a sudden fakery of ideas
May 16, 2003 9:51 AM   Subscribe

The keepers of the Bush image lift stagecraft to new heights. "We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see," Mr. Bartlett said. "Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don't have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators. So we take it seriously."
posted by four panels (23 comments total)
Totally unsurprising, including the fact that a Tass, er, Fox News person has been recruited by the White House for this, and that the NY Times covers it all with a gentle and respectful tone -- as if it isn't a deeply disturbing exercise in taxpayer-funded propaganda.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:13 AM on May 16, 2003

pay no attention to the men behind the curtain.

well, this is where media/politics converge...has been the obvious thing to happen. Pretty soon congress will be 'hosted' by Jerry Springer.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:26 AM on May 16, 2003

All sounds terribly impressive. But if it were me at the White House, I wouldn't bother. With the sincerity and intelligence that literally ooze from his every pore, these elaborate and over-the-top set pieces are distracting us from the man's obvious personal magnetism.
posted by zygoticmynci at 10:28 AM on May 16, 2003

Another link today on the same subject.

My favorite excerpt:

The administration's antiterror campaign makes me think of the way television studios really look. The fancy set usually sits in the middle of a shabby room, full of cardboard and duct tape. Networks take great care with what viewers see on their TV screens; they spend as little as possible on anything off camera.

And so it has been with the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bush strikes heroic poses on TV, but his administration neglects anything that isn't photogenic.

Remember the "made in China" debacle recently? Does everyone like the now ubiquitous "message" backdrops? Looks like me an appeal to the lowest possible denominator, the real strength of the party.
posted by nofundy at 10:35 AM on May 16, 2003

Come on folks, the Presidency has tried manipulating media appearences and perception, especially TV, since at least Kennedy. The fact that every president since Reagan has honed it into an ethically questionable, yet intellectually astute practice doesn't make it any worse under boy Bush.

Whoever is the next President will probably be even better at it than Rove and his cronies and whoever handled Clinton's image.

I fully expect more elected politicians to be younger, more attractive and richer than what we have today. Wouldn't surprise me at all if MN Senator Coleman is being groomed for the Presidency in 2012. He's young, sounds like Kennedy, and fully beholden to whoever gets him in office. I remember him as St Paul mayor with braces.

Where's Leni Riefenstahl when the Americans need her most?
posted by infowar at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2003

One certainly wouldn't want the populace thinking that the president was pandering to rich necktie wearers.
posted by samuelad at 10:51 AM on May 16, 2003

Here's a better link to the same article from IHT.
posted by four panels at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2003

posted by four panels at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2003

the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom.

Good to know my tax dollars are being spent in the best way. What that must have cost could have probably bought new textbooks for a LOT of schools.
posted by archimago at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2003

There's no question that this is nothing new. Even in the days before television, FDR used radio to similar effect with his "fireside chats", which gave a man who was a true elitist the illusion of folksiness.

What I object to is the president seemed to get a free pass on his "Top Gun" style landing on the Lincoln from the press despite both the irony (given his own dubious military service record) and the fact that a president appearing in military garb is an extreme breech of decorum. The US President as commander-in-chief is an explicitly civilian role. Putting a president in military clothing (even if only for a photo op) puts him at the same level as a tinpot dictator: it's unseemly.
posted by psmealey at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2003

"Can we rasta-fy him by, say, ten percent?"
posted by archimago at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2003

The fact that every president since Reagan has honed it into an ethically questionable, yet intellectually astute practice doesn't make it any worse under boy Bush.
Whoever is the next President will probably be even better at it than Rove and his cronies and whoever handled Clinton's image.

So you're saying that because it's old practice, it shouldn't be protested? That it's now good, simply because it's established?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2003

I'm surprised that such a tremendous project as Operation: Give Bush Gravitas hasn't restored the economy all by itself.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:30 PM on May 16, 2003

Okay, the problem with Americans is that they give their political news and information from 60 seconds of television.

Communication indeed.
posted by xmutex at 12:43 PM on May 16, 2003

More and more each day, I am beginning to identify with Captain Renault.
posted by UncleFes at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2003

What we really need is a giant statue of Bush, like this one.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2003

FFF: I'm saying it is stating the obvious. The whole problem would go away if people would do one of two things:

1. quit watching TV for their "news"
2. think

I tried to explain I believe it will get worse before it gets better. The winning contestants will be more telegenic than their opponents. Its the Mtv thing brought to Washington.

Frankly, I'd rather be protesting the actual policies rather than how they are presented. Better to fight the FCC media deregulation than drone on about how the President is portrayed on TV. The problem isn't the sizzle, its that there's no steak behind the sizzle.
posted by infowar at 1:17 PM on May 16, 2003

Here's some steak for your sizzle The media behind the Bush image is very interesting in that it's all photo ops and sound bites. They do everything they can to make sure Bush says as little as possible. He's gotten a free pass on so many issues it makes my head spin.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:24 PM on May 16, 2003

posted by psmealey at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2003

One thing I think is new about Bush--well, new in degree but in more or less the same direction as Reagan--is that the effective visuals are most effective for the people whom his policies hurt the most. Heavy TV viewing and reliance on TV news correlate with working class, rural, "red state" demographics, which is where the Pres gets his most uncritical support--and those are exactly the people getting squeezed by the erosion of public sector support and getting the least out of the enacted and proposed tax cuts.

My dad's a diehard Bush supporter (NRA member, conservative Christian, dittohead, long-time reader of Human Events, Texan, rural), retired, and he's not drawing any dividend income.

Isn't there some degree of novelty in putting the screws the hardest to those whose support is most loyal?
posted by palancik at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2003

Its called misdirection. Everything is the fault of the Liberals.

Get on board or get out.

steak = real policy and discussion
sizzle = appearences

Seen that link 3 times today. Time for me to get out of the memepool. I'm wrinkling!
posted by infowar at 4:41 PM on May 16, 2003

Maybe it's some sort of "abused wife" syndrome, palancik. You know, the idea that abused women turn to their abuser for protection, because the abuser is the most powerful figure in their lives?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:50 PM on May 16, 2003

posted by quonsar at 3:45 PM on May 17, 2003

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