Thursday, October 26

Big Easy Faux Pas Redux: Sports TV Banishes Pre-Election Boos for Fuehrer’s Father

“I’m not a tree, I’m a Bush.”— George W. Bush, during a moment of reflective self- appraisal

After I read of allegations that ESPN Sports network audio technicians “potted down” fans’ boos and inserted crowd cheers during George Bush Sr.’s pro football pre-game coin toss in New Orleans last month, I remembered comedienne Lilly Tomlin’s sage observation: “No matter how cynical you are, it’s never enough.”

Who could have imagined TV sports programming would promote any agenda other than...well, mindless sports addiction and greed?

On 25 September ESPN’s Monday Night Football’s telecast commemorated the New Orleans Saints football team’s return to its refurbished Super Dome a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Big Easy. In media coverage in the terrible aftermath, the building became an international symbol for the American government’s criminal indifference when several TV reports showed area residents taking refuge there were literally dying from official neglect.

So, with national elections at the time but six weeks away, the father of the guy internationally blamed for New Orleans’ worst catastrophe ever shows up to toss a commemorative coin on national TV in front of a hostile crowd well known in pro football circles as merciless to players of opposing teams. Wouldn’t the White House have anticipated an unkindly reception for the elder Bush’s stand-in appearance?

The day after the broadcast, the Daily Kos published comments by someone identified only as “Dave from Queens,” a self-described former college sportscaster, who said he watched Bush’s coin toss and identified audio tricks-in-trade for faking crowd noise. In support of his allegation, Dave posted a vid-clip of the incident along with additional technical comments at The Most Boring Blog in the World, which a quick perusal suggests has a decidedly left-of-center political orientation.

While I lack technical expertise to evaluate Dave’s claims, what’s so difficult to believe here? Of course, the White House did it. Of course it would have arranged with network executives to spare Poppy Bush—and, by association, the GOP—any more pre-election humiliation in front of 10-12 million potential voters in a sports venue chocked full of Old South Democrats—Orleans Parish defied the rest of Louisiana in 2000 and 2004 to vote almost 4-to-1 for Al Gore and John Kerry over George Junior—still seething with post-Katrina rage.

Tasked by Bush to hand the GOP a ballot-box miracle on November 7, Rove is paid well to preempt such public relations disasters. He also has shown himself to be resourceful enough to dial up network execs, the profitable beneficiaries of White House corporate-friendly federal media policies, and ask their assistance in sparing his mentor, friend, boss’s father and party’s congressional hopefuls any further embarrassments they’ve aptly demonstrated they are willing to do for themselves.

A fastidious detail person, Rove leaves nothing to chance when it comes to strategically positioning the GOP over Democratic adversaries. Though I’ve never seen any evidence to suggest it occurred, I wager Rove negotiated with management of the now-defunct Montreal Expos, a professional baseball team that left Canada in 2003 over paltry attendance to relocate in Washington, to switch home uniform from its predominate blue color scheme (traditionally linked to the Democratic Party) for the bright Red of the GOP. So now, when the new and improved Washington Nationals play a DC home game, the fans see Red and Democratic Blue is symbolically consigned to the status of a wandering gypsy road team.

But well-publicized support of White House propaganda projects by ESPN’s corporate parent companies—ABC Television and the Walt Disney Company—makes rigged crowd noise come off as small potatoes. Three weeks before Bush Sr.’s controversial Big Easy coin toss, Robert Iger, CEO of ABC corporate parent Disney, was given unimpeachable evidence that David Cunningham, the writer and director of The Path to 9/11, an ABC original “docudrama” ostensibly based on the 9/11 Commission Final Report, had injected “information deliberately advancing disinformation” faulting the Clinton administration for the 9/11 attacks.

According to 11 September 2006 web version of The Nation

Iger now bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the product of a well-honed propaganda operation--a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far-right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, a secretive evangelical religious right group long associated with Horowitz, founded by The Path to 9/11's director, David Cunningham, that aims to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision, has taken the lead.

But Disney is not without its own propagandist play on behalf of Team Bush. In the summer before the 2004 presidential elections, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, a friend of and campaign contributer to Bush, pressured Miramax Films, a Disney subsidiary, to legally renege on a distribution deal for Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. The highest-grossing American documentary ever, it is scathingly critical of the Bush clan’s friendliness with wealthy Saudis linked to 9/11. Eisner's disregard for Moore's First Amendment rights also likely can be linked to George Bush’s brother Jeb, who as governor of Florida is trustee for the state employees' pension fund that just happened at the time to own approximately 7.3 million shares of Disney stock.

