September 10, 2002
9:26 PM   Subscribe

The problem is not with your set: Last fall, Sen. Hillary Clinton was lustily booed by the crowd at the Concert for New York City benefit aired live on VH1, much to the glee of conservative commentators. On the DVD release of the concert, Clinton is greeted with rousing cheers, as revealed by ABC's John Stossel. Give Viacom a hand. VH1's parent company also contributed $32,500 to her campaign and owns Simon & Schuster, which is paying $8 million for her memoirs.
posted by rcade (42 comments total)
I really hate it when so-called "liberal" entertainment cartels do things like this. Yeah, let's give the AM talk crowd another reason to scream about liberal media bias. The real issue here, of course, is greed, not any radical far-left leanings. The muddle-headed, soft, mainstream "liberalism" of Hollywood is such an insult to thinking voters of all stripes. Great post, rcade. Thanks for the research.
posted by mediareport at 9:48 PM on September 10, 2002

seriously though, what should they have done? cut her out entirely? left the boorish trampling of a well meaning benefit concert in place? sometimes production value enters the mind long before political and financial gain.
posted by machaus at 9:50 PM on September 10, 2002

How can anyone defend this?
posted by pablofiesta at 9:59 PM on September 10, 2002

Production values is a legit reason for reversing reality in a documentary? This isn't a bit of fictional license we're talking about here. Editing out the boos would have been manipulative, but understandable. Adding applause is straight out of Orwell. Or Stalin. It's disgusting.
posted by mediareport at 10:14 PM on September 10, 2002

The notion that applause for Hillary Clinton is more "convincing," and hence should be added in place of what actually occured, is a remarkable example of doublethink.

Editing news events to remove public disapproval for political leaders is the kind of thing that would occur in China. Regardless of how you feel about the boobirds, you should be in favor of broadcasters presenting an event as it actually took place, rather than lying to you so they can curry favor with a politician.
posted by rcade at 10:26 PM on September 10, 2002

Of course if Bush had made an appearance, they would have set it up ahead of time so only his supporters were in attendance. Any dissenters would have been threatened with expulsion from the concert....
posted by hyperizer at 10:38 PM on September 10, 2002

No one's defending the booing, XQUZYPHYR; it was disgusting, too. The issue here is what to do when your dual political/fundraising event goes awry due to your own poor planning. I think it's obvious that the egos who head entertainment giants like Viacom couldn't possibly allow the truth to get out, partly because they hate giving anyone a glimpse of the wizard behind their precious curtain, and partly to do a political favor for a powerful Senator.

Why not have someone who was present acknowledge the reality in the liner notes and explain why the ridiculous booing was edited out? And if Hillary still didn't want to be included, she could have asked Viacom to remove the footage so as not to disrupt the feel-good fundraising of the videotape (which also could have been explained in liner notes). But god, don't fucking lie to us about what happened. Do you really expect us to not raise an eyebrow at the comfort with which Viacom was selling a deliberately altered version of reality as a documentary? The same Viacom that owns CBS News?

Viacom behaved like the scared little wizards they are, too worried about what we might think if we saw them working the levers and smoke machines of Hollywood to tell the simple truth. They don't have a leg to stand on here.
posted by mediareport at 10:48 PM on September 10, 2002

Was that a "news event?" Or a big piece of entertainment and a charity deal that just happened to feature some public officials? Does anything that features a major public official in any capacity automatically become a "news event?" I ask because I don't know the answer. If historians ever want to know what really happened, will their not be other sources to use? Would any good historian seek out the original source material, and not the mass-produced CD? If yes, then what the heck's the problem?

Also, this is going to further Hillary's political career? How? A good PR team could've spun the boos if the issue ever came up. Hillary's done well when playing the victim before, y'know. But then she'd be pitted against the charity event, despite the fact that her intention was to help them (and, yeah, play a political role - senators do that sort of thing; it's a job requirement).

