Third Party Technique

The Emperor Doesn't Disclose: Why the Fight Against Fake News Continues

Like much news that's damaging to the Bush administration, the report came out on a Friday.

"Remixed War Propaganda" by Micah Ian WrightSince then, it's gotten little media attention -- just 41 mentions in U.S. newspapers and wire stories, according to a news database search on October 11. That's remarkably sparse coverage for a story showing that the U.S. government has been engaged in illegal propaganda aimed at its own citizens.

Fake News Gets Called on the Carpet

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams"The Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party," ruled the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO report, "the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities," found that the Department of Education contract with the Ketchum PR firm violated the ban on "covert propaganda." Objectionable activities include a video news release where PR flack Karen Ryan says the Bush tutoring program "gets an A-plus"; news monitoring to determine whether stories agree that "the Bush administration / the G.O.P. is committed to education"; and Armstrong Williams' newspaper columns and television spots praising the No Child Left Behind Act, without disclosing that he was paid by the Education Department. The GAO doesn't have enforcement powers, but reports to the White House and Congress.


Hughes Gets a Little Help from a Friend

"At the State Department's invitation," former Voice of America director and current dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication Geoffrey Cowan wrote an opinion piece for USA Today praising Karen Hughes, the new


Like-Minded Groups Across a Rising Pond

"For decades, corporations have known that, if they lobby for their own interests, public opinion won't take them seriously," begins the Independent's article on the "most influential" third party groups that have aligned with businesses to oppose action on climate change.


The Education Department's Paid Apple Polishers

An "angry op-ed" in the Dallas Morning News claimed the city's school system was "limiting the future and opportunities for our children" by not enacting policies mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind law more quickly.


Finally, McDonald's Story Can Be Told

"McDonald's had a great story to tell, and we weren't telling it," said Mike Donahue, McDonald's U.S. communications head. In 2002, Donahue "held a summit of the 125 PR firms that work with McDonald's and its various owner-operators," encouraging them to promote company-financed studies on the chain's positive economic impact.


Propaganda, Homeland Style

A leaked draft public relations plan for the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection bureau suggested "repeating the message, in the weeks leading up to the presidential election, that America is safer," reports the Washington Post.


False Fronts

This spring, the Dr. Pepper company recruited bloggers to talk up "Raging Cow," a flavored-milk drink. "The company hoped to work up Internet buzz about the beverage - and it was OK, by the way, if the bloggers didn't mention that Dr Pepper had given them freebies and flown them to Dallas for a pep session," writes James Hebert, who examines several examples of the old PR trick of "getting a supposedly independent third party to tout your product."


Pakistan's PR Firm Uses Classic Third Party Technique

Pakistan's recent contract with Stirling Consulting for "media relations" work will include dealing with negative media stories, "stimulating" pro-Pakistan letters-to-the-editor, and enlisting Pakistani-American "message surrogates," Working for Change columnist Bill Berkowitz writes. "Recruiting 'message surrogates' is a classic example of what in PR lingo is called 'the third party technique,'" PR Watch's Sheldon Rampton told Berkowitz.



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