U.S. ends ban on government propaganda being broadcast to Americans

Saturday, July 20, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: government propaganda, radio broadcasts, disinformation

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(NaturalNews) It may seem ironic, given the pro-administration propaganda that is broadcast and published daily by the mainstream press. But now they are about to get some real competition from none other than the federal government itself.

In a quiet little move aimed at drawing as little attention as possible, the government recently repealed a decades-old anti-propaganda law that "prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences," Foreign Policy magazine reported.

More from the mag:

...[O]n July 2, [the law] 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.

Move over, CNN and MSNBC. There's a new propaganda sheriff in town, and his name is Uncle Sam.

In May 2012 Buzzfeed reported that an amendment to end the propaganda ban had been inserted into the latest defense authorization bill. The site reported that "the amendment would 'strike the current ban on domestic dissemination' of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website."

'Disconcerting and dangerous'

The change was included in the same National Defense Authorization Act that included a provision allowing for indefinite detention of Americans and a ban on gay marriages on military bases, so it's largely been ignored - until now.

Supporters of the change say propaganda that was once developed purely for foreign audiences is too good not to use - er, present - to Americans. And, of course, it's being sold as a measure that improves national security because, you know, al Qaeda is able to reach Americans, via online publications and social media.

Opponents, however, see danger - and they are right.

"Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences," Michael Shank, VP at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C., told Buzzfeed. "That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators - who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer-funded propaganda promulgated by the US government - is disconcerting and dangerous."

So, where did the ban originate in the first place - and why?

The ban was contained in the Smith-Mundt Act, which was signed by President Truman in 1948 to combat the "weapons of false propaganda and misinformation" that was preventing understanding of America's policies, preventing freedom of information, and inhibiting mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the peoples of other nations, according to author and blogger Matt Armstrong []. The original law, however, has been amended a number of times over the years, Foreign Policy reported, "perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright."

Not 'for the public good'


In the 1970s, 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."

Backers say the entities responsible for creating the content directed overseas - Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, all part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors - are not propaganda outlets and that the content they provide is accurate and fair. But such explanations ignore the fact that other nations can obtain regular U.S. news broadcasts and do - without turning to outlets they know are "targeting" them with specific information.

Furthermore, the change in law begs these questions: Why? And, why now? Suddenly the BBG is creating content that is "too good not to present to American audiences"?

The government under the past several presidents - a pair of Bushes, Clinton and Obama - has gotten far larger, far more restrictive and far less accommodating of opposing views. That being said, no one in their right mind should assume for a nanosecond that sacking the anti-propaganda law is being done for the public good.


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