(I saw Stassel's report, on a TV other than my own, and the remote out of my control. He went on and on about manipulation in media that were clearly entertainment-oriented in nature. Decidedly non-newsy magazines, etc. I'm sure Stassel's team never edits much. I bet he never edits out shots that make him look bad. He was going on and on about media manipulation, and threw Hillary in there seemingly at random. The whole report was fairly scattershot. I love reports showing media manipulation, but it's not always sinister. Our whole world is made up of fake images besides. The problem isn't necessarily Viacom, or Hillary, or manipulated Rolling Stone covers with young underdressed starlets. It's us. Read Boorstin, already.)
posted by raysmj at 10:49 PM on September 10, 2002

For the record, Boorstin would have called any planned appearance of public official - and a charity performance in particular - a pseudo-event, as opposed to a spontaneous public event. I love that word. He's talking about another form of theater.
posted by raysmj at 11:01 PM on September 10, 2002

XQUZYPHYR: Oh, wait... so now it's a news event.

Are you seriously promoting the idea that there now exists a clear line between news and entertainment? The idea that a 9/11-related event featuring national politicians could be pure "entertainment" strikes me as absurd. Critics on the left and right have been pointing out the convergence for years. Giving a pass to an infotainment event with the "It's just entertainment!" excuse won't fly.

raysmj: this is going to further Hillary's political career? How?

Well, as long as Fox has a copy of those boos, it won't further anything for her. But trust me, despite the Clintons' attempts to blame VH1 for their troubles, before the show Hillary's advisers were thinking about the political pluses of getting on that stage. Remember, she wasn't on the schedule at first.
posted by mediareport at 11:10 PM on September 10, 2002

Wow. People had a friggin' stroke when a Las Vegas TV station decided to add gunshot sound effects to a piece of security camera footage, but playing revisionist history and drastically altering film from the Concert for New York City is perfectly acceptable?
posted by Danelope at 11:23 PM on September 10, 2002

All of you who defend this, are unbelievable. I expected you, with such strong convictions, to condemn this propaganda. You truly deserve Hillary.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:33 PM on September 10, 2002

mediareport: No, I don't remember, because I read only limited coverage of the event at the time. Also, yes, there was a large and obvious element of entertainment in the charity deal. It was at least seven-eighths, if not totally, entertainment, and the political appearances were staged, planned in advance. That's just barely "news." Only the boos were spontaneous in any way (well, except for musical mistakes, maybe, etc.), and how huge a story was that? Maybe TV found a couple of sound bites for the 10 p.m. report. Oh, and the gig was also propaganda by definition.

The problem, again, is not with any boogey man or woman or corporation, but - if there is indeed a problem (and I think to some degree there is) - with the way we've come to see "news" and "news events" in this country. We're manipulated all the time, largely without complaint.
posted by raysmj at 12:11 AM on September 11, 2002

Hillary Clinton is one of those "lesser evils" to me. But John Stossel has no excuse for this. How long has he been in the business? I'm sure he's never edited a piece or been associated with an edited piece that was for profit as well as posterity. Is he going to tell us politicians don't wear makeup next? Or don't write their own speeches? Or aren't photoshopped before appearing on the cover of Time? The point, I would assume of the for profit venture that anything a corporation does, in this case Viacomm, regardless of how much they "donate to proceeds", is for a finished product, not one that elicits guffaws for all time. Turns out, of course, this backfired, thanks to Stossel's partisan shenanigans. I'd be curious to hear his take on the propagandistic image sloganeering of the Bush administration, all whilst nothing of any real note is uttered forth from anyone in the executive branch.

What hypocritical bastards the corporate elite are.

