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Media coverage of the ongoing Bush/Sheehan matter is worth following, not for its substance - that is sorely lacking - but rather, for the audacity the media is showing by giving its favorite child a public spanking.

"Media" refers to the conglomerates that currently pose as the fourth estate and, in effect, lull the public into thinking it still has someone or something looking out for it by checking government excess and/or abuse of power.

In the current Bush vacation/war/Cindy script, the media is attacking its own valuable creation. After all, Bush is pro-business, anti- regulation, and has done wonders for media conglomerates with his version of the FCC. As for being a media creation, even Bush has recognized his true Creator for some time now. This is evidenced by his quote while mulling his first run for Governor of Texas:
"You know I could run for governor but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business. But that's not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office."

He was re-cast as a successful businessman and a brave fighter pilot and the rest is history.

Currently, the media is defending the attack on its own valuable asset by grumbling that August is a "slow news" period (a recurring excuse) and the reporter's outside of the ranch in Crawford have nothing else to do. On its face, that statement is untrue as anyone who ventures outside of what the American media defines as news can attest to.

The actual answer is simple. The media has proven that it can easily destroy its opponents. The attack on Bush is just a method of keeping its minions in line. Knowing that George Bush is wont to believe the unbelievable, it is reminding him of his quote as he was weighing running for Governor of Texas lest he let his self-described "earned capital" go to his head. It is also a reminder that the "earned capital" is rightfully "media loaned currency" made available to him by his true Creator.

In order to avoid real damage to its favorite politician as it flexes its muscles, the media has also set both guns blazing against Cindy Sheehan. That way, should any signs of serious damage to Bush emerge, the healing process can begin by the media pointing to the "source" who, as its pundits are fond of saying, is a "crackpot", a "traitor", and is "betraying her son's sacrifice". Competing moms, scripted appearances, and references to 9-11 can be trotted out and the whole issue of Iraq will, once again, magically disappear.

The 2004 election coverage left no such outs for Howard Dean and John Kerry. Dean was left with- "I'm not crazy... really, I'm not." Kerry was left with accusations that he was too slow to respond to the question of, "When did you stop beating your Swift Boat?"

Most people are under the impression that Howard Dean's campaign was sunk by the "Dean Scream" in Iowa. That, by itself, ignores the forces behind the altering of a non-event into a monumental meltdown.

According to the National Journal's Hotline, cable and network news aired "the scream" 633 times in the 4 days after it was made. This count did not include local news affiliates or talk shows.

ABC's Diane Sawyer reported on the ramifications as well as the reactions from some who were behind the scenes at cable and the networks.

She stated that it sounded very different in the actual room. The difference was because Dean was holding a handheld microphone that filtered out background noise and isolated his voice. She collected other tapes from that night that had crowd noise on them. She concluded that the "so-called scream couldn't really be heard at all." She also collected some sound bites from top executives at CBS News, ABC News, Fox News and CNN, all of whom acknowledged that the media overplayed the scream.

To understand why Dean took this beating (in January, 2004), one should refer to an interview Dean did with Chris Mathews on Hardball in the previous month.

The following are 3 Dean quotes from the interview:
"What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one…

Yes, we're going to break up giant media enterprises…

You have got to say that there has to be a limit as to how-- if the state has an interest, which it does, in preserving democracy, then there has to be a limitation on how deeply the media companies can penetrate every single community. To the extent of even having two or three or four outlets in a single community, that kind of information control is not compatible with democracy."

Lastly, if the 633 replays of a doctored tape proved insufficient to derail the Dean threat to their continued consolidation, the Center for Media and Public Affairs reported that only 39 percent of Dean's coverage on the network evening news was positive during the week after Iowa. By contrast, rival John Edwards' coverage was 86 percent positive during the same period, and John Kerry's was 71 percent positive.

That is not to say that Dean would have won. It does show that he stood little chance of winning after his comments on Hardball.

As the Democratic field winnowed and John Kerry was selected to run against George Bush, cable catapulted the Swift Boat Veterans onto the world stage.

It should be kept in mind that immediately after the Democratic convention Kerry had a comfortable 3-5 point lead. So comfortable, in fact, that he signaled that he might take another look at media regulation and the effects of consolidation.

At the beginning of August, the infamous "slow news" period, "liberal" TIME (August 3-5) and "conservative" FOX News (August 3-4) conducted polls asking which issues were most important in the 2004 presidential election.

The public chose the economy, Iraq, terrorism, health care or Medicare, moral value issues, education, and taxes.

Cable news offered viewers, "Kerry and Vietnam- Liar, Traitor, or Both?" Network news, in an apparent effort to hang on to some sense of decorum and perspective, stepped aside preferring to let cable news carry the smear burden.

A sampling of programs from August 5th - 26th revealed that CNN, MSNBC, and FOX provided more than 283,593 words and over 34 showings of an otherwise sparsely seen attack ad(s) on the smear for free within the body of "news" stories.

Again, these numbers are but a sampling and are not the complete count (in other words the total numbers would be even higher). Furthermore, the FOX word count was limited to 1/3 of the total so that no claim could be made that FOX coverage skewed the results. The results showed very little difference in intensity and type of coverage regardless of outlet.

Publishing industry standards place 283,593 words beyond a regular novel and into the realm of a 1,134 page "epic" novel or a trilogy.

Anticipating criticism, cable used the "provocatively dressed" defense. Cable pundits stated that by referencing his service in Vietnam, Kerry "opened the door" and "asked for it". "It" being a torrent of - "Kerry has not been honest. He's- lying, lied, no war hero, betrayed, dishonored, lacks the capacity to lead, can't be trusted".

9 repetitions of all 18 prime time Republican Convention speeches skewering Kerry on character, trustworthiness, and strength would be required to approach cable's effort.

As for coverage, among many other absurdities, viewers were treated to:

A "purple star" discussion (as introduced by Heidi Collins- apparently a 'Barney' fan);

After 37,162 words and 17 showings of the first attack ad, Sean Hannity asking, "… why are 'they' trying to silence you? Why won't 'they' let this ad run…?";

A second attack ad (not even aired at the time) eagerly teased by Andrea Mitchell, "Let's take a look at it…the new ad… they have not bought time yet…. Take a look."; and

Campaign "advice" from Chris Mathews, "…the only way he (Kerry) is going to change this story is to say he's gay".

Some, apparently fed up with the coverage, openly disagreed with the "opened the door" rationale.

Jeff Greenfield admitted that fault rested with cable news, which he described as, "…an endless mob that has to be fed…". As for the non-starter story, he said, "…it was given a kind of fuel by this very media".

As Kerry's poll numbers dropped, cable began fingerprint removal by relentlessly repeating, "people don't know where he stands", and attributing credit to "Bush's convention bounce".

On September 14th, analyst and poll aficionado Bill Schneider finally pointed out the obvious, "…By late August, the number who said Kerry's military record made them more likely to vote for him had dropped by half. Kerry's advantage was neutralized by the controversy".

He added, "In early August…Kerry had the edge over Bush as the more honest and trustworthy candidate. In late August just before the Republican convention, the advantage had tilted to Bush".

Schneider's "cause and effect" observations were widely… unreported.

Party affiliation, "likeability", and a "man of the people" matter little if the candidate shows contempt for media conglomerates (Dean) or even ambivalence towards them (Kerry). They will be defeated. Even if one is aware of their Creator (Bush) and pays the proper homage, that individual will be taken to the woodshed on occasion just as a reminder of where the real power resides.

True Republicans and real Democrats alike should be aware that if they play the current media game they will allow our democratic process to be hijacked in a way only imagined by William Randolph Hearst.

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