Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Just an observation

"The scene was picture perfect and the theme just right," says Toby Harnden in Toledo, Iowa in today's Telegraph:

An impromptu stop at a roadside eatery crammed full of everyday folks would help dispel the oft-levelled charge that the former First Lady is a professional politician who does not relate easily to ordinary people. Miss Esterday's plight was just what Mrs Clinton was highlighting on her "Middle Class Express" bus as it sped from town to town past fields of corn and soybeans. Such a spontaneous interaction was the stuff of campaigning among Iowa caucus-goers, who are proud of their brand of face-to-face retail politics.
Thus the scene painted, and then we learn the truth …

Except that virtually every detail of the casual visit had been carefully orchestrated. A team of burly Secret Service men, clad in suits and shades, had driven ahead to carry out a recce. All but two of the customers were Clinton loyalists, including union leaders flown in from New York and Washington, who had been at her previous rally and were travelling on her bus.

Mrs Clinton chatted with the supporters, some of whom grinned a little sheepishly at the blatant staging, as the photographers snapped away. Reporters, kept on a separate bus throughout the day, seemed so stunned to be suddenly beside her that the only questions asked were about what she had ordered.
So, Mrs Clinton is guilty of blatant stage managing, made even clearer by the paper's choice of photograph, where the caption reads: "Hillary Clinton tucks in at the Maid-Rite luncheonette, where she 'bumped' into a hard-working waitress".

And, of course, it is perfectly responsible reporting to point this out. People who stage-manage events, especially when they are seeking to influence public opinion, should not be allowed to carry out their deed without this being pointed out to the public they are seeking to influence.

So why didn't the Telegraph point out – together with the rest of the media – how the "rescue" at Qana last year had been so obviously and egregiously stage-managed? Or is there one rule for the United States and another for the Middle East?

Don't answer that!