Friday, November 24, 2006

Bush's top 5 Pseudo-Events

Published on Friday, November 24, 2006 by the Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
Pseudo-Events Define Six Years of the Bush Regime
by David Benjamin

Now that the overthrow of Congress has launched President Bush into a two-year slough of lame-duck limbo (or, in NBA terms, "garbage time"), it's appropriate to ponder what has befallen America in the Bush era. My guiding light, throughout the ordeal, has been Daniel Boorstin's 1961 book, "The Image."

Boorstin grew alarmed by the ability of Sen. Joseph McCarthy to titillate the press with slanders and fabrications about fictional commies in the government. In "The Image," Boorstin noted that McCarthy got press because he always scheduled his bombshells conveniently for reporters' deadlines. Boorstin referred to McCarthy's strategic incursions into the news cycle as "pseudo-events."

Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as having four qualities: not spontaneous, planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the purpose of being reported or reproduced, having an ambiguous relation to the underlying reality of the situation, and usually intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Boorstin wrote, "We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality."

If this all rings familiar, it's because we are six years into an administration composed almost exclusively of unreality - smoke, mirrors, and staged events before invitation-only audiences. Bush staffers got into the habit of mocking the press and public as "the reality-based community."

Boorstin might well have dubbed this White House the pseudo-presidency. ...

Here are my choices for the Top Five Pseudo-Events of the Bush regime:

5.Plastic Turkey for the Troops. On the first Thanksgiving of the Iraq war, Dubya surprised the troops with a turkey dinner. Except, well, the turkey, which photographed beautifully, was fake. And Dubya didn't actually hang around for dinner. Nice uniform, though.

4. Dubya's Ground Zero Grandstand Play. Bush got years of media mileage for showing up at ground zero in New York three days late. Dressed like a manly man and yelling through a megaphone as firefighters cheered and cops wept, Bush promised to hunt down Osama bin Laden and avenge this outrage. Since then, Bush has exploited the victims of Sept. 11, cut funding for first responders (firefighters and cops) and, um ... Osama? Still out there.

3. Bush v. Gore. The perfect TV pseudo-event. Talking heads suffered a case of the collective vapors while reading the Supreme Court decision that handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush. You could cut the suspense with a knife, but only if you neglected to note that all the justices on Dubya's side (except, of course, for William Rehnquist, proud product of Tricky Dick) had been appointed by administrations in which Bush's father was president or vice president.

2. The Jackson Square Light Show. Three days late (again), Dubya coptered into the Big Easy. Stagehands set up a thrilling array of klieg lights, powered with giant generators. Dubya knitted his brow, clenched his fist, made a speech and blew town. Then the stagehands packed up the lights and took away the generators. Rescue teams went back to hunting for dead bodies in the dark.

1. "Mission Accomplished." Ah, the USS Abraham Lincoln. The glorious landing. The flight suit. The boyish smirk. The banner. The declaration of triumph in Iraq, with only 2,500 more American kids (give or take a thousand) left to kill. Brilliant! Dazzling! Mwah!

...(full article)

It may still take some time to get the MSM to do their job instead of taking the easy path. As Molly Ivins notes about reporting on Bush's visit to Indonesia:

...Thanks from a grateful nation for an obedient press corps that failed during Bush’s six-hour, carefully orchestrated visit to Indonesia to register the fact that there were massive demonstrations against his administration and its policies toward Muslims. The demonstrators during his short visit forced him to stay behind the presidential palace wall all day and—due to concerns for his safety—not spend the night. ...(full article)

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