us to recognize the patterns as well as their inner logic, distorted values and social devastion. McLuhan understood this much better than MoveOn.

We have to do some catapulting of our own..

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. His new film “IN DEBT WE TRUST.” (In Debtwetrust.com) is now screening at film festivals. Comments to [email protected]

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