Most U.S. citizens are in the house because of the Corona virus quarantine in effect, and we have the privilege of viewing daily White House Corona virus briefings. As you have heard or figured out, President Trump has said some things that were “inaccurate” in these briefings. People have been wondering are they in a bizzaro world listening to their President tell half and not so half truths. If one has paid attention to White House press briefings through the years, they will see that there is a reoccurring pattern of such incidents. We will explore a few examples of these “follies”
1. 5 O’clock Follies
During the Vietnam War, a daily press briefing was held at the Joint Public Affairs Office in Saigon. The United States Information Agency along with the U.S. military conducted these briefings. The point of these briefings was to give daily updates and status reports about the Vietnam War. The briefings occurred in Saigon’s Rex Hotel. Journalists cracked cynical jokes and shouted at officials, often complaining about a credibility gap between official reports and the truth.
The Pentagon, led by Robert McNamara came up with a new statistic, the body count to measure military progress. Army and Marine officers knew that promotions were largely based on confirmed kills. The pressure to produce confirmed kills resulted in massive fraud. One Study revealed that 61% of American commanders believed that body counts were grossly exaggerated. From a pure mathematical stance, the whole population of Vietnam was killed twice if you believed everything you heard at the briefings. Richard Pyle, the Associated Press Saigon bureau chief, described the briefings as “the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd.”
At least Johnson and Nixon had the good sense to let the underlings handle the fibing and lying. Can you imagine if they handled the press briefings like Trump? The cold hard fact that everyone wanted to hide was that the U.S.A was losing the war no matter what metric you based things on. The press briefings earned the name the “5 O’clock Follies,” because they were such a charade and such a farce that none of the journalist believed what they were told at them.
2. 4 O’clock Follies
The U.S. government learned valuable lessons on how to deal with the press in Vietnam. With the next major battle, the Gulf war, things would be a lot different. With the Gulf War briefings, high-ranking officers gave the briefings unlike what happened in Vietnam. This tweak gave the briefings more credibility. Reporters were given daily statistics: the number of sorties, how many allied planes have been lost, how many enemy shot down, if any, how many Scud missiles were launched and how the Patriot missiles did against them, and the amount of damage inflicted. There was no mention of body count this time.
The main issue with these briefings was there was no way for the Press to verify anything the military officials stated. The briefers also weren’t keen to reveal any bad news unless they were forced too. Given they controlled the flow of information, the press never forced them to reveal any. Ted Koppel criticized the Bush Sr. administration policies stating, “Im not sure the public’s interest is served by seeing what seems to have been such a painless war, when 50,000 to 100.000 people may have died on the other side.” Once again Bush Sr., was not heading, talking or present at these briefings.
3. Corona Virus briefing Follies
I think it would be easier for me to list off some “non-credible” information, Trump has said at these briefings:
The outbreak would be temporary: “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle- it will disappear.”
“The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing.”
“Anybody that needs a test get’s a test. We-they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.”
“Google engineers are building a website to help Americans determine whether they need testing for the Corona virus and to direct them to their nearest testing site.”
“I’ve always known this is a real- this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic…I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”
I could go on listing statements from Trump, but you get the point. These statements were misleading, to say the least. The White House has a pattern of giving out false information in time of crisis. The only difference this time is that the current President is the one leading the briefings with the lies and half truths. The American citizens should listen to medical professionals on this issue and not the White house briefings, if they want the truth.
Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on March 31, 2020.