O'Rourke (View From the Couch): Publicity & Abuse


It's quiet here now on the Notre Dame campus, but the plane is back. The plane with the large banner of a dissected 10-week-old fetus. Perhaps it is on a contract and it needed to fly one more time after being shut out for most of the day by air space restrictions during Obama's visit.

Presidents do seem to be of a different species; all politicians aspire to be that species, but so few have the requisite talents that most politicians appear to be only mutants of the species. Obama is practically one of a kind, which is why he has always been considered other worldly, or extra-terrestrial. But most of them are unsuccessful lab rats.

Take Alan Keyes, who I got to cover in my book on the '96 presidential election. Keyes has gone from bad to worse and has turned into the typical publicity pig looking to put his snout into whatever media trough that is feeding the cable news swine. Fox News gave ND's commencement practically wall-to-wall coverage. But, it is personal, I suppose, with Keyes, since he was brought in as a magic carpet bagger to go up against Obama in the race that put Obama in the Senate.

The Illinois GOP had lost their local rich white guy candidate to a sex scandal and the moralizing Keyes was flown in and rented a south side Chicago apartment. The equally smarmy Randall Terry (for whom protest is a business) and Keyes make an odd couple, since Terry's career is even more checkered than Keyes'. Terry's evolution has now made him a "Catholic", but he continues to boss women around, as all these guys do. What can you say about a "pro-life" movement whose most visible spokespersons are all male?

In any case, Obama came and left, sprinkling his brand of healing dust on one and all. Even the weather cooperated. I had to see his speech "from the couch," to coin a phrase, since a "lottery" was imposed on the faculty, requiring them to win a ticket in order to attend. I didn't win. This, of course, had never happened before; usually faculty have to be cajoled to come to graduation. But, it did prove a right-wing beef accurate: academia is the last refuge for liberals (of the 60s generation, at least), or, as the GOP wants to re-brand Democratic Party, for the Democrat-Socialist Party.

Well, Wall Street firms continue to be the most successful socialist enterprises around. We (the people) own AIG and a number of banks, but don't mention that to the guys who still pass the money around. It turned out AIG low-balled the bonus figure earlier in the year. It's now assessed at over 400 million. 60 Minutes pointed out that only two of the miscreants at AIG FS in London, which is the entity that bankrupted the concern, have actually left the firm. Now that's forgiveness.

Obama has also temporarily forgiven the military and stopped for now the release of the many, many photos of prisoner abuse. The torture memo release was not considered a big success by the White House, so why compound the problem? It's a timing matter, given an upcoming presidential middle east trip. Again, this is a failure of journalism.

Those photos weren't all, or even most, official snaps. Soldiers took them and sent them home to friends and families. Salon published Abu Ghraib photos in February 2006, before the government released them because of earlier litigation. Sy Hersh reported on the photos and abuses in 2004 in The New Yorker. The Washington Post ran pictures of Abu Ghraib abuse in June of 2004. It is hard to believe no journalist hasn't been able to get a hold of the horde of photos, since there were so many taken by participants and observers.

Waiting for the courts to rule in the favor of the public is a version of journalism that is the counterpart to printing pr handouts from the government and corporations, which is a practice that still happens — and given what is happening to newspapers throughout the land such behavior will likely become the reigning form of journalism in the future.

Look out.


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