If you can make it there

If you can make it there October 24, 2003

Ben Smith has a fascinating piece in the New York Observer on GOP plans to orchestrate media coverage of next years Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden. (Also the site, Smith reminds us, of the Westminster Dog Show.)

The man in charge is Jim Wilkinson — the guy who was in charge of U.S. Central Command's technologically impressive and journalistically useless media center in Doha, Qatar during the beginning of the war on Iraq.

Some background on Mr. Wilkinson, who started out working for now-RNC chairman Ed Gillespie in the office of then House majority leader Dick Armey (R-Texas):

Mr. Wilkinson first left his mark on the 2000 Presidential race in March 1999, when he helped package and promote the notion that Al Gore claimed to have "invented the Internet." Then the Texan popped up in Miami to defend Republican protesters shutting down a recount: "We find it interesting that when Jesse Jackson has thousands of protesters in the streets, it’s O.K., but when a small number of Republicans exercise their First Amendment rights, the Democrats don’t seem to like it," he told the Associated Press.

Let's see: Lying about opponents? Check. Race-baiting demagoguery? Check. Whatever it takes to win attitude? Check.

Yep, we've got ourselves a bona fide Mayberry Machiavellian here.

Smith describes the extraordinary measures the GOP will take to cloister and hermetically seal reporters at the convention. The goal seems to be to keep the press in the same impotent, ignorant, fungal situation they found themselves in back in Doha. At the same time, the party will orchestrate carefully crafted media events elsewhere in the city — places like Yankee Stadium (go Marlins!) and Ground Zero.

Smith isn't confident that the press will prove any more able to get beyond the puppet show than they were in Doha:

The 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City could be a tough few days for the national press corps, despite the fact that it will be on what is generally considered its home turf. On one hand, the press will have this advantage: It will be the second time reporters will be meeting the Bush approach to keeping them at bay, the second time they will have met Jim Wilkinson and his embed philosophy, his briefings, his allotments of new and interesting camera angles, and his approach toward a war room. Forewarned, they might believe, is forearmed.

On the other hand, neither Jim Wilkinson nor his boss, the President, has lost a battle yet.

But consider what they're attempting here — to control the news coming out of New York City. Protesters will, doubtless, be confined to "free speech zones" far from the Garden and far from the cameras, but can any such confinements really work in downtown Manhattan?

We'll find out in August.

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  • Jorge

    Hell no that’s not gonna stop us! I’m planning on driving up from MD with a carload of irate Librarians and we’re gonna take this fight to George Bush’s lower lip! Free Speach Zones be damned!

  • maura

    I am very curious to see how the “first amendment zones” and security details are going to be set up at Madison Square Garden, which is right over a huge commuter center, one which tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people pass through every day. (I’m referring, of course, to Penn Station.) If Dick Cheney’s security detail was too much for the 9/11 memorial, how are the GOP types going to try and rejigger the commuting patterns of tons of suburban-living workers? Or will the convention just be declared a national holiday, “Freedom Week” or “Celebrate our Nation Day” or something like that.

  • Sigivald

    One would hope that librarians could manage to remember how to spell “speech”.

  • julia

    Dare I dream that if the press isn’t allowed to gather information in the Garden they’ll take themselves outside and talk to a few New Yorkers outside the cordon?
    We have many opinions about this. Known for it.

  • Speech, Speech, Speech

    If you can make it there Ben Smith has a fascinating piece in the New York Observer on GOP plans to orchestrate media coverage of next years Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden. (Also the site, Smith reminds us,…

  • Barry

    If the GOP guys are smart, they’ll give the press a filling diet
    of sweet puff pastry. Lots of filler to make their job easy.

  • MJ

    This is the dumbest, most ill-informed article. Try some primary research -reading and reporting on what you read from other neswpapers and magazines is not exactly activism.