Blog Posts

Product Placement Becomes Product Subterfuge

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Marketing Through the Looking Glass
Center for Media and Democracy, PRWatch.com
November 3, 2008

Source: Christian Science Monitor

“‘Brand integration’ and ‘immersive’ commercial environments” are becoming more commonplace, as the range of media formats and platforms widens and viewers can increasingly avoid commercials, reports Gloria Goodale. This “blurring of story and selling” goes beyond traditional product placement. For example, actors in the MySpace web video series “Roommates,” which is sponsored by Ford and a contact lens company, use “their characters’ online profiles to chat with fans and dish out information about their clothing and other products.” Marketing professor David Howard says the trend creates “more potential for manipulation.” In one instance, amateur-seeming web videos “depicting cellphone signals powerful enough to pop corn kernels … ignited a flurry of news coverage about the topic of possible brain damage.” But the videos were “subtle” ads for wireless headsets. Another online video, of a girl “leaping to her feet to make a spectacular catch at a minor-league baseball game” and then returning to her seat, next to a bottle of Gatorade, “easily passed as an actual event.” Instead, it was a Gatorade ad, which played on television (identified as an ad) after the online version had generated enough “buzz.” Global spending on all types of product placement is expected to nearly double, “from $3 billion in 2006 to $5.6 billion by 2010.”

Dumming Down Conservative Party Politics

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The Perils of ‘Populist Chic’
By Mark Lilla
The Wall Street Journal
November 8, 2008

What the rise of Sarah Palin and populism means for the conservative intellectual tradition.

Finita la commedia. Many things ended on Tuesday evening when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, and depending on how you voted you are either celebrating or mourning this weekend. But no matter what our political affiliations, we should all — Republicans and Democrats alike — be toasting the return of Governor Sarah Palin to Juneau, Alaska.

The Palin farce is already the stuff of legend. For a generation at least it is sure to keep presidential historians and late-night comedians in gainful employment, which is no small thing. But it would be a pity if laughter drowned out serious reflection about this bizarre episode. As Jane Mayer reported recently in the New Yorker (“The Insiders,” Oct. 27, 2008), John McCain’s choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of desperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future.

And not just any intellectuals. It was the editors of National Review and the Weekly Standard, magazines that present themselves as heirs to the sophisticated conservatism of William F. Buckley and the bookish seriousness of the New York neoconservatives. After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be pronounced officially dead. (more…)

Before the Fox Leaves the Hen House…

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Spin of the Day, from The Center for Media and Democracy:

Bush Pushing Anti-Consumer, Anti-Environment “Midnight Regulations”
PR Watch
November 3, 2008

Source: Denver Post, October 31, 2008

In the final months of his administration, George W. Bush is working to enact a flurry of new federal regulations that will weaken rules protecting consumers and the environment. The so-called “midnight regulations” aim to relax standards that protect drinking water, loosen controls on global warming pollutants, remove obstacles to ocean fishing and ease restrictions on mountaintop coal mining activities. The new regulations would be difficult to undo, since the law mandates lengthy periods for re-drafting, re-analysis and public comment. Such activity by an outgoing president is not unusual, nor is the number of regulations being considered. But Matthew Madia of OMB Watch, a group formed to “lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the White House’s Office of Management and Budget,” called Bush’s deluge of rules “a last-minute assault on the public … happening on multiple fronts.”

photo: Whistleblowersblog.org

Deconstructing McCain: A Must-Read for All Voting Republicans

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Make-Believe Maverick
by Tim Dickinson
Rollingstone, Issue 1063
Oct 16, 2008

A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty

[Also watch this video by Tim Dickinson: Five Myths About John McCain]

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation’s capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It’s the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There’s a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a “confession” to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn’t survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service’s highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”

Read the rest of the article at Rollingstone.com or (more…)

Counter Spin: Unions Tackle Obama Race Issue Head On

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From Truthout.org:

Part 1:
Top AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka takes on the underlying racism that has been used to drive otherwise natural Democratic voters away from Senator Barack Obama.

Part 2:
Frank Talk of Obama and Race in Virginia
by Peter Wallsten
The Los Angeles Times
October 5, 2008

As Obama supporters push to win the dead-even battleground state, they are talking directly about race, betting that the best way to put neighbors at ease is to open up.

