White House dreams of state-run TV

White House dreams of state-run TV

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Before he landed his new job as White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci reportedly told fellow Republicans that the Trump administration should cut out the middleman and just produce its own television news show each morning.

The financier, who until recently produced and hosted his own show, “Wall Street Week,” on the Fox Business channel, said last month at Mitt Romney’s annual retreat in Deer Valley, Utah, that he might advise the president to set the day’s agenda by producing a morning news show from a desk on the White House lawn at 7 a.m.

According to the attendee who told the Washington Post about Scaramucci’s brain storm, he also suggested that the White House could even invite guests like Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to appear on the in-house version of “Fox and Friends.”

“I like Anthony,” the unnamed attendee told the Post, “but Pelosi and Schumer aren’t going on his state-run morning show.”

Still, Scaramucci has experience with starting and hosting, a television show. He bought the rights to the moribund “Wall Street Week” franchise in 2015 and paid to broadcast its first 39 episodes as, essentially, an infomercial for Wall Street, and himself, before the series was picked up by Fox.

That means that Scaramucci might just be serious about his idea to revive the fortunes of the reality TV star in the Oval Office by subjecting Americans to a daily, journalist-free news show designed to flatter his boss. (Given his new role in the White House, it is interesting to note that the trailer for “Wall Street Week” features video of Scaramucci confronting former President Barack Obama on television in 2010. The trailer does not, however, show Obama’s long and detailed answer, in which he essentially destroyed the premise of the question.)

For an idea of what Scaramucci’s state-run television might look like, consider what’s happened to Poland’s national broadcaster, TVP, since the far-right Law and Justice Party took power there in 2015, with less than 38 percent of the vote, and replaced more than 160 senior broadcast journalists with more compliant staffers.

Take, for instance, the state broadcaster’s coverage of the recent street protests across Poland that convinced Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, to veto two bills passed by his former colleagues in the Law and Justice Party that would have allowed them to appoint judges and fire the whole supreme court.

The impassioned, often witty protests were documented in dramatic images shared widely on social networks.

Instead of simply broadcasting those images of the protests, however, TVP told its viewers that the protesters were enemies of the state, intent mainly on bringing Muslim immigrants to Poland, and had been hired by foreign public relations firms.

After the president announced that he would veto two of the three measures on judicial control passed by parliament, Poles shared a satirical news alert from an imagined North Korean version of their national broadcaster, TVP.

That satirical report was based on the premise that the police had raided the presidential palace over suspicion that Poland’s president had been bribed by George Soros, the philanthropist whose support for democracy promotion is often distorted into something sinister by conspiracy theorists across the former Soviet bloc (and in the West Wing of the White House).

Night after night, as Poles who object to being brainwashed tune into the evening news, they register their shock at the parade of alternative facts filling their screens.

After Bartosz Wielinski, the foreign editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, a Polish newspaper started by the anti-communist opposition in 1989, decried the broadcaster’s descent into propaganda in the New York Times, his opinion piece was described on the evening news as the modern-day equivalent of collaboration with the Nazis.

Last week, as Wielinski pointed out on Twitter, TVP smeared lawyers who opposed the government as defenders of paedophiles.

Before that, TVP incited hatred for Dorota Bawolek, the Brussels correspondent for Polsat, an independent Polish news channel, accusing her of trying “to harm Poland,” by asking a European Union diplomat about the government’s clash with the EU over its attempts to control the judiciary.

As the news site Euractiv reported, Bawolek was quickly inundated with hundreds of slurs and threats on social networks calling her “anti-Polish” and “a snitch,” among other things.

Another news site focused on the European Union, EU Observer, reported in March that TVP had broadcast a report on a diplomatic setback for Poland as if it was a triumph. The same news report also falsely said that the EU “promoted Islamic Sharia law,” and featured a false claim by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the far-right head of Poland’s ruling party, that there were 54 “Sharia zones” in Sweden.

“Polish TV reports now trumpet [Law and Justice Party] successes on a daily basis, quoting economists or other experts who all sing the government’s praise,” the EU Observer explained. “TVP also promulgates the party’s right-wing values,” the site added, citing two recent reports in which the broadcaster had “attacked a gay mayor in the town of Slupsk over travelling to Berlin and accused people at a recent women’s day rally of hate speech.”

The broadcaster also used a racist image of former President Barack Obama as a slave in a New Year’s broadcast.

Unsurprisingly, Poland’s government-controlled main channel showed unbridled enthusiasm for the recent visit by Scaramucci’s boss, President Donald Trump, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric is identical to that of the ruling Law and Justice Party. Pulling out all the stops, TVP’s breakfast show even featured a bizarre English-language song in honour of the president, “Trumping and Jumping,” performed by Andrzej Rosiewicz, an elderly entertainer who once serenaded Mikhail Gorbachev during the communist era on the same state television channel.

In the song, Rosiewicz, who describes himself as “the Polish Fred Astaire,” lays his praise for Trump on quite thick. If, however, he hopes to perform it one day on Anthony Scaramucci’s breakfast show on the White House lawn, he might be asked to re-work some of the lyrics, like the one that goes: “Mr President, they say you’re a hero/ of Robert De Niro.”

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