Thanks to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which went into effect on July 2, the bureaucracy has given itself permission to use tax dollars to air government news sources in the United States. Initially, this means that programs created by the Broadcasting Board of Governors will now be available for consumption in the United States. As noted on the DailyBeast.com:
“It used to be that the content of Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and other content produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors couldn’t be transmitted in the United States at broadcast-quality levels because it was considered propaganda. But that all changed as of July 2, when the content, which reaches 100 countries in 60 different languages, became available in the United States. Part of the reason for the change was so ex-pats living in America could get access to the programming and part of it was so taxpayers can see what their money is being spent on. Decades ago, lawmakers blocked the content in the U.S. because they feared journalism produced by the government would have a corrosive effect on the public.”
Note: bolding is my own.
Lynn Weil, spokesperson for the Broadcasting Board of Governors insists that its mission is not to create propaganda, but “fair and accurate news.” She is one of many claiming this isn’t a move to disseminate information to natural born Americans so much as diaspora communities and immigrants from countries like Somalia, which have very limited press.
“[Somalis in America] can get Al-Shabaab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn’t get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VOA Somalia.” A source of The Cable said, “It was silly.”
But here’s the thing. Having established anti-propaganda laws is not silly – even if some people feel abolishing them will help fight terrorism. Michael Shank, VP for the Institute for Economics and Peace in DC, has called this legislation “disconcerting and dangerous,” despite the intentions pushing it forward.
Even if domestic propaganda was legalized with good intentions, the US citizens should not have to pay taxes that will fund propaganda for American audiences, period (or for foreign audiences, for that matter). With the bureaucracy exercising control over the news, what do we, the people, stand to lose?
Speculating the potential harm doesn’t take an active imagination.
There is already a high level of distrust for the US media; many people feel that the major news outlets like MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News are already working for factions of the government. Despite this, we still refer to the media as “the watchdog” of the government, or the unofficial check and fourth branch of the government.
This new legislation will allow for the government to influence its citizens at home as it does foreign audiences – more than it already does — and fully disseminate the “watchdog” role of the media. As the late Michael Hastings wrote in a Buzzfeed article:
“The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”
There seems to be little good that can come from this legislation. Best case scenario: we are paying for the government to tell us what the government is up to. Doesn’t that sound like breeding grounds for corruption?