Whitewood, Virginia – The isolated towns of Virginia’s Appalachian coal region are home to strong labor unions and Democratic political machines that date back generations. Yet voters here who eagerly pushed Democrats into the Senate and the governor’s office are resisting Barack Obama.

Some Americans say Obama’s race and uncommon background make them uncomfortable – here those people include Democratic precinct chairmen and get-out-the-vote workers. Many Americans receive e-mails falsely calling Obama a Muslim – here a local newspaper columnist has joked in print that Obama would have the White House painted black and would put Islamic symbols on the U.S. flag. (more…)

Lee Atwater: Godfather of the Modern Negative Political Campaign.

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Screening September 26 through November 2, 2008 in independent cinemas and film festivals around the country. Check here for more info.

The Washington Times #1 Can’t Miss Pick!

Produced and Directed by Stefan Forbes
Produced by Noland Walker

Featuring Ed Rollins, Michael Dukakis, Tucker Eskew, Howard Fineman, Mary Matalin, Sam Donaldson and others

“Can you understand American politics if you don’t understand
Lee Atwater? I believe not.” – Tucker Eskew, Senior McCain/Palin Advisor

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story is a comprehensive look at Lee Atwater, the blues-playing rogue whose rambunctious rise from the South to Chairman of the GOP made him a household name. He mentored Karl Rove and George W. Bush and played a crucial role in the elections of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He wrote the Republican Party’s winning playbook which the McCain campaign is currently using. (more…)

Campaign Spin: Push Polls Disguised as Market Research

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Reach Out and Smear Someone
Politico.com via PRWatch.org
September 16, 2008

The Republican Jewish Coalition says it hired the political polling firm Central Research to “understand why Barack Obama continues to have a problem among Jewish voters.” But the poll questions upset many of the hundreds of Jewish voters in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey who received the calls.

Some say it was a push poll, designed to spread negative information and disinformation. Others say the calls, with more than 80 questions, were too long to be push polls; instead, they may be testing messages for future attack ads. One question the pollsters asked is whether it would affect the respondent’s vote if she or he knew that Hamas’ leader had “expressed support for Obama.” The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has endorsed John McCain for President, also helped launch the pro-war lobby group Freedom’s Watch. In the 2000 primary campaign, the Bush team targeted McCain with a push poll in South Carolina that claimed McCain had fathered an illegitimate black baby.

Read the whole article here at Politico.com.

photo: DataMikado.ning.com

The Weekly Spin on the Center for Consumer Freedom

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Rick Berman Gets Fat off the Obesity Industry
The Weekly Spin / prwatch.com
September 23, 2008

Kevin Anderson, blog editor for the UK Guardian, was bemused by an advertisement posted in the Washington DC subway. “This ad of a man’s beer belly stuffed with bills railing away against trial lawyers probably makes little sense to the average American.

Figuring out who is behind ads like this is even more interesting. The ad highlights an innocuous sounding website www.ConsumerFreedom.com (because who would be against consumer freedom?). What is this group? SourceWatch gives the history and current campaigns of the Center for Consumer Freedom. They originally started to fight against smoking restrictions in restaurants backed with money from tobacco giant Philip Morris. They have since expanded into other areas including anti-anti-obesity.

Hard-hitting news funny man Stephen Colbert gets to the bottom of the story in this interview of Rick Berman, the PR man behind the Center for Consumer Freedom.”

Keith Olbermann on the Anniversary of 9/11

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Special Commentary from Countdown with Keith Olbermann about the politicization of 9/11 by the Republican Party, MSNBC, September 10, 2008:

Fact Checking McCain

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FactChecking McCain
FactCheck.org, Annenberg Political Fact Check
September 5, 2008

He made some flubs in accepting the nomination.

Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) arrives to accept the nomination Minnesota September 4, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon StapletonSummary: We checked the accuracy of McCain’s speech accepting the Republican nomination and noted the following:

McCain claimed that Obama’s health care plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs” and would put “a bureaucrat … between you and your doctor.” In fact, the plan exempts small businesses, and those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.

