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February 08, 2013

On Pretexts & Planted Questions

Twice (I think) I've been asked to take part in a pretext situation. Someone in some other media wanted to ask a question of someone, but didn't want it to appear that they were pushing the question or the story, so they asked me to write up the story.

The idea is to make it appear that the question or story is just bubbling up organically, and hide the actual author (mover) of the question. The actual author can then run a post in which it appears he's actually just referencing other people's interest in the story -- "Blogs are chattering about X...."

But, point is, he actually asked for the chatter.

Just so you know, I declined to perform this service on both occasions. Don't think I'm moral or anything -- I'm just lazy. I never feel like doing anything, particularly "helping" other people. If I wanted to "help people" I'd've joineed the Peace Fucking Corps.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm pretty certain this is common -- SOP -- in the media.

And in politics.

Let me give you a completely hypothetical example.

Let's say a politician -- we'll call him Mob Benendez -- is asked by a rich donor friend -- let's call him Malomon Selegn -- for a political favor.

"Why, I can't do that!" Mob exclaims. "It's plain that we are very closely connected, and it is known -- or could be known, if the media still did stories on such things -- that you are my biggest-dollar donor. Why, if I did a favor for you, it would obviously be a favor for you. It would stink of dealing on behalf of a close crony."

"Aw shucks," Malomon says. "That's too bad. I really need someone to help me with this Sort Pecurity contract I have."

"But, on the other hand," Mob muses, "If you had some kind of media presence, and began agitating for action on your Sort Pecurity contract, then it might appear that the Voice of the People had for some reason begun shouting about this Sort Pecurity contract, you know, all passionate about it, and if that were to happen, then maybe I could call some people in the Date Stepartment to pressure the Rominican Depublic to honor your crooked contract."

"Don't say crooked," Malomon says.

"Fine," Mob says. "Your 'fair and legal contract,' we'll say. Wink."


"Wink, LOL!"

"LOL!" Malomon says again. "Is it really that easy?! All I need to do is gin up a fake 'grassroots' campaign about my individual business woes and then you can use the full power of the Smerican Aenate to do Fersonal Pavors for a Mig Doney Donor?"

"It's really that easy," Mob says. "You just have to make it look like other people are asking for it."

I mention this because of two facts.

Fact One: Malomon -- I mean, Salomon Melgen -- used his "Latino news site" to agitate for action on a port security contract that I'm pretty sure no Latinos not named "Salomon Melgen" cared about.

In addition to the security company, in 2011 Dr. Melgen founded a Latino-oriented news Web site, Voxxi, which has also emphasized the need for the port security deal and glowingly depicted Mr. Menendez as a giant among Latinos. A former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of career damage, said Dr. Melgen would often intervene in the coverage, requiring editors to play down achievements by Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and replace it with praise for Mr. Menendez.

Which in turn provided some cover for Menendez actively campaigning on Melgen's behalf both behind-the-scenes with State Department officials and also in front of the scenes, badgering State Department witnesses about the matter in open hearings.

Fact Two: Melgen apparently started an astroturf campaign to make Bank of America a political issue. And it just so happened that Melgen had a lawsuit against Bank of America when he did this. And it just so happens that legislators maybe can rough up a big bank and maybe threaten a breakup if they're not appeased.

I suppose this is all so obvious most people don't even bother mentioning it.

But, while this point might be very obvious, at least I've gone on at great length about it.

Exit Question: How many times per day do you imagine this exact scenario plays out -- in media, in "grassroots organizations," in Congress and in the White House?

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posted by Ace at 03:32 PM

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