Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her "interrupting" her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level P.R. but nonetheless bought into the artifice. We were seeing the real Laura Bush, we kept being told. Maybe. While some acknowledged that her script was written by a speechwriter (the genuinely gifted Landon Parvin), very few noted that the routine's most humanizing populist riff, Mrs. Bush's proclaimed affection for the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," was fiction; her press secretary told The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller that the first lady had yet to watch it.
Mrs. Bush's act was a harmless piece of burlesque, but it paid political dividends, upstaging the ho-hum presidential news conference of two days earlier in which few of the same reporters successfully challenged administration spin on Social Security and other matters. (One notable exception: David Gregory of NBC News, whose sharply focused follow-ups pushed Mr. Bush off script and got him to disown some of the faith-based demagoguery of the Family Research Council.) Watching the Washington press not only swoon en masse for Mrs. Bush's show but also sponsor and promote it inevitably recalls its unwitting collaboration in other, far more consequential Bush pageants. From the White House's faux "town hall meetings" to the hiring of Armstrong Williams to shill for its policies in journalistic forums, this administration has been a master of erecting propagandistic virtual realities that the news media have often been either tardy or ineffectual at unmasking.
Indeed. So who can you trust for your news? The networks? Ha! Public broadcasting. Maybe. It's too laborious to cull the blogosphere for news. And what's at stake for bloggers? Their journalistic credibility? Page views? Click-throughs? Hm. Not much of a check to dsitortions or fabrications.
See my news source links on the sidebar at the right of this page. I trust them to get the story right ultimately. But by the time a story's fictions begin to unravel, the faux story has already entered the nation's consciousness. Those same media outlets that broke the story are far more reticent about breaking the story of their error.
So those who make the story do little or nothing to unmake it.
Vigilance and skepticism is soooo taxing. No wonder most people don't bother (present company excepted, of course).