McCain attacked Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies. In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

McCain said oil imports send “$700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.” But the U.S. is on track to import a total of only $536 billion worth of oil at current prices, and close to a third of that comes from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

He promised to increase use of “wind, tide [and] solar” energy, though his actual energy plan contains no new money for renewable energy. He has said elsewhere that renewable sources won’t produce as much as people think. (more…)

Double Standards, Spin and Rancor at the RNC

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From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, September 3, 2008:

thanks Don

In Search of the Indelible Metaphor

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I’m Rubber, You’re Glue …
by Jonathan Alter
September 1, 2008

It’s hard to predict what will stick. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ was a hand-scrawled sign hung in Little Rock.

When NEWSWEEK reported earlier this summer that the McCain family owns at least seven houses, few outside the hothouse of politics noticed. Voters assume that all politicians are rich and didn’t seem to care that John McCain’s wife, Cindy, is worth $100 million and owed back taxes on one of the properties. But when Politico asked McCain last week in New Mexico how many residences he and his wife owned and he answered, “I think—I’ll have my staff get [back] to you,” the story suddenly took off, fueled by the impression that McCain is old and out of touch with Americans struggling to pay their mortgages. Will it do his campaign real damage? Depends on the “stickiness.”

The same goes for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver. The buzz of 70,000 people screaming for him at Invesco Field will wear off if he doesn’t frame his economic message in a way that otherwise inattentive Americans can recall. Without an indelible metaphor, all of his policy speeches are written in invisible ink.

Modern campaigns are about flinging 10 things against the wall every day and hoping something sticks. Everything else, from fund-raising to advertising (paid for by the fund-raising) to speechmaking to Web strategy, is in the service of applying that adhesive, either to cement the candidate’s message or muck up the opponent’s engine with sludge.

That’s because memorable lines, images, gaffes and monikers act like a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe. (more…)

The Real McCain 2

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From Robert Greenfield and Brave New Films:

There’s no question John McCain is getting a free ride from the mainstream press. But with the power of YouTube and the blogosphere, we can provide an accurate portrayal of the so-called Maverick. We can put the brakes on his free ride!

John McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare

Since we first released The Real McCain a year ago, our REAL McCain series has garnered over 6 million views, with over 50,000 comments and tens of thousands more in petition signatures! Clearly, John McCain’s record is something the public wants to discuss, and yet the corporate media is doing NOTHING to present the truth. (more…)

Media Hype: The Power of Hot Air

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Need Press? Repeat: ‘Green,’ ‘Sex,’ ‘Cancer,’ ‘Secret,’ ‘Fat’
by Joanne Kaufman
The New York Times
June 30, 2008

toxic190v.jpgThe original pitch landed in the inbox with a whiff of medical authenticity overlaid with a snicker-inducing headline: “Toxic Ties to ‘New Shower Curtain Smell’ Evident, According to Latest Laboratory Testing.”

There was a news conference, this release said, at New York University Medical Center. It was led by a doctor representing an obscure if official-sounding group that few people have heard of, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. There were revelations about how shower curtains that are “routinely sold at multiple retail outlets” and can “release as many as 108 volatile chemicals into the air.”

Thus, the Toxic Shower Curtain Story was born.

ABCNews.com picked up on it, only to debunk it. With varying amounts of credulousness, other outlets ran with it as well, including U.S. News & World Report, The Daily News in New York, MSNBC.com and The Los Angeles Times. The gist of some of the coverage was that it was all a tempest in a bathtub, though other reports took the information at face value.

How do stories of this ilk get such bounce from major news organizations? (more…)

Not So Pretty in Pink

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Pinkwashing: Can Shopping Cure Breast Cancer?
by Anne Landman
Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch
June 11, 2008

pink-ribbon-magnetimg_assist_custom.jpgYou’ve heard the term “greenwashing.” It refers to corporations that try to appear “green” without reducing their negative impact on the environment.

Since 2002, the group Breast Cancer Action has promoted its “Think Before You Pink” campaign. It’s fighting “pinkwashing,” which is when corporations try to boost sales by associating their products with the fight against breast cancer. Pinkwashing is a form of slacktivism — a campaign that makes people feel like they’re helping solve a problem, while they’re actually doing more to boost corporate profits. Pinkwashing has been around for a while, but is now reaching almost unbelievable levels.

The worst pinkwashers exploit the intense emotions associated with breast cancer while selling products that actually contribute to breast cancer.

So how can the average person recognize pinkwashing? Here are some examples. (more…)