BTW. It didn't sound to me they inserted the applause, but rather put the boos further back into the din. Also, what was the conservative consensus on Colin Powell's hecklers at the Earth Summit (not that the Earth Summit should even be recognized of course)?
posted by crasspastor at 12:32 AM on September 11, 2002

I'm not thrilled with with this bit of editing. But, I bet that if you look on the DVD box, it'll tell you somewhere that the footage was edited (in any case, in the credits it'll tell you that the footage was edited by so and so). Thereby it's not really fair to deride them like this for lying, because they tell you that they are lying (that's what editing is - alteration of reality). Now, most people will watch the DVD and think that Hillary got applause at the actual event instead of boos. But, it's not really Viacom's problem that people believe what they see. Granted, it's not nice of them to knowingly mislead people like this, but if people were not so gullible to begin with... Besides, maybe this edited version is more entertaining to watch.
posted by epimorph at 12:34 AM on September 11, 2002

"...and they booed one of the acts."
And a bad act at that.
posted by flatlander at 12:46 AM on September 11, 2002

Figure it out & welcome to the Brave New World of thought control & selective manipulation of historical reality. The fact is that if they had cut Hillary out altogether, and left it as a concert, that would have been OK with everybody. Instead, they edit out the "public servants" negative response to a politico they don't feel represents them or their views horning in on a media event to get national face time & selectively retain her joyous "welcome," intentionally creating the impression that she's well received by all. It's bullshit anyway you slice it & those of you who act as apologists for it lack intellectual honesty in the face of the weight of your own partisan political agenda. 'nuff said, and spare me the "what if it was Bush" lame crap.
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:42 AM on September 11, 2002

People had a friggin' stroke when a Las Vegas TV station decided to add gunshot sound effects to a piece of security camera footage

And let's not forget that horrible CBS whistle-throated sparrow episode. Oh, but that was just *sports*! And this is just *entertainment*!

Yeah, and they're both coming from CBS/Viacom. And the financial pressures on media companies are only going to get stronger in upcoming years. Calling this garbage out and making sure CBS knows there are consequences to its credibility (read: ratings) every time it happens is just plain smart for citizens of any political stripe. Anyone remember that recent MIT experiment where people couldn't tell the difference between videos using computer-generated speech and actual human speech? The world in which Cheney (or Hillary) could order up a video of anyone saying anything they wanted them to say is just around that corner up ahead. That's a fact, plain as the nose on your face, so please don't bother trying to dismiss it as paranoid speculation.

Anyone who doesn't pay attention to the growing willingness of the mainstream press to play with "reality" is heading for a major wake-up call in a few years. We need to start aggressively holding media companies' feet to the fire on this kind of thing, or the idea of electronic democracy is well and truly fucked. I know! Let's start with this one.
posted by mediareport at 4:52 AM on September 11, 2002


It might be useful here to examine the crowd's possible motive for booing.

Was it over the legislative acts she had been working on to pass just that week prior? Not likely, crowds are rarely so well informed, unless its a politically organized crowd.

Could it be over her husband's just finished presidential terms? Maybe, but to boo her for an administration she held no office in is rather unfair as crowds often are.

It must be because everyone in the crowd was scared she is in fact planning to run for pope after her term as senator is over.

And for the record, I don't believe Hillary when says she's not planning to fly into orbit in Lance Bass's place with the russians. She's not being straight with the American people about this, and I can tell.

I'm so worked up about this, I'm gonna go listen to Rush until he harumphs my alpha waves back up to an acceptable level.
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:55 AM on September 11, 2002

epimorph: I would draw a clear distinction between the kind of editing that involves choosing which camera feed to use for each sequence (anything with more than one camera has someone who does that, and they are the names in the credits) and the kind of editing that involves deliberately distorting the footage in question.
posted by Gamecat at 5:05 AM on September 11, 2002

Does anything that features a major public official in any capacity automatically become a "news event?"

Yes. It's clearly a news event; the concert was widely reported as a news story in the media, Sen. Clinton is one of the nation's most prominent politicians, and the crowd's derisive response was widely reported at the time.

As for editing, there's a difference between content-neutral changes -- for instance, choosing one camera shot over another -- and edits that knowingly portray an event in a false light.

I watched the concert live, and the boos were loud enough that Sen. Clinton reacted visibly to them and cut short her speech to less than 30 seconds (the shortest appearance by any public official that night, by some accounts). When the decision was made to include Clinton's introduction on the DVD, I think that the producers had an obligation to show how it happened.

