THE PUBLICIST: Publicists' heads spin as the media displays knack for PR

Hollywood publicists are often considered the masters of spin, capable of convincing the masses that Matthew McConaughey can act, or that the entire world actually gives a hoot about the Academy Awards. But now we're being bested by a fierce new rival, a competitor that has us shaking our heads in shock and awe. Fellow publicists, get in the back seat. There's a new driver of the spinmobile. And he's got a lead foot.

Hollywood publicists are often considered the masters of spin, capable of convincing the masses that Matthew McConaughey can act, or that the entire world actually gives a hoot about the Academy Awards. But now we're being bested by a fierce new rival, a competitor that has us shaking our heads in shock and awe. Fellow publicists, get in the back seat. There's a new driver of the spinmobile. And he's got a lead foot.

The very people we used to love to manipulate, reporters, have dispensed with the middlemen to do their own spinning. Keep things in-house, as it were. Two recent examples are the flap over Michael Moore's Oscar speech, and, of course, the war in Iraq. Those of you still awake when Moore blasted Bush heard for yourself the reaction to his remarks. It seemed pretty clear that there were more jeers than cheers, not so much because there was disagreement with what Moore said, but because he turned his big moment into a political diatribe. That's a no-no. Make your statement with your film, not your acceptance speech, is the ceremony's unwritten rule. The next day, various reporters, some from the same outlet, spun the story to their liking, perhaps depending on their own political bent. Two LA Times writers were split on their take of the audience reaction: "Greeted with a chorus of boos," condemned one, "cheered loudly," wrote another. A third Times reporter got it right: "Boos drowned out most of the cheers." Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter also varied in their respective assessments, as did other publications. But the Moore subjectivity pales in comparison to the war coverage itself, where an embedded bevy of "field reporters" promote the conflict as if they own stock in it. False and inaccurate stories are aired daily, with no apologies or corrections. "History," the networks cry, "we've got more mistakes to make today, and there's no time to fix the ones we made yesterday." Hollywood publicists are viewing the media's puffery with a mix of horror and admiration. Look at that! They're selling the war as if it were a video game, with colorful graphics, ominous music, and coming attractions. Field "reporters" and ex-military technical advisors are promoted like movie stars. News scrolls sandwich ads between editorial headlines. Such gall, such audacity, such. . .damn, they're good. Hmmm, can we get Bruce Willis a mic and stick him with the 101st?
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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