Sunday, October 23


I loved this opinion for many reasons, one of which is that it reminded me of an incident in a meeting at my company on Friday.

An ad agency had been called in to prepare our recruiting materials, among which was to be a short video (I was included because I'm the resident film production expert at our company). Also attending was a marketing communications consultant I'd never met who was of the mind that the video was a bad idea. The marcomm specialist had already seen the script the agency had written, which I had not.

The agency reps began to go over with us, line-by-line, the aforementioned script they had written. The first "testimonial" they proposed having a current employee recite (did I mention that this video is supposed to appeal to the MTV generation?) was: "As a ------ employee I find great pleasure in providing an essential service to the community while building a secure future for myself and experiencing job satisfaction."

After gagging for a minute I interrupted. "That kind of language might sound fine in print but it really isn't right for broadcast media and college students. I'd picture a young construction manager standing in the sunshine on a job site in his hard hat, sweatshirt and shorts spreading his arms and saying, "Is this a great job or WHAT?"

After a couple more instant rewrites on my part the marcomm specialist jumped up and said, "YES! Okay, maybe a video IS a good idea -- but only if (my name) directs it."

The Bush administration, which until recently was famed for its superior stagecraft, frankly benefited from a surplus of credulous, uncritical media echo chambers that convinced a large percentage of Americans that what they were witnessing was real-life drama, not scripted and professionally executed productions. But they could not have succeeded without the simple-spoken George W. Bush, as the aw-shucks central actor.

But Dubya has run out of lines, and his incessant repetition of them has begun to pall. So the hacks have recruited others to speak the big thoughts -- administration insiders, Republican pundits, bought-and-paid-for journalists and now our own military troops. Problem is, they're not trusted to speak for themselves, so the agency hacks have written their lines.

A big con is a theatrical production. It won't work if it's not believable:

The big con came a cropper when W. held that video conference Oct. 13 with 10 U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi. The troops were handpicked from the Army's famed 42nd Infantry Division.

It turned out that the whole thing was as phony as any TV commercial. The soldiers were assigned to ask certain questions and were given a list of topics they could use.

What did them in was the language they used to answer questions. It obviously was scripted. When a captain from Idaho was asked whether the Iraqis wanted to fight and were capable of defending their homeland against the insurgents, he replied: "The Iraqi army and policy services, along with coalition support, have conducted many and mutiple exercises and rehearsals. It was impressive to me to see the cooperation and communication that took place among the Iraqi forces."

Another of the troops supposedly picked at random knew that voter registration was up 17 percent in north central Iraq, and said, "the Iraqi people are ready and eager to vote in this referendum."

That's not the way soldiers, or any other group of Americans, talk. That's the way Pentagon or White House hacks write.


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