Propaganda in News’ Clothing

Last Sunday’s New York Times feature ‘Under Bush, A New
Age of Prepackaged News’ revealed that ready-made news — in the
form of video news releases (VNRs) produced by professional public
relations agencies — has been standard practice for the last four
years. At least 20 federal agencies have been involved in
fabricating one or more stories, totaling thousands of broadcast
‘news’ segments a year. While it is important to see this coming to
light, the Times piece only reveals the tip of the iceberg of fake
news Americans consume daily.

According to John Stauber of PR Watch, the vast
majority of the thousands of fake news stories we see, hear, and
read every year come not from the government, but from
corporations. Stauber and co-author Sheldon Rampton uncovered the
phenomenon of corporate and government VNRs in their 1995 book
Toxic Sludge is Good for You. ‘Ten years ago the airing of
fake news was widespread,’ Stauber said on Monday. ‘Today it is
much worse.’

Congress’ nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has
declared the administration’s VNRs an illegal abuse of public
funds, a ruling the White House openly defied last Friday, telling
federal agencies to continue the practice. Stauber’s Center for
Media Democracy and the media reform group Free Press, have
launched an online petition calling on Congress to put an end to
the fabrication of news. Stauber punctuates this point reminding us
that, ‘television is the number one source of so-called news for
most Americans,’ surmising that ‘a huge proportion of that is fake
news.’ At least Jeff Gannon can now share his burden.

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