Could Pundits Not Receiving Government Funds Please Stand Up?

"One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged," reports Salon. "Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, 'Ethics & Religion,' appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative." Like Maggie Gallagher, McManus "championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed." McManus was paid $10,000 through the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy, for trainings and presentations. An HHS official said, "We live in a complicated world and people wear many different hats. ... The line has become increasingly blurred between who's a member of the media and who is not."


Greg Beato has a couple of interesting posts about Maggie Gallagher (and he links to SourceWatch :) )

His second post brings something that's been stuck in my craw lately. Like many pundits and propagandists, Gallagher likes to refer to herself as an expert. In her latest defense, she even attempts to group herself with "researchers and scholars."

There seems to be a paradox in the right wing's attack on the media and academic establishment. On the one hand, movement conservatives (MCs) need to cloak themselves with the appearance of scholarship and the traditional notion of what constitutes an "expert" to establish credibility. On the other, there seems to be a deliberate effort to undermine the very notion of expertise, which is considered "elitist."

I suppose if one is trying to hoodwink the public, confusion is a good tactic. And in any case, MCs have little choice because many of their ideas would otherwise be ignored and their media personalities dismissed as cranks.

But as a long-term strategy, it seems self-defeating. As the public's trust in institutions and experts erodes, it becomes more and more difficult to win people over and earn their trust. It's the same, growing problem advertisers are facing - the more fog you release to blur the distinction between fact and fiction, the more difficult it becomes to get a message across.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if we've passed a point of no return, where the trust that binds a society together begins to fray to the point where it's impossible to put together coherent public policy. Unless the media begins calling a representative of the "Institute for Marriage and Public Policy" a "nut" instead of a "scholar," I'm pessimistic that the trend will reverse.

I am SO thankful that this scandal is seeing the light of day! Finally we can stop the funding of right-wing pundits by the Bush Administration. Don't they know that funding pundits for propoganda is the rightful domain of the left??!! NPR and PBS cannot afford to have their funds siphoned off by these nutty neo-cons! The nerve of these bible-thumping red staters!!! To think that promoting an administration's positon on health care is as valuable as the left-wing agenda of our friends at NPR! Egads! Where is Teddy Kennedy when you need him?. . . "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke