Friday, January 28, 2005

Never remove your blinders.

I wonder: if I ran the "you write what you're told" graphic everyday, would it lose potency? I strongly suspect yes, and yet it seems to apply everyday.

So how about this one instead, courtesy of the Propaganda Remix Project:

The world learned yesterday, I learned this morning, that conservative columnist Michael McManus received $10K from HHS to write in support of a Bush-approved marriage initiative, which means I don't think it was the initiative that suggested that gay and lesiban couples might be happier if they could get married legally.

[UPDATE: ADDED INFO] From the article on also via truthout):
To date, the Bush administration has paid public relation firms $250 million to help push proposals, according to a report Thursday in USA Today. That's double what the Clinton administration spent on P.R. from 1997 to 2000. Shortly after Williams' contract came to light, the Democrats on the Committee on Government Reform wrote a letter to President Bush demanding that he 'immediately provide to us all past and ongoing efforts to engage in covert propaganda, whether through contracts with commentators, the distribution of video news releases, or other means.' As of Thursday, a staffer on the committee told Salon, there had been no response.

Horn says McManus, who could not be reached for comment, was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which encourages communities to combat divorce through education and counseling. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.

And a bit more:
In 1996, McManus co-founded Marriage Savers, a conservative advocacy group, which, among other things, urges clergy not to conduct a marriage ceremony unless the couple has had lengthy counseling first. 'The church should not be a 'wedding factory,' but a training ground for strong marriages to go the distance -- for life,' McManus wrote.

In his April 3, 2004, column, McManus wrote, 'The Healthy Marriage Initiative would provide funds to help those couples improve their skills of conflict resolution so they might actually marry -- and be equipped to build a healthy marriage. Those skills can be taught by mentor couples in churches for free. But for the non-religious, counselors would be paid.'

A year earlier, McManus assured readers that funds provided for the Healthy Marriage Initiative 'could be used to teach skills to improve communication and resolve conflict that would make the relationship happier and lead to a healthy marriage.' He based that assessment on comments made by HHS's Horn, who, indirectly, served as McManus' boss -- although that relationship was never revealed to readers.

The US Department of Health and Human Services's description of the Healthy Marriage Initiative is available here. Heritage Foundation's plugs for same may be found here and here. A critique published by Traci Hukill on Alternet is here.

As Michelle Malkin has noted, one of the surprising things here is that these writers do not remember receiving the money for their endorsements. Let me see: in the last couple of years, I have received money from, say, the University of South Florida to give a talk about Gertrude Stein, from my college to pursue my research about fascism, from the NEH--lord love them!--to go to Rome, etc. You think I don't remember and relish every penny? Maybe once you're receiving bribes in the tens of thousands, it all starts to blend together.

In the meantime, if you have a minute and have not already, read Eliot Weinberger's "What I Heard About Iraq" from the London Review of Books.

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