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Jesus Malverde

(10,274 posts)
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 09:19 AM Jul 2013

U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News To Americans

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened?

Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in foreign countries. The programming varies in tone and quality, but its breadth is vast: It's viewed in more than 100 countries in 61 languages. The topics covered include human rights abuses in Iran; self-immolation in Tibet; human trafficking across Asia; and on-the-ground reporting in Egypt and Iraq.

The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 70s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright's amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."

Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on sensible rhetoric: American taxpayers shouldn't be funding propaganda for American audiences. So did Congress just tear down the American public's last defense against domestic propaganda?

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U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News To Americans (Original Post) Jesus Malverde Jul 2013 OP
k&r for exposure. n/t Laelth Jul 2013 #1
I'm surprised it just expired, frankly. Pholus Jul 2013 #2
Good find. The government may be filling a vacuum Eleanors38 Jul 2013 #5
K&R. This occurs as mass media shrinks back from both Eleanors38 Jul 2013 #3
This is most interesting . I clicked on the link but was denied access unless snappyturtle Jul 2013 #4
Also discussed in this thread... Pholus Jul 2013 #7
Thank you! nt snappyturtle Jul 2013 #10
What worked for me Jesus Malverde Jul 2013 #8
Thanks but the pop up I got covered the entire blackened page....:(. nt snappyturtle Jul 2013 #9
I got the same window.. Jesus Malverde Jul 2013 #11
I wasn't using Firefox and don't have safari. :( nt snappyturtle Jul 2013 #12
Kick octoberlib Jul 2013 #6
Another element of the furniture is now fully in place nadinbrzezinski Jul 2013 #13
Nothing wrong with a fresh perspective in the mix. nt AllINeedIsCoffee Jul 2013 #14
Couldn't read the link either, but this is a mess if true. DirkGently Jul 2013 #15
Unrestricted access to the article here AZ Progressive Jul 2013 #16
All in all it was just another brick in the wall. Hubert Flottz Jul 2013 #17
Smith-Mundt reform: In with a whimper? struggle4progress Jul 2013 #19
Americans Finally Have Access to American Propaganda struggle4progress Jul 2013 #18
Much ado about State Department 'propaganda' struggle4progress Jul 2013 #20
H.R.5736 -- Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 struggle4progress Jul 2013 #21


(4,062 posts)
2. I'm surprised it just expired, frankly.
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 09:31 AM
Jul 2013

I remember threads where Bush claimed the right to propagandize us as part of the war on terror because if public opinion waned, we might lose our resolve.

This link is not to those threads, but a reminder that it was a desired goal back then...


Best quote in the summary:

"In order to defeat terrorism, we must make terrorists fear our intentions, capabilities and will. 'Fair and Balanced' is a good TV network slogan, but a suicidal military maxim. Successful warriors gain and exploit advantages; they do not intend to fight fair. The US Government cannot defeat terrorism by responding to it in a fair and balanced way. The strategic management of information will not undermine our democratic values."

I even disagree with the TV slogan part of the statement....



(18,318 posts)
3. K&R. This occurs as mass media shrinks back from both
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 09:41 AM
Jul 2013

foreign & domestic coverage. I wonder if some of MSM outlets welcome this development as a "free service" for which they no longer have to pay. I wonder also if the government "reportage" will, converesely, draw on MSM sources, thus blurring the distinctions as to who is the source.


(14,656 posts)
4. This is most interesting . I clicked on the link but was denied access unless
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 09:43 AM
Jul 2013

I signed up. I just don't 'need' another password dependent news website. SO....could you tell me what the new reform passed in January and implemented on July 2nd is? or where to find it. Thanks.



(4,062 posts)
7. Also discussed in this thread...
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 09:47 AM
Jul 2013

Foreign Policy is the source for the Atlantic story mentioned there.

The link to FP in the Atlantic story seemed to work without a password, BTW. Either that or I signed up for a partner site somehow.

Jesus Malverde

(10,274 posts)
8. What worked for me
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 10:07 AM
Jul 2013

Was to load the page. Then hit the "reader" button in safari which pulled up the article text without logging in.

Jesus Malverde

(10,274 posts)
11. I got the same window..
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 10:17 AM
Jul 2013

But safari's "reader" feature which I think is also built into firefox doesn't care. It will render the article in a new window in spite of the pop up.



(154,021 posts)
13. Another element of the furniture is now fully in place
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 11:38 AM
Jul 2013

USA, USA, USA@!!!!

We are the freest country on earth... and if you do not believe it, we will make sure you do.

This is not what free societies do by the way.

But hey, according to some we are free as a jay bird. Those folks do not need that propaganda. Some of us I s'pose are too aware to fall for it, we hope.


(12,151 posts)
15. Couldn't read the link either, but this is a mess if true.
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 11:44 AM
Jul 2013

The Bush administration clearly ignored or circumvented the law when the Pentagon hired former military commanders with ties to defense contractors to give their "opinion" on the need for the Iraq war.

Another repellant Bush policy I would have expected this administration to reverse.

Hubert Flottz

(37,726 posts)
17. All in all it was just another brick in the wall.
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 12:21 PM
Jul 2013

Another step toward 1930s Germany. Ivy Lee would be smiling.


