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No Shame

Photoshopped propaganda imageThanks to PR Watch forums contributor "El Gringo" for calling our attention to a really atrocious example of dishonest propaganda. The graphic at right is by Linda Eddy, an artist for the website, IowaPresidentialWatch.com. Owned by Roger Hughes, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Iowa, the website spent the recent U.S. presidential election calling Democratic candidate John Kerry a habitual liar and comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels -- which is awfully ironic in light of its own promotion of a big lie.

The image you see here might lead you to believe that the child in the picture has been made "glad" and secure thanks to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. As "El Gringo" discovered, however, Lindy Eddy doctored the photograph. The original photo, taken by a journalist, depicted a young girl who had just received bullet wounds during a firefight in which her mother was killed and her father was wounded. Eddy doctored the photo by erasing the little girl's own face (which carries the listless expression you would expect from an injured child) and replacing it with someone else's face to make her look positively radiant and adoring.

Calling John Rendon

John Rendon is CEO of the Rendon Group, a secretive public relations firm that often provides behind-the-scenes advice to the U.S. military. Over the years, we've received dozens of phone calls from journalists who have sought interviews with Rendon about his work on behalf of the Iraqi National Congress, but no one has been able to get him to say more than "no comment."

We were a little surprised, therefore, when a telephone message was left for Rendon in our office by someone identifying himself as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. A transcript of that message is as follows:

John Stauber Interviewed by Now Age Press

Craig Gordon of the website Now Age Press recently interviewed me. He was interested in the current situation with mad cow disease in the US, a subject Sheldon Rampton and I addressed in our prescient 1997 book Mad Cow USA. Craig also was curious about the origins of the Center for Media and Democracy and how issues as seemingly disparate as Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), Mad Cow Disease and Bush's war on Iraq all fall under our investigative lens.

Milloy Blames Environmentalists First

Steven Milloy, the self-proclaimed critic of junk science at Fox News, rarely misses an opportunity to bash environmentalists. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he falsely claimed that the collapse of the World Trade Towers could have been delayed if only the builders had used more asbestos. He also has a habit of distorting other people's words when it serves his agenda. (A recent example of this was featured on RealClimate.org, a weblog for climate scientists.)

Milloy's response to the Asian tsunami is similar. In a column for Fox News, Milloy accuses environmentalists of exploiting the disaster by trying to blame it on global warming. In order to make this seem plausible, however, he has to misquote the environmentalists he is attacking.

Smart ALEC in the Classroom

ALEC's 2004 Report Card on American EducationThe American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded conservative advocacy group that specializes in lobbying state legislatures for enactment of favorable legislation, has issued a "2004 Report Card on American Education" that provides an instructive example of the ways that industry-funded organizations manipulate information to reach foreordained conclusions.

ALEC's report, which comes packaged with a glossy clip-art cover showing a pencil, ruler and other classroom implements, was authored by Andrew T. LeFevre, the President of LeFevre Associates, a PR/lobby firm based in northern Virginia. It was edited by Lori Drummer, who heads ALEC's education task force, which is "responsible for overseeing the development of ALEC policy related to education reform and school choice programs" - euphemisms for school privatization, which ALEC advocates.

No Strings Attached

Despite finishing second in the annual Sydney to Hobart blue-water racing classic, the yacht named after communications giant AAPT outperformed most of its rivals in the PR stakes.

While big racing boats such as AAPT fly with the wind they also burn bucketloads of cash. Which is why the big boats need big sponsors. Corporate sponsors look to the bottom line and expect a return on investment that is primarily measured on the amount of media coverage they garner.

Thanks for the (False) Memories: the 2004 Falsies Awards

This year marks the beginning of a new tradition for the Center for Media and Democracy. To remember the people and players responsible for polluting our information environment, we are issuing a new year-end prize that we call the "Falsies Awards." The top ten finalists will each receive a million bucks worth of free coupons, a lifetime supply of non-fattening ice cream, an expenses-paid vacation in Fallujah, and our promise to respect them in the morning. The winners of the Falsies Awards for 2004 are:

1. I'm Karen Ryan, reporting

Karen RyanLet's hear it for video news releases finally getting a smattering of the public scrutiny they deserve. A video news release or VNR is a simulated TV news story. Video clips paid for by corporations, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations are commonly passed off as legitimate news segments on local newscasts throughout the United States. VNRs are designed to be indistinguishable from traditional TV news and are often aired without the original producers and sponsors being identified and sometimes without any local editing.

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