Though the concert involves entertainment, I don't think that provides carte blanche to alter reality. The line between news and entertainment is blurring all the time. If the public accepts the willful distortion of news when it coincides with entertainment, we'll never get the truth from the electronic media. This concert edit is comparable to Dateline NBC airing a collision and explosion in a report on GM trucks without acknowledging that it was staged.
posted by rcade at 5:45 AM on September 11, 2002

This concert edit is comparable to Dateline NBC airing a collision and explosion in a report on GM trucks without acknowledging that it was staged.

Hardly. This is an entertainment product. This is not news. You as a consumer fall under the same caveat emptor as any other act of purchase. Don't like it? Don't buy it...

Is it beyond your standpoint to consider that maybe there was absolutely no underhanded intent to the edit?
posted by machaus at 5:57 AM on September 11, 2002

Let's set the record straight: People who were actually at the event tell me that there was as much cheering as booing for Hillary Clinton at the event. I talked to one person who didn't hear the booing *at all*, and another who said that it appeared to be a single, boisterous cluster of drunk cops. This was confirmed by another attendee who also said that it was mostly cops who did the booing, not firemen.

The cops were, for several months after the attacks, insufferable. They seemed to believe that because a handful of their own died, they were allowed to do anything they wanted: There were incidents of groping and lewd remarks made by cops reported at the event, and several cops had to be "encouraged" to leave in an orderly manner by their companions.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:07 AM on September 11, 2002

VH1 is not a reliable source of news and public record? Say it isn't so! I get all my news from their morning "Jump Start" program.

It's not like this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time.
The official White House transcript made no mention of the hecklers or Bush's false starts
posted by FreezBoy at 6:12 AM on September 11, 2002

rcade: Because the news media decides to cover something, it's a "news story?" That convinces me. The news media covers the freakin' MTV awards, also a Viacom product. (CNN went on about them for probably a whole 10 minutes the other day.) Are the MTV awards shows "historical documents" if one politician shows up? The media covers lots of stupid crap, much of it manipulated out the wazoo before they get to it. How different is coverage of speeches with themed logos placed everywhere behind the president, or speeches at the ranch? How different is coverage of staged photo ops, etc., from the Hillary deal in the grand scheme of things? How about fawning coverage of Bill's dog Buddy (which he bought at the beginning of the Monica crisis)? How about coverage of his playing a Sax on the Arsenio show?

I agree that what VH-1 did was cheesy, and of highly questionable editorial (and, if Hillary was involved at all, political) judgment. The editing does not, however, rise to the level of "Orwellian" or of Chinese Communist Party propaganda. You're too willing to find a monster here. This is a symptom of a larger problem, which lies more with the culture at large than any one person.

mediareport: When did VH-1 become a mainstream news source, exactly? It's an entertainment channel, which is known for its hallmark of cheesiness. (I admit that I love "Behind the Music," however, as full of cheese as it is.) I doubt they're really into journalism ethics over there. Whether the mainsteam media is vastly superior here is an entirely another question, the answer to which is clearly no.
posted by raysmj at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2002

This concert edit is comparable to Dateline NBC airing a collision and explosion in a report on GM trucks without acknowledging that it was staged.

According to this article, things weren't quite that simple in the Dateline NBC case. The story focuses on GM's press manipulation.
posted by raysmj at 7:21 AM on September 11, 2002

Because the news media decides to cover something, it's a "news story?" That convinces me. The news media covers the freakin' MTV awards, also a Viacom product.

I'm not trying to be that circular. The media covers all kinds of things that are not news, so the mere fact that it was covered does not make it news.

However, when an event is covered in the news section of many media outlets (CNN, Newsday, MSNBC, UPI), that's one reason to believe it is a "news event." Another is the involvement of significant public figures, and a third is the newsworthy fact that the concert raised a reported $30 million for Sept. 11 relief efforts.

