A senior White House official scornfully told a New York Times reporter last fall that “the reality-based community” believes “solutions emerge from discernible reality.” The Bush aide continued, “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Now, we learn that the Bush administration has spent at least $254 million to create its own reality. Twenty federal agencies doled out money to public relations firms to produce slick “news clips” featuring actors dressed up like “reporters” conducting what looked like real interviews on Bush’s agenda, like his Medicare prescription drug scam. The news clips were shipped to Fox News and other outlets, which dutifully aired them without identifying them as administration propaganda.

The project also included signing secret contracts for $241,000 with right-wing columnist Armstrong Williams to peddle No Child Left Behind and a $21,500 contract with Maggie Gallagher to promote Bush’s “Marriage Initiative.” Then there’s “Jeff Gannon,” the fake reporter who had White House press credentials to throw softball questions to the president.

Surely, the Iraq war required an even more strenuous effort to fabricate reality. Weapons of mass destruction were conjured out of Bush’s fevered imagination along with Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda and Iraq’s “imminent threat.”

Journalists assigned to cover the war were told that if they were not “embedded” they could end up dead. CNN’s news chief, Eason Jordan, suggested at a recent workshop that journalists may have been targeted by the Pentagon. Of the 70 journalists who have died in Iraq, 12 were killed by U.S. fire. The ultra-right whipped up such a furor that Jordan was forced to resign.

Where is the outrage among the major media? Instead we get pap. There is no aggressive questioning in corporate-owned TV-land to challenge the lies, war and torture that underpin the Bush doctrine.

U.S. corporate media may be content at being Bush’s lapdog, but the wide range of independent journalists and outlets, including many Internet bloggers, are becoming the real democratic watchdog. Corporate media, beware: you may find yourselves replaced by those that value the truth and independent reporting.

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