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"Freedom" of the press.

24 Feb

Huh.  So first they made propaganda legal (again) in the US.  You may remember this story, or a similar version of it, from last year.

US Government-Funded Domestic Propaganda Has Officially Hit The Airwaves

by Michael Kelley, provided by Business Insider.

Published 6:54 am, Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm has begun the “unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption,” John Hudson of Foreign Policy reported on Sunday. 

The content arrives with the enactment of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R- Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D- Wash.), which was inserted into the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The reform effectively nullifies the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was amended in 1985 specifically to prohibit U.S. organizations from using information “to influence public opinion in the United States.”  [Teri’s note: another confusing and misleading title for a Congressional Act.  The old Smith-Mundt Act prohibited propaganda.  The new “Smith-Mundt Modernization Act” does exactly the opposite, despite invoking the same names as the old one.  This is done deliberately to confuse the voters, very much like Elizabeth Warren’s disarmingly named “21st Century Glass-Steagal Act”.]

The new law enables U.S. government programming such as Voice of America (VoA) — an outlet created in 1942 to promote a positive understanding of the U.S. abroad — t0 broadcast directly to domestic audiences for the first time.

VoA and other programs are now produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which shares a “strategic communications budget” with the State Department and has an annual budget of more than $700 million. [Teri’s note: See more on the State Dept.’s cost of propaganda below.] 

Nevertheless, BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil insisted to FP that the BBG presents “fair and accurate news” and is not a propaganda outlet.

A former U.S. government source explained that the BBG can now reach local radio stations in the U.S., meaning that the programming can target expat communities such as the significant Somali population in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Those people can get Al-Shabaab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn’t get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VoA Somalia,” the source told FP. “It was silly.”

An alternative function was detailed last year by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a highly-respected officer who released a critical report regarding the distortion of truth by senior military officials in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Davis stated that the effective repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act is a strategic move in influencing U.S. public perception in regards to the Global War on Terror (GWOT). 

He cites Colonel Richard B. Leap, who recommends that lawmakers “specifically address all prior legislation beginning with the Smith-Mundt Act that is limiting the effectiveness of Information organizations in the GWOT environment.”

From Lt. Col. Davis:

In context, Colonel Leap is implying we ought to change the law to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will.” 

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 appears to serve this purpose by allowing for the American public to be a target audience of U.S. government-funded information campaigns. 

Davis also quotes Brigadier General Ralph O. Baker — the Pentagon officer responsible for the Department of Defense’s Joint Force Development — who defines Information Operations (IO) as activities undertaken to “shape the essential narrative of a conflict or situation and thus affect the attitudes and behaviors of the targeted audience.” 

Brig. Gen. Baker goes on to equate descriptions of combat operations with the standard marketing strategy of repeating something until it is accepted: 

For years, commercial advertisers have based their advertisement strategies on the premise that there is a positive correlation between the number of times a consumer is exposed to product advertisement and that consumer’s inclination to sample the new product. The very same principle applies to how we influence our target audiences when we conduct COIN.

And those “thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs” appear to serve Baker’s strategy, which states: “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution, and the failure to constantly drive home a consistent message dilutes the impact on the target audiences.” 

So it appears the new content stream is an outlet for “uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate,” as Weil told FP, as well as a vehicle for U.S. Information Operations.

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/US-Government-Funded-Domestic-Propaganda-Has-4668001.php

The State Dept. spends a lot of money on “diplomatic outreach”,  otherwise known as propaganda, in its desperate attempts to get people in foreign lands to like us.   That we might remove our military from their countries, simply stop bombing the hell out of them, or end such “diplomatic” practices as economic sanctioning, and that this might do more for our reputation abroad than overt propaganda is a concept that seems to elude both the State Dept. and the Pentagon.  Aside from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (mentioned in the above article) with its $751 mm budget (as of 2012), the State Department runs the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), which is a 276-person agency with a 2013 budget of $137 million.  The IIP publishes various booklets and licenses old PBS series to be broadcast in foreign countries.  State also has the Bureau of Public Affairs operating on a budget of $43.5 mm (2013 budget), whose main function seems to be the responsibility of handling State Dept. “tweets” and arranging all-expense-paid trips to the US for foreign journalists (the topics of the stories are pre-selected by the State Dept.).

