The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West,

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang . GIT'CHER ZUG SWAG HERE!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All Wind, No Wood [Part I]

Ever since Richard Nixon's defeat in the 1960 presidential election was blamed on Tricky Dick's five o'clock shadow in the debates—versus Kennedy's famously telegenic appearance—the ruling elite of the Republican Party has been obsessed with the creation of media reality. Certainly one member has. And another one who I'll tell you about later.

It is seldom remarked that the media repackaging of Richard Nixon in 1968 as "The NEW Nixon" and his barest-of-squeaky-thin-margins victory over Hubert Humphrey was created by syndicated talk show producer Roger Ailes.

You know, the Roger Ailes who put together the Rush Limbaugh television show in the mid 1990s? The Roger Ailes who put together and runs (for Rupert Murdoch, Citizen Cain) the Faux Nooz Network?

The Roger Ailes who sends out morning memos telling the reporters what today's story is going to be (see "Outfoxed")?

According to Wikipedia

Ailes' career in television began in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was a producer and director for KYW, for a then-locally produced talk-variety show, The Mike Douglas Show. He later became executive producer for the show, which was syndicated nationally. He received two Emmy Awards for it 1967 and 1968. It was in this position, in 1967, that he had a spirited discussion about television in politics with one of the show's guests, Richard Nixon, who took the view that television was a gimmick. Later, Nixon called on Ailes to serve as his executive producer of TV. Nixon's election victory was only Ailes' first venture into political spotlight.

But it didn't end there. He started a consulting firm in 1969 and never quite left either politics OR television:

Ailes carried out Republican political consulting for many candidates during the 1970s and 1980s, but returned to presidential campaigning as a consultant to Ronald Reagan in 1984. He is widely credited with having coached Reagan to victory in the second presidential debate with Walter Mondale after Reagan had disappointed his partisans with what some call a lackluster effort in the first debate. In 1984, Ailes won an Emmy Award as executive producer and director of a television special, Television and the Presidency. In 1988 Ailes was credited (along with Lee Atwater) with guiding George H. W. Bush to a come-from-behind victory over Michael Dukakis. (Ibid)

Read the rest of the citation, about how Ailes moved from NBC to MsNBC to Faux Nooz.

Because this isn't about Roger Ailes. It's about creating the appearance of reality. We call them photo-ops, staged events, etcetera, but, finally, we actually DO believe them, in a way. Because fantasy and reality are skillfully interwoven to create the desired effect.

Take Reagan. Reagan's only movie contract western was a throwaway role in "Santa Fe Trail" with Errol Flynn (a movie having nothing to do with the Santa Fe Trail). According to legend, when Ronnie was President of the Screen Actors' Guild, he traded the Union's request for residuals in perpetuity to Lew Wasserman (head of the producers guild and later head of Universal Studios) in return for a career as what we now call "a motivational speaker" for industry, and a WESTERN television series.

Ever since he'd escaped Dixon, Illinois, to become a radio sportscaster for WHO radio out of Des Moines, Iowa, and won a trip to and a contract in Hollywood, he'd wanted to be a Western Star.

And "Death Valley Days," an anthology series filmed in the waning days of Reagan's movie star career, put the idea in our heads that Ronald Reagan was a cowboy. He introduced every episode and even acted in a few. (And when have you seen Borax advertised SINCE DVDaze?)

Thereafter, like any good Hollywood resident, he PRETENDED to be a cowboy, and then, during his governorship (and following his careful introduction to the national audience as a featured speaker at the 1964 Republican Convention in the Cow Palace, in San Francisco that nominated Barry Goldwater and William E. Miller to run against LBJ) the image of Ronnie the "Cowboy" was carefully burnished. He had a "ranch" and horses. And made sure he was pictured, often, in his cowboy hat, and on or near his horse. (The last Republican with any RIGHT to wear a cowboy hat was Barry Goldwater. The ones since have been greenhorns PRETENDING to be cowboys—that ancient and uniquely American con-game).

You will note that Dubya purchased a "ranch" in Crawford, Texas in 1999 , just prior to his presidential run. Wikipedia:
Then-Governor Bush bought the land, which was a former turkey/hog farm, in 1999 shortly after earning a $14.3 million profit from the sale of the Texas Rangers. Based on fair-market land prices at the time the deal was closed for an estimated $1.3 million.
Wikipedia also notes that in August 2001, they even came up with a LOGO for the "ranch" calling it "The Western White House / Crawford, Texas," and it looks very similar to the one you see in the White House Press Room behind whoever happens to be lying at the time.

(No cattle were ever seen, by the by, on either "ranch," a sure giveaway in determining who is a cowboy, who is a farmer, and who owns a vacation home.)

playing dress-up!

During the Reagan presidency, that image was burned into the American retinae, and now GOP faithful have their Reagan Cowboy Icons hanging in their homes, much as the FDR faithful had their icons of Franklin Roosevelt hanging in their homes during the Depression. (And none knew that FDR was confined to a wheelchair.)

Roosevelt was, by the by, the first president to fully exploit the power of radio. And, because it impressed Ronald Reagan, the former FDR New Deal Democrat, he did a weekly radio speech that's become a presidential tradition. In actuality, Reagan gave a weekly commentary during all the years between his 'de-governation' in California and his election to the presidency in 1980.

Again: the personalities aren't the issue. The point is about manipulating media; the point is to create a specific impression using stagecraft and slippery rhetoric. Both parties—as you say—do it, but the disconnect between the reality and the "spin" is particularly a Republican—which is to say, a Roger Ailes—province.

