The Perception Management Priority

Since the Reagan era, Republicans have pushed “perception management” to manage how Americans perceive the world. A key element is right-wing talk radio, which has now lured Rep. Mike Rogers from his powerful intelligence post to a seat behind a microphone, as JP Sottile explains.

By JP Sottile

Rep. Mike Rogers has a dream. Apparently, he’s been secretly harboring this dream since his formative days at a small liberal arts college in Adrian, Michigan. This dream stayed with him through his time in the U.S. Army, his years as a Special Agent in the FBI and his tenure in the Michigan State Senate.

Nothing can hold back Mike’s dream, not even his safe congressional seat in Michigan’s 8th District, nor his chairmanship of the powerful House Intelligence Committee. Mike wants to be a radio talk-show host.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Luckily for Mike, the second largest radio system in America — Cumulus — couldn’t wait to make his long-simmering dream come true. Beginning in January 2015, the National Security Agency’s devout defender and Congress’ loudest advocate for keeping whistleblowers quiet will be on the air nationally, using his gift of gab to reinforce the idea that Americans should feel insecure about national security.

According to The Detroit News, DJ Mike will reignite his “college passion” by bringing “former intelligence officials and ex-spies on his show.” And what an entertaining show that promises to be! If his incessant appearances on the Sunday Show circuit are any indication, his radio show promises to be just slightly less entertaining than running your pinkie toe into the leg of a coffee table.

But hope springs eternal. DJ Mike “joked” to the Detroit News, “I did one radio show when I was in college that was a disaster — let’s give it a whirl — maybe I’ve gotten better at it.”

If nothing else, he’s repeatedly shown the folks at Cumulus that he can read from a script. Since Edward Snowden broke the NSA’s monopoly on the truth, Rogers has dutifully repeated Big Brother’s talking points — touting foiled plots that were never really foiled, accusing Snowden of spying for Russia without a shred of evidence, and asserting that privacy that can only be violated if the person violated somehow finds out about the secret violation.

In DJ Mike’s America, secrets are not lies if the lies remain secret. It’s a logic echoed in his forked-tongue support for the newly-announced reforms of the NSA’s bulk data collection regime — a regime that Rep. Rogers doesn’t really think needs reforming, but he’s sponsored reform legislation anyway.

What desperately does need to be reformed — according to Rogers, his well-funded co-sponsor Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, and President Obama — is the public’s perception of the NSA’s spying machine. And what better place to reform perceptions than in front of a nationally broadcast microphone that will reach 4,500 affiliate radio stations and 140 million listeners?

Rogers’s dream notwithstanding, the timing of his announcement has some observers looking for clues or insights into the shrouded machinations of America’s Spook State. No doubt, this seemingly sudden decision wasn’t just the whimsical fancy of a capricious free spirit with a heretofore hidden talent. Rogers notified the House Ethics Committee of his negotiations with Cumulus on Jan. 6, so this has been in the works for months — just like the newly-proposed reforms that Obama promised in his speech on Jan. 17.

We may never know if Rogers somehow transgressed the intel community and perhaps became a liability, or if he’s resigning in quiet protest of these “reforms,” or if he is being “placed” in the media to do what President Obama is trying to do with the reforms — which is to manage perceptions.

And nothing makes perception management — the au courant national security euphemism for good old-fashioned “propaganda” — easier than the relentless media consolidation that spawned Rogers’s new employer. [For more on the concept of “perception management,” see Robert Parry’s Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege.]

Founded in 1997, the creation of Cumulus Media Inc. was a direct response to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and its radical relaxation of media ownership rules. Cumulus CEO Lewis Dickey, Jr. quickly took advantage of the new rules (or lack thereof) to assemble a radio titan second only to the infamously ubiquitous media giant known as Clear Channel.

Thanks to the efforts of the Clinton Administration and a majority of Congress, a company like Cumulus could quickly rise from non-existence to near-domination, reaching listeners in 89 media markets in less than 20 years.