The Pentagon has its own outreach program, of course, entirely separate from the State Dept. According to a February 2012 USA Today article, the Pentagon spent as much as $580 million annually in recent years on leaflets, billboards, radio and TV programming, and other forms of “information operations” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Excited and emboldened by the successful reinstatement of the Cold War-style propaganda pushed onto the sleepy, witless public and codified into law through the 2013 NDAA, the Obama administration now moves forward with the next step: it will tell the media what that propaganda should consist of,  “advise” the media on how to properly disseminate the approved “information” to the public, and “oversee” how well the media is fulfilling this “duty”.  Oh, and the “advisors” will be government contractors; i.e., your own taxpayer dollars will be used to direct the media on what it is allowed to tell you, via private companies hired by the government.  I am exaggerating the case somewhat, but as history has taught us, these things progress in an orderly and predictable fashion; it is only a matter of a relatively small period of time before full-on control of the press is achieved.  This latest move, combined with Obama’s overt war on journalists and whistleblowers (done with the blessings of most of Congress, I might add), clearly demonstrate where all this is headed.

New Obama initiative tramples First Amendment protections

BY BYRON YORK | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 AT 5:48 PM

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” But under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation’s newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public’s “critical information needs.” Those “needs” will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government’s standards could face an uncertain future. It’s hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment. 

The initiative, known around the agency as “the CIN Study” (pronounced “sin”), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. “This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced,” says Ajit Pai, one of the FCC’s five commissioners (and one of its two Republicans). “I’ve never had any input into the process,” adds Pai, who brought the story to the public’s attention in a Wall Street Journal column last week.  [Teri’s note:  It is most peculiar that the commissioners themselves knew nothing of this initiative beforehand.  Where did it originate?  Perhaps it is the singular idea of the acting chair, Mignon Clyburn?  Maybe some sort of Presidential Order?  It’s a mystery.  In any case, please read Commissioner Pai’s WSJ editorial by clicking on the embedded link above.  His piece is articulate and rather alarming, especially in light of the fact that someone is making decisions about FCC policies without having the input from all its commissioners.]

Advocates promote the project with Obama-esque rhetoric. “This study begins the charting of a course to a more effective delivery of necessary information to all citizens,” said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in 2012. Clyburn, daughter of powerful House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, was appointed to the FCC by President Obama and served as acting chair for part of last year. The FCC, Clyburn said, “must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation — be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other.” (The FCC decided to test the program with a trial run in Ms. Clyburn’s home state, South Carolina.)

The FCC commissioned the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy to do a study defining what information is “critical” for citizens to have. The scholars decided that “critical information” is information that people need to “live safe and healthy lives” and to “have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities,” among other things.

The study identified eight “critical needs”: information about emergencies and risks; health and welfare; education; transportation; economic opportunities; the environment; civic information; and political information.

It’s not difficult to see those topics quickly becoming vehicles for political intimidation. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t. For example, might the FCC standards that journalists must meet on the environment look something like the Obama administration’s environmental agenda? Might standards on economic opportunity resemble the president’s inequality agenda? The same could hold true for the categories of health and welfare and “civic information” — and pretty much everything else.

“An enterprising regulator could run wild with a lot of these topics,” says Pai. “The implicit message to the newsroom is they need to start covering these eight categories in a certain way or otherwise the FCC will go after them.” 

The FCC awarded a contract for the study to a Maryland-based company called Social Solutions International. In April 2013, Social Solutions presented a proposal outlining a process by which contractors hired by the FCC would interview news editors, reporters, executives and other journalists.

