Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Media Beat: Memo To George, Dick and John

Media Strategy Memo to George, Dick and John

By Norman Solomon


To: George, Dick and John

Re: Counteracting the Media Evildoers

Damage control efforts are on track after those rough days in mid-May.

First, let's note a silver lining. John's move to prosecute Arthur Andersen pushed Enron off a lot of front pages, and the recent media commotion about "advance warnings" has helped too. However, complacency would be unwise. For instance, George's mash letters to Ken Lay are posted on Internet sites. Reporters could get tired of the raw meat thrown from the Andersen case. Fortunately, they're more like kitty-cats than lions.

To facilitate the purring, stroke as desired. Do what works. Avoid foot in mouth. Friendly pundits will float trial-balloon excuses. What doesn't get shot down is worth repeating.

Dick, you've been magnificent on the Sunday shows. That grim Edgar Bergen look is a knockout -- just don't tell anyone George is your Charlie McCarthy. (Joke.) The main thing is, stay on message. Change the subject whenever necessary. At this point, do FDR one better: The only thing to fear is not enough fear.

If journalists want warnings, you've got an unlimited supply! Can't lose -- you'll end up seeming either prescient or successful at thwarting the terrorists. But see if you can put a clamp on the bragging. For maximum effect, impress on staffers the importance of resisting the temptation to boast.

It didn't enhance the damage-control counteroffensive when the Associated Press reported on May 21: "There is an element of politics to the administration's warnings, officials acknowledged." Or when, on the same day, the Globe and Mail informed Canadians: "White House officials told reporters that the blunt warnings issued yesterday and Sunday do not reflect a dramatic increase in threatening information but rather a desire to fend off criticism from the Democrats."

When in doubt, scare the stuffing out of the public. Especially if fearful, they want father figures running the show in Washington, protecting and defending. In the future, the administration could benefit from a bit more Reaganizing. In retrospect, George probably missed an opportunity with the Berlin visit; he might have tried something like "Mr. Saddam, tear down this terrorist pall."

As George's dad can tell us, the "what did he know and when did he know it" thing is liable to wear quite thin, with the Washington press corps losing interest. And from the looks of initial staffing, the congressional investigations are likely to be circumspect. The Iran-Contra hearings showed that if you blow enough smoke while reporters search for a smoking gun, pretty soon they'll be going around in circles.

Uncle Sam's military attacks in Afghanistan are providing a healthy flow of proud bang-bang on television. But there's a need to maintain high creative standards in the Pentagon's media ops. Remember -- it takes some flash to be noticeable above the baseline network sizzle, especially during sweeps.

George, don't hesitate to get on your high pony. Talk about executive privilege, the sanctity of the presidency, your abiding faith in the goodness and courage of the American people. The flag pin on the suit lapel still looks great, by the way. But maybe it was a flub to wear the polo shirt with the alligator again. We're awaiting focus-group results on an alternative; if the meter pins, we'll cut out the gator and have a small Old Glory stitched in.

Top national security officials ought to step up the pace of sit-down TV interviews, so schedule more softball sessions on the networks. And if Larry King can tear himself away from Chandra's remains anytime soon, maybe he'd like to have Dick and the wife on again -- if so, the V.P.'s flacks should brainstorm themes, perhaps along the lines of "the family that fights terrorism together draws strength from God and country together." Lynne could hawk her new patriotic book in the process.

The FBI deserves back-channel encouragement for going public with uncorroborated warnings about New York landmarks the other day. Mentioning the Statue of Liberty was a nice touch. It left a feeling of Lady-Liberty-vs.-terrorist-perfidy in the air, with a fine media mist of fear. And we can never have too much of that.


Norman Solomon's latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."

His Media Beat Column is published at:

Background links about Bush-Lay letters:

Photocopies --

Summary of correspondence --

*** Note to readers of "Media Beat": If you'd like to see Norman Solomon's syndicated column appear in a local daily newspaper, you can help-- by contacting the opinion-page editors of papers in your area and urging that they give the column a try. Editors can make arrangements by phoning Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles or by sending an email note to

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news