By MIKE WHITNEY
The 24 hour a day "Pope-a-thon" shows the dramatic shift in the way that news is covered. If a story is inoffensive to the political establishment or if it serves their greater interests (like Schiavo) then it becomes an immediate mega-story that swallows up most of the front page and consumes the majority of TV time. In this way, the national dialogue is controlled by PR firms working closely with Washington to decide what information is suitable for public consumption. It's perception management pure and simple but, so far, it looks like a winning strategy. As many have already noticed, the Iraqi bloodbath has been knocked out of the headlines and consigned to page 14 next to the women's lingerie adverts. In its place, American's are provided with diversionary Uber-stories of vegetative housewives and dead Popes. There's no chance that the 4 Marines who died in insurgent attacks last Tuesday will appear on page one anymore, nor will the 300,000 disgruntled Iraqis who paraded through Baghdad yesterday calling for an end to the Occupation while burning Bush in effigy. These are the unfortunate victims of the new media regime; a system that dismisses inconvenient facts for the fairy-tales that support the status quo. The new game-plan is to sweep Iraq from the collective consciousness and slow the steady erosion of public support for the war.
The changes in news coverage can be traced to a poll that ran 3 months ago in Washington Post poll which showed in stark terms how unpopular Bush's war in Iraq has become in just 2 short years. 56% of the people polled said the war "wasn't worth it" and a whopping 70% concluded that the loss of 1500 American servicemen "was an unacceptable cost".
The results of that poll sent tremors through the political establishment, and their trepidation is reflected in way that the news is now presented. Ball-players on steroids, Schiavo and a dead Pope are just the first of what will certainly be many similar entertaining distractions. Next week we will undoubtedly discover that Schiavo was carrying Jacko's love-child.
For the most part, Iraq has been buried by the media; a tacit admission that even supporters are now experiencing both doubt about the wisdom of the war and overall fatigue from the constant flow of bad news from the front. The casualties, the chaos, the lack of reconstruction, and the demoralizing stories of torture are slowly grinding down even the most ardent Bush fan. Beyond the legal and moral questions, the war is starting to look like it was simply a stupid idea conjured up by fanatics. This perception is not likely to change.
Once public support evaporates, that's it. There's no second chance.
Go finish reading Whitney's take on the Streetwalking Media.