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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003

Opinion Columns

‘fiction’ police

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Besides Howard Dean’s foot-in-mouth claim of wanting to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," the big ruckus last week was over "The Reagans," the TV movie yanked by CBS then buried on its less-watched Showtime cable network.

Conservative Republicans and their foot soldiers accomplished their mission: They battered CBS into submission with a torrent of shrill charges that "The Reagans" amounted to an insulting and—you guessed it!—"liberal" fiction of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

But the self-styled fiction busters seemed blind to real political image making.

Not a peep did they utter when Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch blew the whistle on the Pentagon’s made-for-TV campaign, turning her into a phony hero of the attack on Iraq.

She was "used" to promote the war, she told ABC interviewer Diane Sawyer. She rejected the hero image created by military public relations drum-beaters, who ignored more heroic GIs in Jessica’s unit. (Imagine what other "facts" about the war are questionable.)

The Pentagon soap opera was this: Jessica went down firing her rifle at Iraqi soldiers; she was beaten by her captors, then bravely rescued by a special assault team, which conveniently brought along a night vision camera to document the operation.

All fiction, Lynch said. Her rifle in fact jammed and wouldn’t fire. Her injuries were not from a beating but from her Humvee crashing during the ambush. Her rescue came after an Iraqi tipped off U.S. forces that found her in a virtually abandoned, undefended hospital.

(Democrats have no reason to gloat. Remember Scott O’Grady, the Air Force F-16 pilot shot down in Bosnia in 1995? He was transformed into a "hero" by Bill Clinton’s Pentagon flacks. O’Grady received full pomp treatment at a Pentagon welcome that included top brass and President Clinton, who needed a "hero" at the time. O’Grady merely was shot down, saved himself by hiding until Marine rescuers picked him up. O’Grady was Clinton’s Jessica Lynch.)

Did concerns about "fiction" really drive the campaign to force CBS to drop "The Reagans" from prime time?

Nope. It’s a new tactic in the long-range ultraconservative strategy to subdue U.S. media independence.

The first phase: create the myth that news media not owned by Rupert Murdoch’s unabashedly conservative Fox TV are dangerously "liberal." That’s succeeded: Much of the Washington press now shies from aggressive reporting of Bush administration failings to avoid criticism. The edgiest commentaries on Bush policies now come from late night TV comedians.

But the conservative whine about "liberal" media has become tiresome. So, now there’s a new ploy: attack TV for "fiction" such as "The Reagans" and badger networks to cancel programs that cast GOP icons in a critical light.

Disingenuous and intellectually dishonest it may be. But it works. Democratic leaders in Washington have never been so lifeless and uninspiring in rebuking right-wing deceit. And, sadly, too many independent news media cower to avoid White House insinuations they’re "unpatriotic."



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