(117,763 posts)
19. Smith-Mundt reform: In with a whimper?
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 12:32 PM
Jul 2013

02:50 PM - January 21, 2013
It’s now legal to broadcast Voice of America stateside, but few seem to notice
By Emily T. Metzgar

... When President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law in early January, he authorized implementation of the Smith Mundt Modernization Act, eliminating the domestic dissemination ban. In contrast to the alarmist punditry that surfaced last May—critics said that a repeal would allow the US to subject its own citizens to propaganda—the actual change has prompted little discussion outside of public diplomacy and international broadcast circles.

As of July 1, 2013, content produced by the five US government-sponsored broadcasters, all overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, will no longer be subject to the ban. In practice, not much will change. As one longtime US international broadcasting expert observed, the legislation simply changes the legal status of an already hard-to-enforce ban, “allowing de jure to catch up with de facto.” A formal statement from Voice of America, the flagship US international broadcaster, praised the change, emphasizing both the resulting transparency and the opportunity it now offers for Americans to learn more about this US foreign policy tool. As one board member declared, “All Americans will now have access to the vital and informative reporting of our accomplished journalists around the world who are working under difficult circumstances in closed societies and developing countries.”

Spurred by a line in a New York Times article that called the US government “the largest broadcaster that few Americans know about,” I did a LexisNexis search for and analysis of major American print media outlets’ coverage of Voice of America over a recent two-year period. Both as a subject and as a source of news, it was only mentioned 188 times during the two-year period considered. (A similar search for “CNN” yielded more than 2,000 mentions—in The New York Times alone.)

Seventy-six percent of the VOA mentions referred to the organization itself, providing context about VOA, mentioning its relationship to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and alluding to the role of VOA in inspiring the audiences of less-than-free societies. There was frequent reference to VOA’s role in the Cold War, particularly in the presentation of profiles of dissidents and leaders from that period. There were also several mentions of Voice of America’s continued efforts to provide content to audiences in China and Iran in addition to those governments’ ongoing efforts to block delivery of such content ...



(117,763 posts)
18. Americans Finally Have Access to American Propaganda
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 12:29 PM
Jul 2013

By Elspeth Reeve
Atlantic Wire 11:35 AM ET

... As Foreign Policy's John Hudson explains, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 went into effect July 2, and allows government-made news like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks to reach Americans ... To be clear, only State Department-made news, not Pentagon-made news, will be available to Americans. Who are the targets? One example, Foreign Policy explains, is the Somali community in St. Paul, Minnesota. In Somalia, there are three choices for news, a government source said: "word of mouth, Al-Shabaab or VOA Somalia." While that's not true in Minnesota, the government still wants to reach Somalis: "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... It was silly."



(117,763 posts)
20. Much ado about State Department 'propaganda'
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 12:34 PM
Jul 2013

Posted By Josh Rogin
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 6:28 PM

... On May 18, Buzzfeed published a story by reporter Michael Hastings about the bipartisan congressional effort to change the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (as amended by the Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987). The story was entitled, "Congressmen seek to lift propaganda ban," and focuses on the successful effort by Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) to add their Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 as an amendment to the House version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

The new legislation would "authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences." The Buzzfeed article outlines concerns inside the defense community that the Pentagon might now be allowed to use information operations and propaganda operations against U.S. citizens. A correction added to the story notes that Smith-Mundt doesn't apply to the Pentagon in the first place.

In fact, the Smith-Mundt act (as amended in 1987) only covers the select parts of the State Department that are engaged in public diplomacy efforts abroad, such as the public diplomacy section of the "R" bureau, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. government-funded media organizations ...

The Defense Department, meanwhile, has its own "no propaganda" rider, enshrined in the part of U.S. code that covers the Pentagon, and that is not affected in any way by either Smith-Mundt as it stands or by the proposed update now found in the defense bill. The only reason the Smith-Mundt modernization bill was attached to the defense bill was because that bill is one that's sure to move and Congress hasn't actually passed a foreign affairs authorization bill in years ...



(117,763 posts)
21. H.R.5736 -- Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012
Mon Jul 15, 2013, 12:39 PM
Jul 2013

Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 - Amends the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to authorize the Secretary of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to provide for the preparation and dissemination of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, including about its people, its history, and the federal government's policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, the Internet, and other information media, including social media, and through information centers and instructors. (Under current law such authority is restricted to information disseminated abroad, with a limited domestic exception.)

Authorizes the Secretary and the Board to make available in the United States motion pictures, films, video, audio, and other materials prepared for dissemination abroad or disseminated abroad pursuant to such Act, the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994, the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act, or the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act.

Amends the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1986 and 1987 to prohibit funds for the Department of State or the Board from being used to influence public opinion or propagandizing in the United States. (Under current law such provision applies to the United States Information Agency [USIA].)

Applies such prohibition only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994, the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act, and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act.

States that such provision shall: (1) not prohibit the Department or the Board from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such information available to members of the media, public, or Congress; (2) not be construed to prohibit the Department from engaging in any medium of information on a presumption that a U.S. domestic audience may be exposed to program material; and (3) apply only to the Department and the Board and to no other federal department or agency.

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