But spinning the Bush White House’s 9/11 involvement may hold interest to Corporate America beyond garnering policy paybacks or obliging an influential stockholder. Until Sibel Edmonds (left, and here), a Washington-based FBI translator of Turkish and Farsi document with a security clearance, was fired in 2002 and silenced in 2004 when former Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked a rarely-used State Secrets Act, she was telling anyone who listened about classified evidence implicating American political and business leaders in 9/11-related drug smuggling and money laundering— allegations independently confirmed by Daniel Hopsicker, an author and investigative cyber-journalist who later linked GOP lobbying wunderkind Jack Abramoff to the heady mix.

With control of congress pending on November 7, America's ruling oligarchy feels compelled to employ Third World-styled political manipulation to ensure whistleblowers like Edmonds never have an opportunity to tell their 9/11 stories to House or Senate committees that might actually investigate them. Besides media propaganda in the most unlikely of venues, also anticipate Ohio's 2004 computerized vote theft reprised on a national scale.

Postscript: A column appearing in the Niagara Falls Reporter just as Katrina struck New Orleans (29 August 2005) suggests plummeting poll numbers were exacerbating “the commander in sleep’s” renowned petty vindictiveness, moodiness and irascibility. Could "poll distemper" have prompted Bush to extract revenge for New Orleans' preference for Democratic presidents by stalling emergency warnings and relief for the American city that most overwhelmingly favored his opponents in states casting its electoral votes for him? Until a well-placed White House insider publishes a tell-all account about Bush's response in the hours after Katrina struck the city, we can never be certain if Bush, suffering more than usual from his massively disordered personality, ordered a stand-down.

30 October Musical Postscript: "No matter how I try, I realise there’s no reply." Further review of ESPN's 25 September broadcast of the New Orleans Saints' return to the Big Easy reveals yet another instance of masked media messages by pop rockers.

In something of a shocking pop music development for post-9/11 America, the bands U2 and Green Day gave Super Dome fans and ESPN viewers a lesson using music to criticize corrupt political authority, i.e., the Bush administration. Americans interested in democracy can only hope other US pop musicians pick up on their novel concept.

Consider two versions of the groups' jointly performed song "The Saints Are Coming," written (1978?) and performed by Scottish punk rockers The Skids. In their Super Dome performance broadcast by ESPN just before Poppy Bush's controversial coin toss, the song is a seemingly innocuous ballad welcoming the football team back to the Super Dome; that's how the infield crowd of airheads serving as the bands' set props reacted to the song. After The Edge plays with Green Day in "Wake Me Up When September Ends," Bono et al. join in for "The Saints Are Coming"around the 4:20 mark of the 10-minute Super Dome set. Listen to "The Sainting Are Coming" here (with lyrics available online here).

Borrowing from UK rockers The Animals' hugely popular 60s-era version of "House of the Rising Sun," a house of ill-repute in New Orleans' red light district, GD's BJ Armstrong switches the words to "There is a house in New Orleans they call the Super Dome." The Super Dome as a house of ill-repute? Something's up here.

Besides smuggling a pre-election protest message past network censors, U2/Green Day wanted to do more with their Super Dome performance. If you watch the groups' made-for-MTV video (or at MTV Overdrive here), their Super Dome performance now is part of a riveting collage of images indicting the Bush administration for its grudging response to New Orleans' flood victims depicted as a military rather than humanitarian operation. (FYI: The "BBN" segment of images of US Air Force Stealth fighters were courtesy of the Bible Broadcasting Network, a Christian radio and television network based in the Gulf area.)

U2's appearance with Green Day signals Bono's "coming out party" for an American-styled political relevancy. In opting to revisit his traditional Irish roots of savaging political authority--and Bono knows the Bush White House needs responsible savaging--he effectively forfeited his political cache accumulated among Washington politicos. Since the 1990s, Bono provided US politicians a safe photo-op with a renowned rocker so they could strike a "cool" pose for younger voters. In exchange, they helped channel funds and clout to Rockdom's international ambassador for humanitarian causes such as African AIDS relief and Third World debt reduction.

In savaging the White House's New Orleans relief efforts after Katrina, Bono will find his entry to the US more difficult and his name removed from George and Laura's shrinking Christmas card list.

Scheduled for a 6 November singles release,"The Saints are Coming" also will be the first single of the U2 singles' compilation album titled simply 18 Singles. Buy both to support of a worthy cause.

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