“Why does the dog wag its tail?
Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.”
The staging of a pretend war, along with the use slogans, a theme song, apparent merchandising, and the use of a sympathetic character in order to distract the public from the bad press are key in realising the reality that is trying to be pushed on the public by the media in this film. A series of controlled leaks to the press make it to the evening news, and everyone is reporting about the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Albania. Even though no troops have been sent anywhere near Albania, the actual battles don’t matter to the story because, if it’s on television, it must be real according to Conrad Brean.
The use of production style techniques to create images of the “war” also creates a deception that renders the public in a state of unity. Staging events to create media coverage and publicity directly shown then to the public via television coverage, show the President in good light amidst the shady events which led to this course of events.
“This is nothing!”
– Words that are echoed throughout the film by Stanley Motss.
The general style of the events are ‘spun’ so well by Stanley Motss that no matter what gets thrown at him, including the death of the homecoming hero, are mere obstacles in the way of the greater picture…finishing the ‘film’. Each event is carefully strung together by Motss and Brean so that all news is good news for the President and in the race up to the election, all that was needed was to knock the scandal out of the voting public’s minds and secure the votes of the public on Election Day.
Personally I think that the way in which the stories are presented to the public in this film are not all that far away from the events that take place in the real world. Although they are obviously done on a much more dramatic and drastic level in the film, the ideas that are being pushed are very much seen in the media today. Media and news has become more about taking in revenue and making money than informing people of current events. In a newspaper the first things that are in there are adverts which have been paid for and enable it to be produced. The last thing that goes in is the news.
To say that the events that are portrayed in the film are a million miles away from the truth would be a massive exaggeration because the reality is that depending on location, broadcaster, etc… the news that we receive is filtered and tailored to us.
The deception that takes place in the film just goes to show that with the right people in the right places, you can turn negative coverage into positive coverage as easily as can be done vice versa.
At the press conference in which Monica Lewinsky was about to give information of her presence in the Congress in regard to the sex scandal which had been brought forth, The White House announced the missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan. This was much like what was seen in the film Wag the Dog, in which case the President was under scrutiny so to distract the public from those events, they focused on an even greater story.
During the 1992 Presidential campaign the so-called “bimbo eruptions” smearing Clinton came and went. Betsy Wright and Jack Palladino did a masterful job of deflecting or spinning the attention from Gennifer Flowers and other women who came forward to tell about the Caligula-like goings on at the Little Rock Governor’s Mansion during the tenure of Bill Clinton. —- Reference
Bertie Ahern looking for a scapegoat when it came to him having to explain about certain payments he had received and where is outgoing expenditure was coming from. Bertie tried to turn this around and say that people were out to ‘bury’ him, thus trying to evoke some sense of emotion from people to cover his mistakes.
To a certain extent the events that take place on ‘reality’ shows are often staged and used to create controversial viewing which in turn generates ratings and revenue.
In general, questioning the credulity of the viewing public can be seen as more of an innocence rather than mindless intake of information. Most people would be clueless to the fact that the news is re-presented to us by the media due to the fact that the introduction of television has meant that the old saying ‘seeing is believing’ is true to most. The film even touches on this when Conrad is being questioned by the CIA about the war and he says that because he can see it on TV it must be real. This would be the general consensus that most people would have. The reality is in that the media shows us news worthy stories that will sell papers and earn ratings from viewers, in order to find the real news and real stories as they are, you have to search through alot of misleading media information, and to most people it’s more hassle than it’s worth.
It reminds me of a scene from the show Cougar Town in which the father has no idea of the outside world other than a very simplistic outlook. His son and his girlfriend introduce him to some books, news and other forms of media and he can no longer maintain his lifestyle due to all the things happening in the world. Everything he sees and hears he relates to something worse. This is form of information overload and as a result he ends up knowing too much. The affects the media has on our information which we receive is largely so that we get filtered information and are desensitised to alot of it.