Have you ever wondered what America’s official propaganda is like? You will not have to wonder much longer as the ban on the U.S. government propagandizing American citizens has been quietly lifted. You may soon be hearing and seeing government made news, though you might not always know it was government made.
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.
The law, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, was passed as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The repeal of the propaganda ban went into effect this month. The country has already gotten a taste of the U.S. propaganda efforts by the Pentagon.
But if anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of domestic propaganda efforts, the past 12 months provided ample reasons.Last year, two USA Today journalists were ensnared in a propaganda campaign after reporting about millions of dollars in back taxes owed by the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan. Eventually, one of the co-owners of the firm confessed to creating phony websites and Twitter accounts to smear the journalists anonymously.
Additionally, just this month, The Washington Post exposed a counter propaganda program by the Pentagon that recommended posting comments on a U.S. website run by a Somali expat with readers opposing Al-Shabaab. “Today, the military is more focused on manipulating news and commentary on the Internet, especially social media, by posting material and images without necessarily claiming ownership,” reported The Post.
Anonymous smearing of journalists and programs to manipulate the news, why was this ban lifted again?
While the Department of Defense does what it pleases in any case, the ban was diluted somewhat in 1987 to mostly just cover official State Department “public diplomacy.” That restriction is now completely removed with taxpayer funded public diplomacy PR campaigns now coming back at taxpayers. America now has official state media which will make things interesting if it becomes involved in political debates.
More dangerous is the effect of a well funded alleged news organization pumping out reports endlessly. Given the diminishing infrastructure of the media establishment, especially newspapers, might not a lot of these stories be unthinkingly repeated in the non-government media?
Image from Soerfm under public domain.