When Cumulus bought Susquehanna Radio for $1.2 billion in 2006, it did so with backing from heavyweights like Bain Capital Partners LLC and The Blackstone Group. The deal signaled Dickey’s status as a major, well-connected player in broadcast media and, by extension, in the media’s bread and butter — partisan politics. Indeed, Cumulus radio specializes in a type of partisan blather and cacophonous fear-mongering that sounds more like “Afraidio” than it does radio.

Among its loudest mouths are Rush LimbaughMichael Savage (who recently replaced a disgruntled Sean Hannity) and Mark Levinthe very first winner of CPAC’s “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment” award. When it comes to reflexive support for the national security state, fits of Islamophobia and “We’re Number One” jingoism, Cumulus has tri-cornered the market.

Cumulus has also positioned itself as a premier distributor of red meat to the hungry masses during the increasingly lucrative election cycles that make America’s post-Telecom Act media a self-interested partner in political partisanship.

It’s a perfect system. Listening to their Afraidio stokes the partisan hunger of its listeners and, on its webpage for the last election, it touts advertising on its massive network as a cost-effective way to “Win more than your fair share of hearts, minds, and votes” by distributing red meat directly to an audience whose hunger is stoked by their hosts in-between the commercial breaks.

And now Cumulus is giving the Spook State’s favorite mouthpiece a chance to spread the dread to its inflamed audience. As CEO Lew Dickey said, “We are thrilled to have Chairman Rogers join our team. He has been instrumental in helping to shape many of the most important issues and events of our time and will play a significant role in our expanding content platform.”

It’s also a perfect platform for DJ Mike to spin tales of shadowy plots, sing the praises of the NSA and, if he is so inclined, to beat his own drum in anticipation of a possible presidential run. But that may just be Mike dreaming an impossible dream.

The reality is that the Spook State now has a well-practiced mockingbird with access to millions of willing ears. As the soon-to-be former representative said of his new mega-microphone, “It gives me a chance to talk to people in their cars, in their living rooms, in their kitchens about these issues — about American exceptionalism, about national security.”

And Lord knows, America needs more of that on the airwaves.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, radio co-host, documentary filmmaker and former broadcast news producer in Washington, D.C. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa and is available online. He blogs at Newsvandal.com, where this article first appeared, or you can follow him on Twitter, http://twitter/newsvandal.

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3 comments on “The Perception Management Priority

  1. Marsha on said:

    Until America suppresses the “white vote’ (which will never happen) we will live in hell Five votes are enough for republicans to cheat.

  2. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Something here sure smells funny.

    I happened across the website of a wealthy entrepreneur who was interested in funding youth activities. He proposed technical and scientific activities as an alternative to the generic sports and video game mindlessness that has engulfed American leisure time.

    The guy was very sad indeed that once upon a time, building crystal radios was a wonderful gateway hobby for kids to explore electronics, science and technology. But today, he lamented, that could expose kids to dangerous levels of toxic thought – courtesy of Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh. In fact, he wondered that exposing young minds to such hate and fear-mongering might actually cause “brain damage”.

    But I gotta ask, doesn’t anybody smell something funny about this whole story? I mean, If Rush Limbaugh could get elected to Congress, don’t you think he’d jump at the chance? Yep, I gotta say, something about this story stinks like the bait I forgot to take out of the tackle box last summer. Rush can’t get in to Congress because of his drug addiction and sex tourism. Michael used to be quite the rake in certain San Francisco social circuits. We know why they can’t get in. So why is Rogers getting out?

  3. Joe Tedesky on said:

    August 1971 Lewis Powell wrote a compelling manifesto describing how the right should, and could win over the public. Mr Powell not long after would be appointed to the Supreme Court per Richard M. Nixon’s selection of him to this lofty post.

    Rep Rogers is only doing what a good republican must do, and that is spreading the word…according to the right that is!

    You may read Lewis Powell’s memoranda here:

    http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/