When an event makes news, as this concert did, I think there's more reason for it to be presented accurately than there would be for something such as the MTV awards. MTV routinely edits those upon rebroadcast to remove some of the more profane things that take place when it is aired live.

In this case, though, Viacom's whitewashing of Hillary Clinton is a subject of legitimate public inquiry. Clinton is in a position where she can offer considerable advantage to Viacom on legislation that is important to the corporation. The press should be scrutinizing this edit.

To put it another way, late-night talk shows, which are usually offered strictly as entertainment, often have politicians as guests. If President Bush or another politician went on Letterman and dropped a racial slur about Arabs, would it be OK for CBS to edit it out, since the show is an entertainment program?
posted by rcade at 7:54 AM on September 11, 2002

The MTV Awards is covered by CNN, and probably MSNBC. Is UPI legit anymore? Again, the only difference here seems to be that a politician was involved. I'm not sure what incredible advantage this presented her, or her political career regardless. Again, it was a cheesy and questionable edit, but not one I'd call exactly sinister. The press' coverage of stuff manipulated in advance can similarly be advantageous to politicians, be it in minor or major ways. It's questionable for the media to fall for manipulation almost every time too. The media's one big collective sucker for it.
posted by raysmj at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2002

Thanks for the clear cut hypothetical case you presented there, rcade. If Bush or Clinton made a racial slur, that would be a pretty big deal. In that case, it's something they did, not something someone did to them. It also would have a clear connection to the president's job. If you hate a large percentage of the public you're there to serve, and help ensure justice for, all that, you shouldn't be president.
posted by raysmj at 8:19 AM on September 11, 2002

In that case, it's something they did, not something someone did to them.

That's a pretty strange point upon which to disqualify an event as "news" -- politicians are not news unless they are the instigator of an action? But I'll reverse the hypothetical ... President Bush shows up on Letterman, and Dave calls him a "retromingent boozehound with the blood of the innocent on his hands." Is that OK to edit out in the name of infotainment?
posted by rcade at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2002

Wow. I just love saying 'retromingent'!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2002

I'm not saying that was a distinction in what made "news," (the boos fell under the category of "man bites dog," surely, but were comparatively minor), just a major distinction in the *type* of * editing cases* you presented. You fail to tell me how the boos reflected on her job, or how the editing presented her with big political advantages. A good politician could have pulled the boos to her advantage anyhow. To be honest, I don't think much of her political skills (although, heck, she won a senatorial race in a major state - which isn't nothing), but thought the boos were cheap and mean. Made me feel a bit sorry for her. The only thing the editing does, in the long run, is make the nation maybe look more unified than it was in the days after Sept. 11.

Dave calls the president a "retromingent boozehound?" It's his freakin' show. He can edit his own comments if he chooses. If CBS says, well, this is an entertainment show and it's not proper and we didn't hire Dave to make such commentary, they'd have a case. "Late Night" is not a news show, even if Dave's last Bush interview was (to his eternal credit) more hard-hitting than any I've seen from legitimate, supposedly professional news sources.
posted by raysmj at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2002

To be honest, I don't think much of her political skills (although, heck, she won a senatorial race in a major state - which isn't nothing), but thought the boos were cheap and mean.

Though I would've voted for her, I think the boos are a general reflection of reality -- Hillary Clinton is viewed very negatively by a large segment of the population. Her handling of the boos is also somewhat interesting, because it reflects what I believe to be her tin ear for politics. For all of her years alongside one of the most canny politicians in modern U.S. history, Hillary is terrible when it comes to making a connection with the public.
posted by rcade at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2002

i thought benefit concerts were classified as "community events" or some such. having politicians show up and news folks report on it doesn't make it a news event (whatever that is). sometimes, cheerleaders from local schools hold fundraiser carwashes.
posted by tolkhan at 9:40 AM on September 11, 2002

Incidentally, VH1 is rebroadcasting the concert tonight.
posted by rcade at 9:42 AM on September 11, 2002

How different is coverage of staged photo ops, etc., from the Hillary deal in the grand scheme of things?

