Is this yawngate thing fishy or what?
For those of you not familiar with yawngate, here's how it went, to the best of my understanding:
David Letterman runs a video clip of a twelve-year-old kid yawning at one of Bush's speeches. CNN later shows the clip, goes to commercial, comes back, and announcer Daryn Kagan says the White House told them the video was a fake. Later that day, CNN again says they were told the tape was faked. When Letterman goes on TV, he calls them on it: he insists the tape is real. The next day, Kagan comes on CNN and says: "The White House, it turns out, I guess never did call us about the tape. . . . And we've been looking through our tapes and apparently we now see no evidence that it was faked." Then the White House takes charge of media access to the kid, and he appears on Letterman's show. The White House, we are to believe, was just tickled pink the whole time.
(Source: Washington Post, 4/2/04)
Well, OK. Mistakes happen. But don't reputable news agencies try to figure out how, and what the underlying truth is? What on God's green earth is CNN doing telling us "I guess" the White House never called them. YOU GUESS?! This is news, sweeties. See, if you were supposed to be broadcasting guesses, you should call yourselves CGN, or the Cable Guess Network. Maybe you should.
If you can't even figure out if someone called you the other day or not, how the hell am I supposed to believe anything you say about what's going on halfway around the world? CNN checked out the video, which is to their credit (if a little too late). Why didn't they check out the phone call? Am I to believe that neither CNN nor the White House keeps a record of their phone calls? Is whether or not somebody called them and told them something beyond CNN's ability to investigate?
Frankly, I don't think even CNN is dumb enough not to know whether or not someone called them. The most plausible explanation is that the White House called CNN and told them to tell the public the tape was fake, and CNN ran with it. Then when Letterman called them on it, the White House called CNN again and told CNN to tell the public that the White House had never said the tape was fake. And CNN did what it was told.
How else could that mistake happen in the first place? Did some crank from Witchita call in and say he was from the White House and CNN took him at his word? Or did someone from the White House actually call CNN, and say, "Boy, we're just tickled pink"; but someone at CNN misheard "tickled pink" and thought he meant "tape is fake?" Or was there no call at all, and some CNN staffer hallucinated the whole thing? Just doesn't seem likely. In any case, I think we deserve an explanation of how the mistake happened that goes beyond "I guess..."
The only conclusion that seems plausible is that the White House told CNN to lie for them TWICE. CNN lied for them unwittingly the first time, and knowingly the second time. And Kagan knew it. News anchors don't throw out phrases like "I guess" lightly. Why say "I guess," except to cover his ass and hint to the public that he himself didn't believe what he was being told to say?
Why does it matter? Hell, this is all about some twelve-year-old boy yawning when he thought nobody was looking. Who cares what really happened? Frankly, I don't care whether he yawned or not, or whether he was standing behind Bush or not. But I do care that the White House told a news agency to lie to me twice, and I do care that that news agency went along both times, once out of carelessness and once deliberately. If the White House and CNN would conspire to lie to the American people over such a minor affair where the stakes are so small, what wouldn't they lie about when the heat was on?
When a leader tells a news agency to lie, and that news agency obeys the leader without checking the facts, even if it knows he's lying, that's nothing more than old-school Soviet-style state-un propaganda. Hoo-boy!
For the record, we actually agree with the Bush Administration that George W. Bush's speeches are nothing to yawn about. Often, Bush's speeches keep us up at night - very afraid.
When the president tells a news agency to lie about a little boy yawning, it makes the prospect of another four years of George W. Bush in the White House sound downright, um, DISMAL... I guess... not that anyone told us to say that or anything...
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