For reasons still unknown, a United States government owned and operated media outlet, Voice of America, published a hit piece on Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.
The story, titled “Does Bernie Sanders Believe in Democracy?,” was written by Jamie Kirchick, who has elsewhere openly advocated for the election of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as president.
As is characteristic of Kirchick’s polemical style, the piece includes numerous misleading and malicious claims, such as Senator Sanders has “scorn for basic democratic procedure,” and that Sanders “has spent his entire life extolling the virtue of left-wing dictatorships.”
Senator Sanders, according to this story in a US state media outlet, has been a “shill” for undemocratic regimes, with the conclusion being drawn that Sanders does not really believe in democracy, despite his own proclamations of being a democratic socialist.
While Kirchick is, of course, free to attack anyone he likes, for any reason he likes, that US taxpayers are picking up the tab and providing the platform is considerably problematic.
Voice of America was set up during World War II and took a leading role in producing US propaganda (or counter-propaganda, if you like) against the Soviet Union. Currently, VOA is overseen by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)—an agency within the US government, which has an annual budget around $700 million. The BBG also oversees other US state media organizations such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Alhurra TV, and Radio Free Asia.
Until 2013, it was illegal for US state media outlets like VOA and Radio Free Europe to broadcast within the US, due to a ban on using government propaganda on Americans. But even now, VOA is supposed to be an objective source for news.
Kirchick’s piece appears in the “Opinion and Commentary” section of the VOA website, which shows a quote from VOA’s charter at the top of the page, stating, “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussion and opinion on these policies.”
As broad as that mandate may seem, electioneering and hit pieces on US citizens obviously fall outside those parameters. VOA does not have the right to advocate for a particular candidate or even to attack one. That is not within its charter, nor should any US citizen have to subsidize their own defamation.
This lurch by US state media from news to advocacy seems to be a trend, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty recently merged with the Interpreter Mag, a neoconservative outlet founded with money from Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has openly stated he wishes to violently overthrow the Putin government in Russia.
Americans are not particularly sanguine on having state media in the first place, let alone one running its own political program and meddling in US elections.