Saturday, February 05, 2005

Radio Boy: How the World's Greatest Newspaper (not!) spiked the story of the Bush Bulge 

The Times had the story that ultimately ran in Salon, but spiked it.

The poor old Times. Morally bankrupt. And they still think they're the good guys.

To refresh your memory.

The Bulgegate story originated when a number of alert viewers of the first presidential debate noticed a peculiar rectangular bulge on the back of Bush’s jacket [back]. That they got to see that portion of his anatomy at all was an accident; the Bush campaign had specifically, and inexplicably, demanded that the Presidential Debate Commission bar pool TV cameras from taking rear shots of the candidates during any debates. Fox TV, the first pool camera for debate one, ignored the rule and put two cameras behind the candidates to provide establishing shots.

Photos depicting the bulge and speculating on just what it might be (a medical device, a radio receiver?) began circulating widely around the Internet, and several special blog sites were established to discuss them. The suspicion that Bush had been getting cues or answers in his ear was bolstered by his strange behavior in that first debate, which included several uncomfortably long pauses before and during his answers. On one occasion, he burst out angrily with "Now let me finish!" at a time when nobody was interrupting him and his warning light was not flashing. Images of visibly bulging backs from earlier Bush appearances began circulating, along with reports of prior incidents that suggested Bush might have been receiving hidden cues (London Guardian, 10/8/04).

Finally, on October 8, this reporter ran an investigative report about the bulge in the online magazine Salon, following up with a second report (10/13/04)—an interview with an executive of a firm that makes wireless cueing devices that link to hidden earpieces—that suggested that Bush was likely to have been improperly receiving secret help during the debates.

At that point, Dr. Robert M. Nelson, a 30-year Jet Propulsion Laboratory veteran who works on photo imaging for NASA’s various space probes and currently is part of a photo enhancement team for the Cassini Saturn space probe, entered the picture. Nelson recounts that after seeing the Salon story on the bulge, professional curiosity prompted him to apply his skills at photo enhancement to a digital image he took from a videotape of the first debate. He says that when he saw the results of his efforts, which clearly revealed a significant T-shaped object in the middle of Bush’s back and a wire running up and over his shoulder, he realized it was an important story.

But the Times spiked the story. John Schwartz, the reporter working the story tells us why in an email to Nelson:

Subject: Re: reanalysis of debate images more convincing than before
Dear Dr. Nelson,
Thanks for sticking with me on this. I don’t know what might convince them—and the bar is raised higher the closer we are to the election, because they don’t want to seem to be springing something at the last moment—but I will bring this up with my bosses.

As usual, (back) "political" means anything that would alter a frame—here, the frame that Bush is plain spoken man of integrity, not a sock puppet taking orders from unseen handlers. "Not political" is whatever does not alter, or reinforces, an existing frame. The term of art at the Times for "not political" is "balanced."

It's easy to see how at the top editors at the Times, having bought into this ideology, can't think or act as a news gathering organization any more: Facts can only be raised as issues when it doesn't matter. You'd think that the most important time to bring up new facts would be during an election, but no, that would be "springing something," "political." One obvious symptom of this was in their recent massively researched multipart series on... Railroad crossing accidents. Social Security? No. The state of the constition? No. Whack? No. Intelligence? No. Loose nukes? No. The environment? No. Railroad crossing accidents. Nope, can't lose your balance writing about that!

Unbelievable? All too believable.

Anybody got any photos of Bush's back at the Alpo Accounts partei rallies?

UPDATE From alert reader Felix: Hmmmm.....

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