FEMA Press Secretary Directed Fake News Briefing, Inquiry Finds
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007; Page A19
An internal investigation into a fake news conference staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
during last month’s California
wildfires found that the agency’s press secretary directed aides to pose as reporters, secretly coached them during the briefing and ended the event after a final, scripted question was asked, according to a senior FEMA official.
. . . The review “found nothing that indicated malicious or preconceived intent to deceive the media or the public,” said FEMA’s acting director of external affairs, Russ Knocke
, who conducted the inquiry.
The damage here is to credibility in government. We have become so inured to false public disclosure that we merely sigh and a turn to the next page or channel.
That’s an enormous problem.
Like death-by-a-thousand-cuts, credibility among business leaders, politicians, teachers, lawyers, the courts and various governmental agencies (the IRS comes to mind) is non-existent.
My take on it is that civilization itself is to blame. As we become more civilized, we are less accountable. In a tribal society, the elderly dare not lie to the young, because the survival of the tribe depends upon honesty. It follows that the young revere their elders as teachers and guides to social mores.
No one in today’s American civilized culture believes–and with good reason–belief has been suspended in the service of self. We are (perhaps) angry at FEMA, at the perfidy of Congress and the half-truths among our presidential candidates–but not surprised.
Who was even mildly surprised that lenders profited by providing mortgages to the destitute? Who holds George Bush’s feet to the fire when our president continues to claim ‘we have a strong dollar’ or ‘we do not torture?’ Is anyone truly shocked when Pakistan’s Musharraf acts according to his own instinct for survival?
The danger is never the lie. The danger is the acceptance of the lie.