“The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected,” the Social Solutions report said, adding that news organizations would be evaluated for “station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” 

There are a lot of scary words for journalists in that paragraph. And not just for broadcasters; the FCC also proposes to regulate newspapers, which it has no authority to do. (Its mission statement says the FCC “regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable…”)

Questioning about the CIN Study began last December, when the four top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the FCC to justify the project. “The Commission has no business probing the news media’s editorial judgment and expertise,” the GOP lawmakers wrote, “nor does it have any business in prescribing a set diet of ‘critical information.’ ” [Teri’s note:  Obama and the Democrats couldn’t give any more talking points to the GOP than they have lately if they had planned it intentionally.  I’d be amazed at this political ineptitude if I weren’t so convinced we actually have only one party in this country.]

If the FCC goes forward, it’s not clear what will happen to news organizations that fall short of the new government standards. Perhaps they will be disciplined. Or perhaps the very threat of investigating their methods will nudge them into compliance with the administration’s journalistic agenda. What is sure is that it will be a gross violation of constitutional rights. 

http://washingtonexaminer.com/new-obama-initiative-tramples-first-amendment-protections/article/2544363

On the Maryland contractor mentioned in the article, Social Solutions International:  these guys appear to survive as a company exclusively through governmental contracts.  In regards propaganda, here is one of their contracts as summarized on their home page, and you will note how well it fits with the new (and improved!) propaganda law in the 2013 NDAA, which is the subject of the first article I quoted:

International evaluation expertise promotes public diplomacy.

Social Solutions is entering the second year of a five year contract funded by the Department of State (DoS) to provide evaluation and performance measurement expertise and leadership to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The ECA serves both as a critical element and extension of the State Department’s traditional diplomacy function. The diversity of programming, activities, thematic emphases and content, participants, and program goals enables ECA to realize its overarching Public Diplomacy and Citizen Diplomacy goals: fostering mutual understanding and forging linkages between citizens and institutions in the U.S. and overseas. The Evaluation Division in ECA’s Office of Policy and Evaluation (ECA/P) serves as the locus of program evaluation and performance measurement functions for ECA’s programs and for the Bureau as a whole.  It provides critical performance measurement and evaluative data – both qualitative and quantitative – to Senior Managers in ECA and the DoS as part of annual or occasional USG mandated strategic planning and performance measurement exercises. It also provides performance data on highly visible initiatives and offers analysis and reports on the data collected.

http://www.socialsolutions.biz/cms/index.php

 

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2 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Congress, security state, State Dept/diplomacy

 

2 responses to “"Freedom" of the press.

  1. paxhonu

    February 24, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Between the corporatist agenda of the oligarchs that already drive the selection of topics to be included or excluded from view, and the language and content with which articles are then presented, the media as an industry can be expected to already be pretty much in accord with this Administration’s propaganda and censorship goals. I’m trying to say that the narrow point of view that already dominates media output (pro-corporatist, pro-military, pro-empire) will only be narrowed further by this unbelievable circumstance of governmental intervention and usurpation of the fourth estate. I don’t expect to see RT, WSW, or Teri’s Random Thoughts around much longer.

    Like

     
    • Teri

      February 25, 2014 at 6:56 am

      “Usurpation of the fourth estate” is correct, paxhonu. I am aware that the Pentagon offers “media consultants” to opine as “disinterested experts” through various media outlets, and that the WaPo now has direct links to the CIA through its new owner, Jeff Bezos. Surely everyone knows by now that most of the media in the US is owned by only several corporations, most with ties to the military/industrial complex. All that being said, I am appalled at this open attempt to dominate, control and manipulate media output, done with a lame stab at hiding those intentions through the use of slogans such as “making sure the media covers the topics related to the health and welfare of the citizens” and “ensuring that the media offers information in areas deemed to be critical to the public’s needs”.

      This is old-school Soviet propaganda and taking of the newspapers. Period. Done by the “most transparent” (yeah, I’d say we see you pretty clearly now, Obama) administration of a Democratic president.

      Like

       

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