Friday, June 17, 2005

Nellie B: USDA Prime
Nellie B: USDA Prime

Remember "This is Karen Ryan, reporting" and President Bush's promise that the government wouldn't pump out any more of what the GAO criticized as "covert propaganda"? Yeah, and he also said that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was a threat to Americans.

The new news about fake news comes courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, reporting that the US Department of Agriculture has produced and distributed more than three dozen TV and radio spots promoting the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a proposal controversial even with many Republicans. "I can't imagine how any senator or House member from ag country could stand up and vote against CAFTA," one spot quotes USDA secretary Mike Johanns. "It makes no sense to me. It's voting against our producers."

Rural communities have long relied on the USDA for news: that's part of its mission, providing information on the latest agricultural research and the like. But in between the updates on new corn varieties and poultry ailments, many of the smaller and more cash-strapped rural broadcasters are running the pro-CAFTA spots unedited, except for removing the USDA tagline at the end to make them look like news reports. Anti-CAFTA politicians are crying foul, or at least calling such "news reports" propaganda.

As for unequivocal propaganda -- y'know, psychological warfare from the US Special Operations Command -- the government outsources that stuff, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va. We could be spending some $100 million "for the [three selected] firms to produce print articles, video and audio broadcasts, Internet sites and novelty items, like T-shirts and bumper stickers, for foreign audiences." The war on terror waged on a bumper sticker?