Bloggers are almost universally scornful of a new Pentagon plan to monitor bad news out of Iraq. They're also equally unsympathetic toward a BBC docudrama that depicts the future assassination of George W. Bush, and have a mixed opinion of the nicotine rise in major cigarette brands.
Bad news is no news: A new two-year, $20 million PR initiative undertaken by the U.S. military will hire private contractors to scrutinize media reports from American and Middle Eastern publications on the war effort in Iraq. These include major U.S. dailies like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. "Key themes and messages" will be examined in coverage, the "tone" of which will be labeled positive, neutral, or negative. The label for blogger reaction would likely depress the Pentagon.
Lefty Steven Benen at The Carpetbagger Report writes: "Keep in mind, we're not just talking about Middle Eastern press outlets; the U.S. is seeking bids…that would also 'monitor' domestic media, 'track' news outlets, and 'analyze' whether their coverage of the war in Iraq is positive or not. What, exactly, would Donald Rumsfeld do with this information? And why would it cost $20 million? And if the administration is so concerned about public perceptions regarding Iraq and the progress of the war, shouldn't officials start concentrating more on actually creating good news for the media to report?"
Even conservative veteran Paul Bourgeois at Startle Grams, the blog of the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram, thinks the Pentagon has got its priorities mixed up: "Monitoring the 'tone?' And what happens if they don't like the 'tone?'…The military isn't supposed to be hiring public relations monitors. The job of the military is to kick butt. The job of the military is to kill the bad guys, not to worry about 'tone.' When they do, the war is over and we've already lost."
Joseph Hughes at liberal Hughes for America is indignant: "Donald Rumsfeld … would rather force-feed you lies than look after his own troops. $20 million at a time when Congress seems poised to cut spending on researching and treating traumatic brain injuries - the signature injury of this war - from $14 million to $7 million."
We should probably take it as a compliment that Wonkette titles its post "Pentagon to Spend A Gazillion Dollars on Iraq Equivalent of 'Slate,' " adding, "Hey US Command, tell you what: give us, like, one million bucks, and we'll get ya started with fucking Google news alerts and Bloglines."
Read more about the new Pentagon PR campaign.
Gunning for Dubya: Britain's Channel 4 has produced a mockumentary about the hypothetical assassination of George W. Bush at a Chicago anti-war rally in 2007. The film is slated to appear at this year's Toronto Film Festival, provoking questions of whether or not it'll make its way to the United States. Conservatives are disgusted at the very idea of such a political snuff thriller; so are most liberals.
Liberal hawk Roger L. Simon turns the blood-spattered lens onto the directors: "I would ask Messrs. Dale and Range (the filmmaker) how they would feel about viewing a 'sophisticated' docudrama of themselves being assassinated in 2007? Horrifed, perhaps? Maybe scared out of their knickers that someone would be encouraged to follow the film's example? In the UK, where such things are subject to much more stringent legislation, they might even be advised to sue the filmmakers. Bush has no such luck in this country."
No argument there from Graeme Smyth, well-versed in horrors of political violence, at the Ulster Unionist Council's Young Unionists blog: "[T]his film merely represents the wishes and desires of a large number of socialists, liberals and anti-war campaigners, none of whom, I suspect, would shed many tears if the real George W. Bush was gunned down. … The fact that any television company is prepared to broadcast a drama speculating as to the death of the current President of the United States, at the hands of a person so consumed with rage over his foreign policy, and especially at such a politically unstable time both in America and Iraq, is quite irresponsible, regardless of whatever good intentions of 'thought provocation' may lie behind it."
Brad Schader at Blogcritics.org, a "sinister cabal of superior bloggers" on pretty much everything, defends the film, up to a point: "I believe in their intent, but not in their delivery. I think they have used the wrong term to describe their work as I have already explained. This is fiction, not a docudrama. They are trying to provoke another case of 'Reactionary Protester Syndrome.' That is why the makers of this film are marketing it in the manor they are of course. A docudrama is always taken more seriously than a fictional drama."
Read more about Death of a President.
More jones for your buck: The average nicotine level found in cigarettes has increased by 10 percent over the past six years, a recent Massachusetts Department of Health study shows. Among the brands with the most dramatic rise in the addictive agent are those popular among high-school students: Marlboro, Kool, and Camel.
Xanthippas at the lefty collective blog Three Wise Men wants more government controls:"[I]t's time for serious regulation of cigarettes, with an eye towards reducing levels of nicotine and ending cigarette addiction among most or all Americans. It amazes me that not only can we not talk about legalizing more innocuous drugs (such as marijuana) but that we also can't talk about regulating a highly addictive substance like nicotine, delivered in a device that's as effective as a crack pipe for getting the drug in your system."
But Mattias A. Caro at hedonism central, Icarus Fallen, rolls his eyes at the clinical hedging: "I love the science in this story. Since there IS more nicotine it MIGHT make it more difficult to quit or it COULD be more addictive. Yes, well, the easter bunny COULD also be real and I MIGHT really be a multi-millionaire. Is it possible knowing what we know about nicotine that it's more addictive? Certainly. But there does come a point with drugs where there is less bang for your buck: in other words more of it doesn't necessarily make it addictive."
Read more about the nicotine increase.