Wag the Dog is a political satire directed by Barry Levinson and is “loosely adapted” from American Hero, a novel by Larry Beinhart. In the film, the president’s team brings Conrad Brean, a political consultant, to the White House by, to engage him as a “spin doctor.” He is summoned there to do damage control, because the president, implicated in a scandal, has only 11 days left prior to the election. The scandal threatens his chances of winning, so Brean either must make the scandal disappear or turn it around to the president’s advantage.
Please identify what makes the story created by Brean, producer Stanley Motss, and the White House staff capable of distracting attention from allegations that the president had a sexual relationship with a minor. What persuasive techniques can you identify that make the public likely to believe the story, support the president’s “war,” and forget about the sexual allegations?” What media relations efforts help Conrad, Stanley, and team get their story across? Do the arguments Senator Neal or any other opponents make to discredit the president get any “traction? Explain why or why not.
How does this fictional film made by Stanley get people to believe in fighting a war against Albania? What elements of the story do you think most appeal to the public and would make them sympathetic to the characters and supportive of the President’s actions?
Finally, and ultimately, what is the cost, in human terms, of this make-believe war? Would it pass a PRSA Code of Ethics test? Why or why not? Be specific.
Please support your answer with specific examples from the film. No outside sources are needed. No quotations, please. Two pages. In your own words.