Monday, July 28, 2003

“It’s Not News”

“What do you have for a lead story tonight, Ace?”

“You’re gonna love this one, Chief. They didn’t find any stockpile of chemical weapons today in Iraq!”

“Are you out of your mind, Ace? If they found a stockpile, that would be news. All you’ve got is same-old, same-old. No stockpile yesterday, no stockpile the day before, no stockpile the day before that….”

“Well, what about this one, Chief? They didn’t find any nuclear weapons today, either.”

“Same problem, Ace. It’s not news.”

“No biological weapons… wait, Chief, before you jump in, remember that the administration was trying to claim that two trailers they found were ‘mobile biological warfare labs’? And there’s never been any real clincher on that? Turns out that British intelligence analysts think that’s a bunch of hooey. They say the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, which is what the Iraqis have been saying all along. And they ought to know. It also turns out that the Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by a British company, Marconi Command & Control.”

“Ace, you just don’t get it,” said my editor with exasperation. “Let me put it plain enough so that even you can understand it: if they don’t find something, it ain’t news.”

“But Chief,” I protested. “The Bush team sold the American public this war on the basis of huge Iraqi stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction! Bush warned there were going to be mushroom clouds over our cities! They claimed they knew what the Iraqis had and where they had it! We invaded them, killed several thousand Iraqis, spent billions of dollars, and are occupying their country, all based on those claims! Bush declared the war over on May 1, and we’ve still got soldiers dying every day! And it was all lies!”

“Ace,” he said wearily, “when this administration lies, it’s not news.”

© Tony Russell, 2003

Thursday, July 10, 2003

“The ‘L’ Word”

Several years ago George Bush got a good deal of mileage out of references to “the ‘L’ word.” The reference was to “liberal,” which presumably is a dirty word--on a par with the ‘F’ word, say.

Now Mr. Bush’s son, George W., is benefiting from a reluctance on the part of journalists and even opposition politicians to use another ‘L’ word: “Lie.” They studiously avoid using the ‘L’ word in describing the administration’s actions. “The administration .… a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida.” “The administration …. the huge stockpiles of chemical weapons.” “The administration …. the nuclear threat.” Name any of the reasons given for going into this war, and you’ll find that it is based on an administration ‘L’ word. [Politicians and talking heads: Fill in the blanks with phrases such as “was apparently mistaken about,” “appears to have overstated,” etc.]

But Mr. Bush’s approval ratings continue to run over 50%. There’s a lesson to be learned here. We must be teaching our kids the wrong things. If you’re going to get ahead in this world, forget George Washington and the cherry tree. Study George Bush and the invasion of Iraq. The results should be something like this:

“Bobby, I saw your teacher at the grocery store, and she said you’re failing history and never turn in any homework.”

“Uh, maybe she thought you were somebody else, Mom.”

“Don’t try to pull that mistaken identity ploy on me, Bobby. I went to school with Mrs. Baxter. And you’ve been telling me every evening either that you don’t have any homework, or that you finished it in school.”

“Well, I may have inadvertently misrepresented things, Mom, but to say I never turn in any homework is an overstatement. I’m sure I turned in an assignment back in October.”

“She also said that you turned in a plagiarized report that was done by another student ten years ago.”

“I relied on a friend for that information, Mom. He’s always been dependable before.”

“And that special project you did on uranium from Niger?”

“That project did have a flawed origin, Mom. I relied on incomplete and perhaps inaccurate data.”

“What about when you said you were doing fine in all your classes?”

“That was based on faulty intelligence, Mom. The teachers were supplying me with outdated information.”

“And when you said that you deserved a raise in your allowance because you were working so hard?”

“There’s not a doubt in my mind I made the right decision, Mom. Not a doubt in my mind.”

“Thanks for explaining everything, son. As a reward for your performance, here’s the key to a new Corvette and a set of flag decals. Drive it with pride!”

© Tony Russell, 2003