During the run up to the war in Iraq, the U.S. government raised propaganda distribution to an efficiency the nation had not seen in years. Following the attacks of Sept. 11 the government tied the two together, withheld information that cast doubt on its claims and presented Americans with a tidy package that spelled out one thing: We need to go to war. Now.
Social Security privatization is now point one on the Bush administration’s agenda. The need to “strengthen” it is presented in no less urgent terms than was Iraq. This time though (at least for now), the public is less likely to take the bait without hard questions and is backed up by a media that appears to have learned from past mistakes.
Even before Air Force One landed in Tampa to bring the president to an event at the Tampa Bay Convention Center, it was clear this event would be little more than a stage production.
Speaking to The Tampa Tribune, a spokesperson for the Bush administration said two days before the event that the select few who were to join the president on stage had been chosen based on their “vested interest in strengthening Social Security” and that each “have an important story to tell.”
The St. Petersburg Times agreed. An article published the morning after the event characterized it as a “celebrity road show with headliner George W. Bush” as well as “part scripted play, part rock concert, packaged together to make a modern-day political campaign rally.”
Yet the event’s transcript on the White House Web site is titled “President discusses strengthening Social Security in Florida.” It’s hardly a discussion if the crowd and individuals allowed to speak are picked based on what the president wants to hear.
The event in Tampa added to the four that preceded it elsewhere. Crisscrossing the nation, Bush spoke in four other locations before visiting Tampa. All were carefully placed in large media markets.
The stakes in this propaganda war are lower than they were in Bush’s quest to take out Iraq. No matter how badly the government bends the truth this time, it is unlikely anybody will die as an outcome.
But it’s already costing American citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent spaces such as the Tampa Bay Convention Center, security and transportation for the president to push an agenda they likely wouldn’t want if the public relations machine wasn’t pushing it on them.
But it seems this time around the public is paying more attention.