Fight fake news

From the Washington Post:

WHAT DOES Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” have in common with the Bush administration? They’re both unabashed about putting out fake news. The Bush administration’s version consists of video news releases — government-produced, government-funded spots packaged to look and sound like regular television reports, complete with fake news reporters signing off from Washington. These are intended to be, and often are, aired by local television stations without any indication that the government is behind them. The Government Accountability Office found this kind of phony news to be impermissible “covert propaganda.” It warned the government last month that such prepackaged news stories must be accompanied by a “clear disclosure to the television viewing audience” of the government’s involvement. The Bush administration is now instructing its officials to ignore the GAO — which is where (in addition to the question of comedic content) the administration and Mr. Stewart diverge. He wants you to know his news is phony.

Although this administration apparently isn’t the first to use video news releases, it seems more enamored of them than its predecessors. For example: A spot commissioned by the Transportation Security Administration lauds “another success” in the Bush administration’s “drive to strengthen aviation security,” which the “reporter” describes as “one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history.”

It’s humiliating that local news stations, however short-staffed and desperate for footage, would allow themselves to be used this way. Indeed, as the New York Times reported Sunday, some have even lopped off government attribution when it was included or pretended the government reporter was one of their own. Even so, it’s disingenuous for administration officials to blame the stations, given that many releases are crafted precisely to disguise their government origin.

So, what can you do? Glad you asked:

The Center for Media and Democracy is working with Free Press to gather a quarter million signatures on our petition mobilizing the American public to fight fake news and government propaganda. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that at least 20 federal agencies have made and distributed pre-packaged, ready-to-serve television news segments to promote President Bush’s policies and initiatives. Congress’ Government Accountability Office determined that these “video news releases” were illegal “covert propaganda” and told federal agencies to stop. But last Friday, the White House ordered all agencies to disregard Congress’ directive. The Bush administration is using hundreds of millions of your tax dollars to manipulate public opinion. Here’s how to stop them.

More here. Petition here.