This is what astonishes me when a Bill Press—an obligingly unctuous television personality for aeons— cannot distinguish between the often inept news of CNN (since Press has only ever been on the "opinion" side of the news operation) and the ideologically constructed "almost news" of Faux Nooz: Near-nooz (like, say, "near-beer").

For the connoisseur of mendacity, the model was Pat Robertson's "700 Club" television show, which pioneered the weird veer in and out of Reality. His "Christian Broadcasting Network" news would begin with straight news: a tornado levels a town. Floods. Famine. And then, perhaps they would veer slightly into missionaries bringing aid supplies. And then they would veer into a 700 Club plane arriving with supplies. And, weirdly for years, it would slither into the testimonial about how being born again had saved the soul of a survivor of the terrible tragedy, and she/he would then thank NOT Jesus, or God, but, instead ... the 700 Club.

It followed the model that Walt Disney used most perfectly in "Mary Poppins." If you will carefully watch the "jumping into the chalk drawings" sequence, you will note that in four successive shots, one real element is subtracted and one fantasy element added, so that you have a seamless bit of prestidigitation: the "real" world to the "fantasy" world in four cuts.

This was, rhetorically, what we used to term the "Reagan meander." He would substitute terms over three or four reformulations of a question until he was talking about something entirely different than the question he was allegedly answering.

Hollywood, and media, relies on sleight-of-hand tricks. It's a great American parlor game to notice the continuity glitches in movies ... the glass that's moved; the hair that doesn't match between scenes. But you've got to be quick.

The same holds true for the modern Faux Nooz approach, the Bush schtick—who is always doing a bad copycat of what he THINKS Reagan was doing. Alas, George W. Bush is D.C. looking at Hollywood. Reagan was Hollywood looking at D.C. and there's a WORLD of difference.

It is, in fact, a testament to the resilience and tenacity of the English language that it is able to withstand the assaults that Bush so relentlessly unleashes.

But that is only a portion of what this is about.

As I've been explaining, I spent a long time in Hollywood, and in media, and much of what I do is trying to explain how manipulation of media is used to give a false impression of reality.

In my fictional "memoir," Looking For Aphrodite (1986), I reported on the various manipulations of the print media, as practiced by porn magazines of the heyday of the 'men's magazines.' I covered the manner in which endless pseudonyms are used to mask a small core of writers, and how we generated all the "readers' letters" writing endless variations on a theme at pulp rates of a few cents a word:

Dear [insert magazine name here]

I am a 43-year-old florist from Cleveland, Ohio, Recently, I had an experience which might interest your readers ... (etcetera.)

[Name and Address Withheld]

I wrote about media manipulations with my report in the mid-1990s on Doctor Guru Zen Master Frederick Lenz Rama. Sadly, "world-class snowboarder" and computer cult leader Lenz ended up in the bottom of Oyster Bay, Long Island, with a belly full of barbiturates and a dog collar around his neck. And his media manipulations are forgotten. (And, as my friend TOMM points out, the weird parallels between the death of Lenz and the death of Carlos Casteñeda—as reported in SALON last week.)

And I reported on the long scam of a group of white "Hopis" and activists propping up the donations scam that they were supporting poor helpless Navajo elders out in Arizona, who were being evicted from their land by Black Helicopters, Government Agents and the Peabody Coal Company. And how the media were danced through the manipulation mill, and dutifully returned to the East Coast, and wrote their teary, weepy books without ever ONCE having actually asked the Hopi Tribal Council or even the average "Hopi in the Street."

They were introduced to "Hopi" all right. Hand-picked Hopi who were, sad to say, often recipients of a cut of the donations.

And I've reported on the astroturf and media campaign to push the hidden agenda of Howard Rich's hidden masters in dozens of states in 35 ballot initiatives last fall.

And I've reported on the "political consultant" from Seattle who's set up his own little suzerainty, his franchise operation in my own county, among our Democratic Reps and Senators, even while he runs dirty campaigns, like the "Recall Paul Gallegos" campaign paid for by MAXXAM of Houston, whose newly purchased subsidiary, the Pacific Lumber Company, had been embarrassed by Julia Butterfly Hill's famed tree-sit in the redwoods they wanted to clearcut.

Gallegos, the new Democratic D.A. had been enforcing the timber laws of California, and, flush with the success of another Houston company in unseating the California governor, Gray Davis, and replacing him with a Republican governor who would dismiss California's case for the great energy gouging, MAXXAM brought in our very own "political consultant" to pick up the reins of a flagging campaign. He still lost, sadly for MAXXAM.

Yes. I track manipulation in media.

Because the media is so hopelessly entangled in the Mirror Maze of the amusement park funhouse that they can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality, either.

Just witness the extreme contortions that CBS has had to go through in order to fire Katie Couric's ghostwriter for plagiarism, and NOT admit that Katie's "Notebook" which is supposed to be her own, personal, video blog (Couric's version of being a webcam girl, evidently) is just a phony, made up little bit that she does as a promo. She doesn't write it, she just reads it. (And, soon, we won't even know if it's HER, or a computer-generated simulacrum "reading" the pre-programmed text.)

And she's lying to you. Just as CBS is lying to you. And how do they fire the behind-the-scenes ghostwriter "Producer" for stealing Wall Street Journal pieces, which may well be just as phony, after all? (Very, very carefully.)

After awhile, you lie so often, and lie so convincingly that you don't know where the truth ends and the fantasy begins—just like CBS News.

So it goes.

But that's not the story I wanted to tell you. That's all prologue.