I'll leave you with two thoughts, raysmj:

1. Your entire argument relies on a distinction between news and entertainment that is unsupportable. I'm surprised I have to point out the way TV news shows regularly include "news" from entertainment divisions their parent company runs, or remind anyone of the first-year Survivor coverage on CBS News shows across the country. You're holding out VH1 as somehow separate from CBS News, when its owners don't think of it that way and have deliberately blurred the line between them. CBS and VH1 are the same thing from Viacom's, the Clintons' and just about everyone else's perspective. It's foolish to pretend othewise.

2. Journalistic ethics remain in effect no matter what subject matter the journalist is covering.

Viacom fucked up. We should be concerned.
posted by mediareport at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2002

VH1 people aren't "journalists." Blah blah blah to the rest of it. My entire argument was decidedly more complex than you let on.
posted by raysmj at 12:09 PM on September 11, 2002

Let's give all sides the benefit of a doubt:

Was there only one microphone at the event? No, there were probably hundreds.

Do you think not one single person cheered when Hillary came on? No, surely some people somewhere near at least one of the microphones cheered, just like some people near some of the microphones booed.

So what are the rules as to which soundtrack you use? The one that originally got broadcast, is that the one you have to use? Or can you go back and use better feeds if you had them, such as during the musical acts themselves?

Be open minded. Those cheers could have been real for all we know. Were any of you actually there?
posted by Ben Grimm at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2002

I'm with Ben Grimm- until I can play back to back versions (I can't stream Realplayer here at work)- I'll remember that isn't a remotely reliable source, and that the "boos" at the original event were more just a few hecklers amongst an otherwise good natured crowd. So if you rely solely on Sean "MonkeyBoy" Hannity and his ilk to interpret for you what happened at the event, the original cascade of boos might be a wild misinterpretation of what happened. If VH1 then used a mix of audio sources, the actually rare boos wouldn't seem as prominent- and thus not as noticeable when John "Payola" Stossel tries to convince us of VH1's Liberal Media Evilness.

Not saying this is what happened, just that it's probably the most likely version. Then again, VH1 could have edited it as she is accused by rabid RepublicRATS. ;)

In other words, it's a little troubling if VH1 was editing the footage/audio to insert elements, but not as much if they simply used an audio source that didn't have the few people in the audience actually booing. The original footage should be used, bloopers and flaws and all. On the other hand, if this is being released as an entertainment piece only, then it's not as big a deal- no different than musicians doing different takes for a CD, or your favorite pop diva being dubbed over in a teevee broadcast of one of her concerts. Troubling, but not nefarious.

Hillary Clinton is viewed very negatively by a large segment of the population
More accurately, in syllogism form:
1. Hillary Clinton is a determined and confident woman.
2. A large segment of the population hates women who don't submit completely to use as sexual objects and reproduction technology.
3. Ergo, a large segment of the population views Hillary Clinton negatively. QED
posted by hincandenza at 4:25 PM on September 11, 2002

One thing that was not mentioned is that the persons booing Hillary last fall were none other than the overglamorized, undservedly deified firefighters....I lost a lot of respect for the guys in blue after this episode. Yet now, the culture of firefighters has slipped into the pantheon of American political correctness. Should one even question the seemingly neverending money flow to the firefighters, that person is branded as a traitor or worse.
posted by Kaslo at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2002

Make that 'cult' of firefighters. If they focused on those of New York's Bravest doing the booing, then would that be considered disrespectful? Some would turn it into a media hoohah, no matter what. Viacom fucked up. But I don't see why the bloody thing needed to include the pols anyway.
posted by riviera at 8:25 PM on September 11, 2002

Firefighters don't deserve to be deified because some of them booed Hillary Clinton? I would think they might get a little slack for sacrificing themselves by the dozen in the vain hope of saving people on Sept. 11. But hey, let's teach those fuckers a lesson for booing. Take away their dalmatians.
posted by rcade at 7:50 PM on September 12, 2002

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